On June 1st, New Zealand tribal groove-metal outfit Alien Weaponry is set to release its excellent debut album Tū, which you should absolutely pick up. If you've visited RevolverMag.com more than once over the last six months, you've likely come across the band's name, but maybe you're not familiar with these three teenagers and don't know why they're so badass and so important to heavy-music culture right now. If you don't have time or the attention span for a long-ass, in-depth story (we don't blame you if not — we're fucking busy, too), we've compiled a quick list of seven reasons why you should be paying attention.
1. Alien Weaponry are like a Māori Sepultura
Much like Sepultura in their early days, Alien Weaponry are spearheaded by two teenage brothers (singer/guitarist Lewis de Jong and drummer Henry de Jong) who celebrate their indigenous heritage via catchy, savage, thrash-inflected tribal groove-metal. (Don't let the boys' pale skin deceive you: They're proud descendants of the Ngati Pikiāo and Ngati Raukawa tribes.) Think what Max and Igor Cavalera did with their Brazilian roots, but for a culture that has a particularly brutal war-dance as a focal point.
2. The band not only draws on the traditional Māori haka war-dance for its music, but fans often break it out during shows
Originally conceived as a way for native warriors to intimidate opponents before battle — typically by stomping, grimacing, groaning and jumping, with eyes wide open and tongue splayed out as if demonically possessed — the haka aligns with the empowering, cathartic, tribal and generally badass nature of heavy music like few other things do. It's also a common sight at Alien Weaponry concerts: "You see the eight people standing here doing one haka, and then the 10 people there doing another one, all at the same time," Henry de Jong reports. "Which is really cool."
3. The de Jong brothers' great-great-great grandfather, Te Ahoaho, died in a historic battle, and the boys wrote a particularly badass song about it
The de Jongs' ancestor Te Ahoaho lost his life during a famous 1864 battle in which 230 Māori warriors defended their fort from the well-equipped, 1,700-person British army. Alien Weaponry's song "Rū Ana Te Whenua" was inspired by the story. "It's like, what a cool subject matter: This battle where it's, like, 5-to-1 odds, outnumbered," Henry says. "The Māori were defending their land, but they had nowhere near the amount of people that the British Army had, and yet they still outsmarted them, and won that battle!"
4. Alien Weaponry often sing in the Māori language Te Reo and, by doing so, are helping to keep the language alive
If you don't trust us on that latter bit, go read up on what NPR and The Atlantic have to say on the matter. Te Reo is considered an endangered language by the United Nations, which estimates that a language dies somewhere in the world every two weeks; Alien Weaponry, who are local heroes in New Zealand, have helped re-popularize it with their songs.
5. They're also helping to fight a deep sense of cultural shame — known as "Whakamā" — within the Māori community
The term "Whakamā," which lacks a Western equivalent, refers to the intense feelings of shame, inferiority and disconnection the Māori suffered during European colonization in the 19th century, a form of intergenerational trauma that lingers to this day. "Quite a lot of Māori have actually been quite 'Whakamā' — kind of shy or ashamed — [because people] don't really typically see Māori as metal fans," explains Lewis. But things are looking up, he adds. "I think there's been so many Māori metal fans coming out of the woodwork after we've done our thing going, 'Oh, oh, oh, I listen to Slayer and all that stuff, but I was a bit scared to admit it to everyone,'" he says, "so I feel like we're making people come out of the metal closet, in that sense."
6. Alien Weaponry is a family affair beyond being a band of brothers
Lewis and Henry's father, Niel de Jong, an audio engineer, has played a big part in the group's development. He kept their "band room" well stocked with instruments and other musical-making and -recording equipment, and he served as the group's manager until its recent signing to German music agency Das Maschine. Maybe most important, he always went out of his way to teach his sons about Māori history and culture. "When we were going on road trips as a family, our dad used to point out locations and tell us stories about what happened at certain places at certain times," Henry says. It's heartwarming stuff — as they say: A family that slays together stays together.
7. The boys are hilarious and metal as fuck
The de Jong brothers met Alien Weaponry bassist Ethan Trembath through "circus school," and they're not above a bit of clowning around, as they showed in an awesome, fun 2016 short doc on the band. Among other hijinks, the video sees them headbanging with locals around their hometown of Waipu and stripping down for a seaside run on the area's famous nudist beaches. What really comes across, though, is the band members' unabashed love of heavy music and high-energy DIY spirit. "We don't really have a plan B," Lewis reveals. "It's a pretty good idea not having a plan B because then you're focus on getting plan A done."