Interview: Alien Weaponry Vocalist/Guitarist Lewis de Jong Discusses Māori Culture and Upcoming Album ‘Tangaroa’

New Zealand “Te Reo” metal trio Alien Weaponry have built a reputation around fusing their Māori ancestry with a straightforward, groove-oriented style of heavy metal. Through powerful vocal melodies, striking music videos, and traditional Māori instruments, Alien Weaponry has been able to share their Māori perspective, history and language (Te Reo Māori) with the metal community worldwide.

Their debut full-length (Napalm Records, 2018) shared the dark stories of battle and conflict associated with the band’s Māori lineage. This undoubtedly lent itself to the album’s heavy and primitive sounding presence. Their approach to metal, on top of their young age (16 at the time), offered metal fans something not only exciting and refreshing, but insightful as well.

Being one of the most publicly known heavy metal bands representing the Māori culture, vocalist/guitarist Lewis de Jong notices that there “has been a positive reaction overall,” within the Māori community and beyond. “It was definitely a much bigger reaction than any of us were expecting. We’ve just gone with it from there and it seems to work well,” de Jong says.

De Jong reveals that one of the more obvious ways heavy metal compliments the Māori culture is the “correlation between haka (Māori dance) and metal,” both being “hard hitting and aggressive.” On top of that, de Jong feels that “traditional Māori instruments are quite unique and they really bring something special to the band’s overall sound.”

For their new album Tangaroa, releasing September 17 via Napalm Records, Alien Weaponry continues to emphasize different aspects of their culture. “On this latest album, we’ve incorporated some more traditional Māori singing styles such as Mōteatea, as well as (incorporating the instruments) Kõauau and Pūtātara,” de Jong explains.

As the word Tangaroa translates to the Māori god of the sea, the album, as well as the self-titled single, tie environmentalism in with historical Māori stories and their cultural heritage. “Nature is a big part of Māori culture and ideology,” de Jong says. “Nature is looked at as a living form of energy and something to be respected. It’s sad to see the direction humanity has taken and to see the damage that has been done as a result of it.”

In addition, Tangaroa draws from the past three years of personal struggles and growth. “We are drawing from some more ancient history with some of our Māori tracks, as well as personal struggles with friends who developed psychosis or were sexually abused,” de Jong explains. “It’s a wide range of themes but I feel like it’s helped us work through our own baggage and hopefully people will relate.”

Through their music, it is important to Alien Weaponry to keep the language and history of the Māori people alive. Tangaroa continues that mission. In certain respects, de Jong feels like “New Zealand has forgotten a lot of their history due to people not talking about it and educating each other.” He continues, “It’s important to keep talking about it or else it will be forgotten.”

Watch the video for “Tangaroa” here:

Alien Weaponry’s upcoming album Tangaroa releases on September 17 via Napalm Records and can be pre-ordered here. For more from Alien Weaponry, check out their official website.

Photo courtesy of Alien Weaponry and Piotr Kwasnik.

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