Alien Weaponry, Auckland Town Hall, 29 February 2020: Concert Review

Alien Weaponry kicked off the Auckland Fringe Festival at The Town Hall, with a headbanging show that delivered a unifying message about the dangers of cultural misunderstanding. Read Andy Baker‘s review of the show and browse a gallery of brilliant photos from Rachel Webb.

Two days after Alien Weaponry’s much anticipated return to Tāmaki Makaurau on Saturday February 29, 2020 thanks to Auckland Fringe Festival my neck is still so very sore. I think they may have beat out the countless metal gigs I’ve enjoyed before in terms of how much I couldn’t stop headbanging, exquisite muscle usage.

Supported by local Polynesian metal band Shepherds Reign, Alien Weaponry tore up the stunning Auckland Town Hall, the architecture framing the band’s importance of one of New Zealand’s leading contemporary metal and Te Ao Māori voices in music today. The band’s music communicates with ease and conviction to a traditionally white male audience about Aotearoa’s devastating colonial past and the importance of sustaining and strengthening the language of Te Reo Māori.

They have had resounding success on the European metal stage over the past two years, touring incessantly across some of metal’s biggest European festivals such as Download Festival in England and Wacken Open Air in Germany. They received the incredible honour of having their debut album being awarded album of the decade late last year by Finland’s Tuonela Magazine. How cool is that? They beat out giant’s Gojira (Magma) and Tool (Fear Inoculum) for the title, and entirely deserved. This is coming from someone who is a diehard Gojira and Tool fan. And here we are in New Zealand still lucky enough to see them for pocket change in terms of ticket prices.

Introduced to the stage by Te Manu Huia, Henry de Jong, Lewis de Jong and Ethan Trembath kick straight into PC Bro, a song about how the media manipulates in the age of social media addiction. Holding My Breath fired up the mosh pit which wasn’t as intense as when I last saw the band at Studio, which was great for me as it gave me a chance to get right up front. It was awesome to see a number of woman up front, shout out to the chick banging next to me up on the barrier through the whole set. I read something recently about how concerts increase feelings of social inclusion and connection, and did I sure feel that at this gig.

There was a subtle but at the same time acute feeling of togetherness in the room, everyone smiling while belting out ‘waewae tapu takahi te ara taua’ at the end of Kai Tangata. The crowd was at one with each other and the band through Urutaa, delivering a message about the dangers and frustrations of cultural misunderstanding, something still so rife and unfortunate in today’s Aotearoa, not to mention globally.

And then came hearing their two new singles Ahi Kā and Blinded live for the first time, both released in 2019. Ahi Kā tells the not so well known story of the Auckland City Council evicting and burning down the Ngāti Whātua village in Okahu Bay in advance of Queen Elizabeth II’s visit in 1953. A timely reminder of the importance of whenua being protected in a time when stopping villages such as Ihumātao from being eradicated through capitalist ventures still requires intensive protest.

Blinded was first unveiled at Download Festival, and has a wicked video supporting it, check it out here. The song speaks to me of relationships in which there are those that portray being close to you but are so engrossed in themselves that they don’t take the time to understand you at all, something all too common. For me the song is a reminder that we need to care for each other more.

The set closed with an encore of Tangaroa and Rū Ana Te Whenua and my missing a drumstick catch. Henry, Lewis and Ethan played phenomenally with unrelenting energy as expected the whole set. The sound quality where I was up the front was spot on, I hope they play at the Auckland Town Hall again. Next the band is off to Australia in a few days and then the Nova Rock Festival in Austria in June, wish I could follow them.

~Andy Baker

Alien Weaponry

Shepherds Reign