By Craig Hayes. The international profile of New Zealand metal and punk is at an all time high. Homegrown bands such as Vassafor, Diocletian, Jakob, Keretta, Heresiarch, Witchrist, Open Tomb, Ulcerate, and The House of Capricorn have all released applauded albums on respected international record labels.By Craig Hayes.
The international profile of New Zealand metal and punk is at an all time high. Homegrown bands such as Vassafor, Diocletian, Jakob, Keretta, Heresiarch, Witchrist, Open Tomb, Ulcerate, and The House of Capricorn have all released applauded albums on respected international record labels. And bands like Sinistrous Diabolus, Exordium Mors, Bulletbelt, Dawn of Azazel, Winter Deluge, and Sabbatic Goat have drawn plenty of praise in the overseas music media too.
Of course, that’s just the tip of the iceberg as far as hard-edged New Zealand music is concerned. There are plenty of other interesting bands located in the far southern reaches, and in May this year, I highlighted around 85 groups that I thought were well worth tracking down on my backwater blog, Six Noises.
I choose May to do that because the New Zealand media and music industry get together every May to celebrate New Zealand Music Month by hosting loads of events that pay tribute to both the nation’s musical diversity and its success stories. However, generally speaking, there's not a great deal of underground New Zealand metal and punk ever included in those celebrations. Which is a shame. Because if there's one thing underground music in New Zealand has done, it's consistently punch well above its weight.
So, I figured I'd spend every day in the month of May highlighting some of the underground New Zealand bands I like. And I thought if a couple of persons discovered a couple of new groups to enjoy via all the resulting posts then I'd be happy that my job was done.
But, as it turns out, my job isn’t quite finished yet.
Metal Bandcamp overlord Max has kindly invited me to try and hook a few more listeners by picking a selection of bands from my New Zealand Music Month series to shine a light on once again. So what I’ve done is try and choose a few groups that aren’t as well known as those New Zealand bands I mentioned in the first paragraph of this introduction. I've also included a couple of bands that have released albums or demos since my series finished at the end of May.
As always, cheers for reading.
Numbskull – Powderslave
Numbskull play turbo-speed thrash ‘n’ grind. Think old school howlers like D.R.I or Crumbsuckers mainlining Napalm Death and Cripple Bastards. (Something like that.) Numbskull swing the hammer at whirlwind velocity, and although it’s been a few years since Numbskull released any music, the band’s debut full-length, Powderslave, is an endlessly enjoyable crossover classic. An outstanding (and blistering fast) addition to New Zealand’s raucous underground rock canon.
Opium Eater – Canis Major (The Greater Dog)
Wellington band Opium Eater deal in "Post-Traumatic Sludgescapes" drawn from the realms of experimental/post-metal. The band’s debut, Canis Major (The Greater Dog), features a single eponymous 18-minute track that features delicate violins and drifting post-rock, before transforming into a heaving requiem.
Meth Drinker – OIL
Yes, I know that Meth Drinker are fairly well known outside of New Zealand these days. But I can’t resist another opportunity to have a quick rant about the band’s noxious sewer sludge. The Wellington punks have just returned from another DIY tour of Europe to promote their latest spirit-crushing release OIL. Uber-downbeat, Meth Drinker deal in ultra-heavy crud and crust and nihilistic dirges. (Note: the band are now on hiatus. But don’t let that stop you from enjoying all the misanthropy and misery on offer.)
Hollywoodfun Downstairs – Reactions
Hollywoodfun Downstairs deliver stop-on-a-dime noise punk with a razor-sharp post-hardcore edge. The band’s second album, Reactions, is intense. Its produced to perfection. Was mastered in New York by Alan Douches. Sounds huge, and gnarly. And is sprinkled with spiky popilicious hooks.
Look for the cassette release of Reactions on Press Gang Records. And while you’re there, I recommend you sample further Press Gang releases from the likes of stoner rock punx Viking Weed, pitch-black post-punk band Society, and sludge ‘n’ doom trio Over-population.
Stone Angels – Within the Witch
In order to understand why Christchurch-based Stone Angels’ Within the Witch album is so powerful you need to appreciate that it was born from tragedy. In 2011, the South Island New Zealand city of Christchurch was hit by a major earthquake that killed 185 people, injured scores, and destroyed much of the city. Within the Witch was created in the aftermath of those events, and it’s a raw exorcism featuring corrosive sludge, doom, and intimidating atmospherics.
Negative Capability – Negative Capability
Hamilton punks Negative Capability sound like Big Black driving a steamroller over Jesus Lizard and Fugazi –– i.e. filthy and furious, and goddamn magnificent. The band’s self-titled debut only features four songs, which is a tantalising tease considering how fully formed and imposing those tracks are. Fingers crossed for more tracks soon. (The band’s debut is also set for a tape release on Press Gang Records.)
Shallow Grave – Shallow Grave
Auckland quartet Shallow Grave dish out distortion-heavy atmospheric sludge, thickset doom, and psychedelic drone. The band's self-titled 2013 debut album features colossal dirges where Shallow Grave weaves in ambient passages and layers of feedback. Ensuring there were plenty of cavernous deadfalls to get entangled in. HIGHLY recommended.
Bonecruncher – Bonecruncher
Bonecruncher push all my crusty-punk-lovin'buttons. Their self-titled debut released earlier this year delivered 24 frantic and frenetic minutes of steely punk rock. There are callbacks to the earliest years of crossover crust; deluges of dirty and crushing riffs; wailing solos squirming through the mix; spat out, howled, and growled vocals; battering percussion; and nary a pause for breath anywhere on the album.
Slavedriver – Marauders Of The Wasteland
Slavedriver’s Marauders Of The Wasteland album was the definition of all killer no filler. (See also supersonic releases from fellow New Zealand bands Graves, Shitripper, Parents, PCP Eagles, and Starving Millions.) Slavedriver didn't waste a second on any superfluous doodling on Marauders Of The Wasteland. Fortifying their breakneck, cutthroat and curt sound with sampled dialogue and noisescape atmospherics.
Two Wolves – The Roar and Peal of Distant Thunder
Two Wolves’ debut album, The Roar and Peal of Distant Thunder, was inspired by Cormac McCarthy's novel Blood Meridian, and bleak outback films like The Proposition. It’s all blood-soaked dirt and dust, and Sergio Leone landscapes, with slide guitar and campfire harmonica adding to the band’s evocative sound.
Trepanation / Spiteful Urinator – Split
Trepanation released their vitriolic first demo, Hideous Black Abyss, back in 2013. That demo was stacked to the gunnels with bleeding-raw and chaotic black and death metal, and it came with a fair amount of pitch-black crust punk. As did the band’s excellent 2014 split with Sabbatic Goat.
Spiteful Urinator is affiliated with infamous New Zealand doom trio Open Tomb. Although, Spiteful Urinator deal in far brisker punked-up metal on solid gold piles of bile like the band’s Work Crimes album. Together, Trepanation and Spiteful Urinator’s split from earlier this year is the perfect meeting of similarly misanthropic and murderous minds.
Vomit Storm – Mudge or Be Mudged!
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Vomit Storm are scumbags making scumbag music that is perfectly suited for scumbags like you, and me. Mudge or Be Mudged! is filled with stench-ridden, bullshit-free punked-up metal. The kind of cruddy crossover thrash that any studded-jacketed rivethead worth their salt will instantly fall in love with. (And that’s a deeply unhealthy and unsanitary love, obviously.)