An internationally-successful Whangārei heavy metal band have released a video online from their last pre-Covid-19 live concert to celebrate Māori Language Week/Te Wiki o te Reo Māori this week.
Alien Weaponry are a thrash metal musical trio from Waipū formed in 2010 by brothers Henry and Lewis de Jong, who were only 10 and 8 years old respectively. They were joined by electric bass player and vocalist Ethan Trembath in April 2013 before he recently stood down and was replaced by long-time friend Tūranga Morgan-Edmonds.
All three members have Māori ancestry - while the brothers' mother is Dutch, their father is Māori. The culture was a large part of their upbringing. Both attended a kōhanga reo, and Māori is 18-year-old guitarist Lewis's first language. "He went off to grandma's for about a month and came back speaking it."
Drummer Henry, 20, said although he has more Dutch blood, he feels stronger connections to his Māori roots.
"Māori is a lot of who I am. I'm mostly Dutch [from both his mother and grandad on his father's side] but the fact that I'm here in Aotearoa and I do have Māori whakapapa, I feel more connected. I feel like tikanga Māori and the ideals around Māori culture just speak to me more."
Their live sets consist of 50 per cent Māori lyrics. Māori ideas are also incorporated into the English lyrics and many of the songs are based around the haka.
"We wanted to release the te reo Māori version of our video because it lined up with Māori Language Week and it was really great to be able to put it out in both Māori and English. It's heart-warming to see that New Zealand is now embracing te reo Māori more than ever and we are stoked to be a small part of this momentum," Henry said.
The video is based on their March 6 performance at Auckland's Town Hall and is also the last show performed with Trembath.
The video originally aired as part of the Metal Alliance Online Festival in Europe where they were asked to be one of the headline bands representing Metal Days Festival. The Metal Alliance Festival spanned a weekend in August and was a collaboration between 13 independent music festivals for Europe and the UK.
The band has been making headlines across the world with its unique fusion of thrash metal and te reo Māori. Their string of accolades include occupying the number one slot for 13 weeks on the Devil's Dozen countdown on US radio station Sirius XM; their debut album Tū was voted album of the decade by Finnish metal magazine Tounela; in Denmark they were welcomed to the Copenhell festival by a crowd of 10,000 doing a haka in their honour; and they opened for Slayer in Stuttgart, Germany on their final European show last year.
The band enjoyed further success this month after being scouted and approached to join Los Angeles-based management company The RSE Group, home to high-profile genre artists including Slayer, Gojira, Mastodon and Ghost.
"We couldn't be more excited to work with Rick Sales and be a part of the company that manages some of our favourite artists," Henry said. "We think he can take us to the next level."
While the world has been in Covid-19 lockdown, the band have been at their Waipū studio writing and recording their second album which was due for release in 2020, but has now been delayed until next year.
"I love New Zealand. It's really given us an opportunity to work on our music and new material and we've set up a studio at home with all the gear so can record from home," Henry enthused.
Although the band have had to cancel all overseas touring in 2020, including some big music festivals in Europe, they will soon be announcing dates and locations for a New Zealand tour later this year.
"We can't wait. We do have a large international fan base from the likes of the US and various European countries," Henry said.
"That being said, we get the same passion out of New Zealand and it does feel good to be able to give our home the experience as well. There are things we can do here in New Zealand that only New Zealanders can understand. When we do a show here, we feel at home and comfortable."