Alien Weaponry: A New Zealand Metal Sensation with Māori Roots

Emerging from New Zealand, Alien Weaponry’s distinct melding of Māori culture with modern metal elements has not only captured audiences but has also positioned them as influential ambassadors of their country’s rich history.

Alien Weaponry

Blending Māori Roots with Metal

Hailing from the scenic landscapes of Waipu, New Zealand, Alien Weaponry is not your typical metal band. While they undoubtedly bring the intensity and fervor that fans of the genre crave, it’s their unique cultural infusion that sets them apart. By weaving the rich tapestry of Māori culture and the Te Reo Māori language into their musical compositions, they have carved a distinct identity in the vast world of metal.

By weaving the rich tapestry of Māori culture and the Te Reo Māori language into their musical compositions, they have carved a distinct identity in the vast world of metal.

This innovative fusion has not only caught the attention of metal enthusiasts but has also piqued the interest of music critics worldwide. The integration of Māori elements brings a fresh, unprecedented perspective to the metal scene, making Alien Weaponry’s sound both powerful and profoundly cultural. Their approach can be likened to that of the iconic Brazilian band, Sepultura, which is celebrated for its masterful incorporation of indigenous themes into their heavy soundtracks.

Pioneering Young Talent

Alien Weaponry’s journey began in 2010 in the bustling city of Auckland when two young brothers, Henry Te Reiwhati de Jong and Lewis Raharuhi de Jong, united their musical passions. Despite their tender ages – Henry at 10 and Lewis at merely 8 – their shared love for music was evident. Both brothers, deeply rooted in the Māori culture, brought a unique essence to their musical explorations, having attended a Kura Kaupapa, a Māori language school. Lewis’s experience spanned two years, while Henry immersed himself for four.

The band’s intriguing name, “Alien Weaponry”, traces its inspiration to the movie “District 9”. Set against the backdrop of South Africa, the film delves into themes of segregation, humanity, cultural identity, and conflict, resonating deeply with the brothers’ own narratives.

Continuing the story, in 2013, the brothers relocated to Waipu, marking a new chapter in the band’s evolution. Bassist Ethan Trembath soon joined the ensemble, replacing Wyatt Channings, who had been a brief addition the previous year. The band’s growth was not just restricted to its members. Behind the scenes, their father, Niel de Jong, an adept rock musician and skilled audio engineer, played an instrumental role in their management, also wearing the hat of the front-of-house sound engineer during tours. Moreover, their mother, Jette, further cemented the family’s involvement by serving as the diligent tour manager and the band’s publicist.

Their dedication and talent did not go unnoticed. In 2016, Alien Weaponry marked a significant achievement by clinching titles at both the national finals of Smokefreerockquest and Smokefree Pacifica Beats, becoming the only band to claim this dual victory. This was after being the runners-up in the 2015 Smokefree Rockquest and regional finalists for four successive years. Their accomplishments extended beyond competitions. The band, touted to be among the youngest ever recipients of the New Zealand on Air funding, received an impressive NZ$ 10,000 in 2015 for their riveting song “Rū Ana Te Whenua”. This feat was replicated in 2016 when they bagged two more grants of NZ$ 10,000 each, facilitating the recording of their singles “Urutaa” and “Raupatu” and accompanying music video productions.

Alien Weaponry’s Māori Heritage and Influence

The very essence of Alien Weaponry is intertwined with their profound Māori heritage. With ancestral ties to the Ngāti Pikiao and Ngāti Raukawa tribes, the de Jong brothers carry forward a legacy that resonates deeply within their music. This isn’t just metal for the sake of being loud; it’s a canvas upon which stories from ages past are painted.

Venturing beyond the heavy riffs and pounding drums, the band delves deep into the rich tapestry of Māori history, legends, and lived experiences. Their debut single “Urutaa” stands testament to this. The song paints a vivid picture of contrasting ideals and the tragic events that unfolded in Whangaroa harbour, primarily the “Burning of the Boyd”. Through this retelling, Alien Weaponry touches upon the pervasive misunderstandings that linger even today – a reflection on how history often repeats itself in the tensions between cultures, generations, and individuals.

Their commitment to their roots goes beyond mere inspiration. Choosing to sing in Te Reo Māori, the band sends a strong message about the importance of preserving and celebrating a culture and its language. It’s this authenticity that bridges the ancient traditions of the Māori with the contemporary world, positioning Alien Weaponry as a distinctive voice in New Zealand’s rich cultural tapestry.

Through their music, they’ve illuminated the Māori culture, displaying its depth, resilience, and undying beauty on a world stage.

The international metal scene has taken note. Alien Weaponry’s distinctive blend of aggressive metal and poignant Māori narratives has turned heads across the globe. Through their music, they’ve illuminated the Māori culture, displaying its depth, resilience, and undying beauty on a world stage.

Thrash, Groove, and Tradition

Alien Weaponry’s sound can be distilled as “nü-metal tinged thrash” with a generous infusion of “thrashing groove-metal”. But while these labels offer a glimpse into their style, the band’s real distinction comes from its deep-rooted Māori heritage. This potent mix not only differentiates them from many contemporary bands but also secures them a niche in the global metal panorama.

