It’s no surprise that Alien Weaponry have been invited by Prophets of Rage to open their show in Auckland next week.
The three Northland teenagers grew up listening to Rage Against the Machine and Public Enemy, who make up 5/6 of the Prophets of Rage lineup and, like their childhood idols, pull no punches when it comes to dealing with difficult and controversial material.
Less than a year ago, the thrash metal trio took everyone by surprise with their fierce, haka-style anthem, Rū Ana Te Whenua, which has had over a million views on Facebook.
Sung entirely in Te Reo Māori, it sparked controversy about Henry (drums) and Lewis (guitar and lead vocals) de Jong’s Māori ancestry and their right to use Te Reo in their music.
Although the self-described ‘stealth Māori’ (of Ngati Pikiao and Ngati Raukawa descent) have gained local and international acclaim for their use of Te Reo Māori and hard-hitting political statements, their latest single is entirely in English, and deals with a much more personal theme.
The song, Holding My Breath, was written by Lewis. In it, he talks about the anxiety of being judged and socially ostracized by peers to the point of being unable to function.
“It’s about something that actually happened to me. I felt so bad that I literally stayed in my room and couldn’t bring myself to leave the house or talk to anyone,” he says.
“I wrote the song at that time, and it was one of the things that helped me work through it, so I hope it will resonate with other people going through similar things.”
One of the people it has already resonated with is actress Rose van Wylich, who features in the video.
“I had similar experiences as a teenager, and when I found out about the project and heard the song, I immediately wanted to be involved.”
Without giving too much away, Ms van Wylich’s own part in the video is also likely to shock and surprise audiences – something that both she and the band agree is essential to getting the message across.
“We hope it will help not just people who are feeling lost and isolated, but it will also send a wider message to treat others with humanity and compassion,” she says.
The de Jong brothers, along with bass player Ethan Trembath, say audiences shouldn’t read anything into the choice of English language for the song.
“We are a metal band, and we like to sing about things that are meaningful and close to our hearts,” says drummer Henry.
“We tell it like it is, in whatever language works for that song. About half our album is in Māori, but there are also songs partially or entirely in English. This song is in English - that’s just how it worked out.”
Holding My Breath is the first single released by Napalm records in advance of Alien Weaponry’s debut album Tū, which will be out on 1 June. A month later, the band will head to Europe for a 3-month tour which includes the world’s biggest metal festival, Wacken Open Air.
Everyone who pre-purchases the album through Napalm records will get a digital download of Holding My Breath and the next single, Kai Tangata (due out in May), before the full album is released in CD, vinyl and digital formats.
Alien Weaponry will open for Prophets of Rage at Spark Arena next Tuesday 20 March. It will be their last performance in New Zealand before their European tour.