It’s not uncommon for listeners to draw parallels between Alien Weaponry and the Roots-era of Sepultura, particularly in how both bands seamlessly weave indigenous culture into their music. But Alien Weaponry’s approach goes beyond mere integration; their music becomes a platform to voice historical and present-day Māori narratives. These tales, sung in the poignant cadence of both English and Māori, have a global resonance, underscoring the universal power of music.

It’s not uncommon for listeners to draw parallels between Alien Weaponry and the Roots-era of Sepultura, particularly in how both bands seamlessly weave indigenous culture into their music.

Taking their craft a notch higher, Alien Weaponry incorporates traditional Māori instruments like the “taonga puoro” (singing treasures) to enrich their sound. “Kai Tangata” serves as a prime testament to their ethos, diving deep into the Musket Wars and the intricate dynamics of intertribal confrontations.

On the inspirational front, it’s no secret that the band looks up to stalwarts like Metallica, Rage Against the Machine, and Lamb of God. Moreover, guitarist Lewis de Jong’s eclectic taste — from the soulful notes of Stevie Ray Vaughan to the eclectic riffs of Meshuggah and Polyphia — weaves itself into their music, crafting a soundscape that’s unmistakably Alien Weaponry.

In the crowded realm of metal, Alien Weaponry stands apart. Their commitment to infusing Māori language and culture into their genre doesn’t just make them unique — it makes them pioneers.

Alien Weaponry’s Discography

Since their formation, Alien Weaponry has created waves with their unique blend of metal and Māori culture.

Their debut, aptly titled “Tū”, dropped on 1 June 2018 under Napalm Records. A masterful fusion of thrash and groove metal, the album debuted at No. 1 on the New Zealand music charts. With tracks like “Kai Tangata”, “Holding My Breath”, and “Rū Ana Te Whenua”, the album didn’t just win fans – it secured them a nomination for Best Rock Artist at the 2018 Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards. The album’s name, resonating with the Māori god of war, perfectly encapsulated the band’s intensity and roots.

A few years later, on 17 September 2021, they released “Tangaroa”, their sophomore studio album. Continuing their unique blend of culture and music, tracks like “Tangaroa”, “Hatupatu”, and “Unforgiving” underscored the band’s evolution. With “Tangaroa” touching on pressing environmental issues, particularly ocean pollution, Alien Weaponry reaffirmed their commitment to both their art and their message.

Their music videos, particularly the haunting “Kai Tangata”, have seen millions of clicks on YouTube, reflecting their global resonance. Awards have naturally followed. The pinnacle was arguably the Aotearoa Music Award (formerly the New Zealand Music Award) for Te Kaipuoro Rakapioi Toa (Best Rock Artist) in 2018. This recognition was followed by nominations at the 2021 Global Metal Apocalypse awards, where they secured notable positions. And their debut? It brought home the prestigious Taite Music Prize.

Europe, North America, and Beyond

2018 was a breakout year for Alien Weaponry. That year, they didn’t just release their debut album; they also ventured into Europe with their first major headline tour. From festival stages to solo gigs, they began to etch their mark on the European metal community. But of all the stops they made, the Wacken Open Air festival in Germany stood out. Why? It’s not just any festival; it’s a behemoth in the metal world.

Their performance there wasn’t just about the music; it was about breaking barriers. The very idea that thousands of fans in Germany would shout back lyrics in Māori was a testament to the band’s universal appeal.

Supporting the band on their European journey were none other than their parents, Niel and Jette de Jong. Niel took over the sound, ensuring the front-of-house was perfect, while Jette managed the tour. This family-centric approach added a unique dimension to their tour.

To share this journey with fans, the 2018 European tour was turned into a 10-part web series: “Rū Ana Te Whenua: Alien Weaponry Shake Europe”. Released in 2019 and directed by Kent Belcher, who spent an enriching six weeks with the band, this documentary not only captured the live performances but also the intimate moments, from shared meals to spontaneous sing-alongs.

But Europe was just the start. The following year, 2019, saw them venturing into North America. And by 2022, they were sharing stages with metal giants like Gojira and Slipknot in the Knotfest Roadshow. The honour of opening for thrash metal pioneers, Slayer, during their final world tour, was another feather in their cap, showcasing their growing influence in the metal realm.

The Story of Alien Weaponry So Far

From their roots in New Zealand, weaving the rich tapestry of Māori culture into their music, to their headline performances on global stages, Alien Weaponry has charted an exceptional journey. Their distinct blend of “nü-metal tinged thrash” and Māori linguistic elements not only gives them a unique sound but a profound resonance with fans worldwide.

Their albums, “Tū” and “Tangaroa”, reflect both their heritage and their musical evolution, garnering acclaim and positioning them firmly on the international metal map. It’s not every day you witness a band like Alien Weaponry, which gets German metalheads echoing Māori lyrics or showcases the intricacies of New Zealand’s history and culture to a global audience.

Behind the scenes, the unwavering support of their parents, their inspirations drawn from bands like Metallica and Slayer, and their commitment to their Māori heritage underline their authenticity. In a world of music where originality is scarce, they stand out, blending tradition with modernity, history with contemporary issues, and regional identity with global appeal.