/ New Zealand Bands

Down Under(ground): Aotearoa New Zealand Noise Vol 3

So, why am I here, when good ol’ Six Noises is supposed to be on hiatus?

Good question, my friend. Here’s the answer: I just kinda felt like it.

It’s partly because I recently paid for another year’s use of that shiny domain name above, and I’m a penny-pinching Grinch at the best of time, so I thought I’d better get value for money. However, I also want to keep these dusty old pages alive because I’m working on a long-term project that has tentative links to this site.

Now, before I go any further, two things:

(1) If you're not interested in what I've been up to, you can skip this intro and cut right to the tunes below.
(2) If you are interested, I should probably start things off with an apology.

Last year, I wrote three different end-of-year features for US website Last Rites, and in every one those articles, I mentioned I’d also be writing an end-of-year feature focusing on music from Aotearoa New Zealand. But that never happened.

The reason? Nothing exciting, bruv. I simply injured myself and spent the time I should have been writing gobbling painkillers, feeling sorry for myself, and wallowing in my own filth.

So, sorry. But if you’re curious, in a couple of days’ time, I am going to post my picks for the best noisy NZ releases from 2019 on Six Noises. It’s not going to be the big stand-alone feature I originally planned. But I still want to shine a light on a few rowdy 2019 NZ releases that are worth your time. Better late than never, right?

If you’re paying attention, you’ll note this article is entitled Down Under(ground): Aotearoa New Zealand Noise Vol 3. The previous two volumes in this ongoing series were kindly published at Last Rites (Vol 1) and hardcore website DIY Conspiracy (Vol 2). Essentially, Down Under(ground) is a continuation of Six Noises’ eternal mission, which is to shout about visceral music from Aotearoa, and which I’m mostly doing offshore rather than onshore these days.

I didn’t stop scribbling about NZ music when Six Noises went into hibernation. If you've been following my writing (and I’m not deluded enough to think there’s any good reason for you to do that) you’ll have noticed I've been busy writing a monthly punk/metal column entitled In Crust We Trust (for Last Rites), which you can follow on Facebook and Instagram.

I’ve also been contributing the odd review or article at Last Rites, as well as at sites like Metal Bandcamp and DIY Conspiracy. The bulk of my time for the foreseeable future is going to be tied up writing the book I’ve always threatened to write. Noise Zealand: 30 Years of Underground Music in Aotearoa will be a warts-and-all tale of subterranean NZ punk and metal. The book's publication is a ways away, but it’s definitely (and finally) happening. You’ve been warned.

Alright, let’s get to the meat – or, in my case, the BBQ-flavored tofu – of things. Below are a bunch of recent noisy NZ releases to sample, and I hope you find something to enjoy. Keep an eye out for that list of the best NZ metal and punk from 2019, which will be published very soon.

See ya soon, mate(s).

Soul Void – Temple of Sin
Somewhere out there is the person who stole my copy of Zone Killer's Zone of Death cassette from my mailbox, and to that person, I would like to say, "fuck you very much". Who's got spare cash lying about to replace stolen tapes? Not me, pal. But none of that's the fault of Zone Killer's Pōneke (Wellington) label, Elimination Records, which has gotten off to a rip-roaring start.

A few weeks back, Elimination Records curated a well-attended two-day festival in Wellington (Elimination Fest 2020), which featured a stacked line-up of punk, hardcore and metal bands from Aotearoa. Included on the bill were Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) death metal crew Soul Void, and the band's performance clearly impressed many, as the stack of exuberant post-show posts and videos can attest.

Soul Void's three-track Temple of Sin cassette features heavy-ass death metal driven by the ice-cold propulsion of Dismember and Entombed as much as the pungent grooves carved by Autopsy and Obituary. Soul Void are a young band, but their sound is old school, and that's aptly coupled to a lyrical interest in "iconic 80's horror and sci-fi".

Buzzsaw riffs, pummeling percussion, and gravel-gargling vocals provide the framework on tracks like "Temple of Sin" and "Summoned to Kill". Soul Void dig viscera-strewn trenches with their crushing instrumentation, alternating tempos as their songs grind inexorably forward. Temple of Sin sounds great too. The EP is caustic and coarse, which I love, and while some might desire a thicker or slicker production, I'd argue Soul Void's debut packs plenty of sledgehammering intensity as is.

In fact, as far as debuts go, Soul Void should be rightly proud of Temple of Sin. The EP will likely satisfy any raw death metal itches, and Soul Void blend their bitter Swedish and swampier US influences extremely well. Sure, improvements could be made on any debut. But Soul Void's enthusiasm triumphs over any finicky concerns or criticisms.

The heavyweight end of NZ's music underground is littered with promising bands who publicly imploded or mysteriously disappeared. Here's hoping Soul Void won't be another casualty, because Temple of Sin is a rip-roaring debut and stacked with potential.

Elimination Records – Endangered Species Vol. 1
Also out via Elimination Records is the recent four-track compilation, Endangered Species Vol. 1. Soul Void feature, contributing the savage-sounding "Mauled", which sounds right at home alongside the rest of heavyweight hardcore gathered here.

Pōneke (Wellington) band Severed Beliefs recently debuted a video for their "Grey Eternal" contribution, and the song chugs and churns with plenty of 90s metallic hardcore momentum. Severed Beliefs draw inspiration from a raft of heavy sub-genres, as do fellow Pōneke straight edge crew ColdxWar, whose track “Gyre” is another armor-clad genre-smasher. (See ColdxWar's Culture Shock debut for more brutal beatdown madness.)

Lastly, Watch Me Die deliver more bruising hardcore on “A Serene Moment of Obscurity”, which features plenty of up-front, stop-start riffage, and a finely tuned balance of intricate and gut-felt songwriting.

Complaints? Well, four songs doesn't make for a comprehensive compilation, although wanting to hear more isn't much of a gripe. Bonus points for proceeds from Endangered Species Vol. 1 being donated to the VIC Bushfire Disaster Appeal, helping those affected by the recent bushfires in Australia. And kudos to Jordi Zonneveld for Endangered Species Vol. 1's killer artwork and design.

Hedge Fund Trader – S/T
The latest release from Kirikiriroa (Hamilton) post-hardcore + screamo + powerviolence trio Hedge Fund Trader features 10 tracks recorded in two separate sessions. The first half of the band's new self-titled cassette features songs recorded in late 2017, which were subsequently released digitally on the band's Half Night/Last Light EPs. The second set of tracks was recorded in early 2018, but until now, they've remained unreleased, due to Hedge Fund Trader going on hiatus.

All up, you get short, sharp screeds of the band's patented "Soy-based skramz". Powerviolence's blistering velocity is key with Hedge Fund Trader blazing through every track with unrestrained instrumentation and unhinged vocals galore. Call it schizophrenic screamo or berserker post-hardcore – both tags easily apply. Expect lightening-fast tracks made for devotees of unorthodox hardcore.

Gravel Pit – Black Arts
Produced by Pōneke punk studio wiz Vanya Vitali, Gravel Pit's latest EP, Black Arts, is filled with the same kind of snappy hooks as their 2018 self-titled EP. That's not to say that Gravel Pit are simply repeating themselves though, because the band have added more color and finesse to their musical palette on their second EP. It's worth pointing out that Gravel Pit's more melodic tone stands out amongst Wellington's abundance of rawer and harsher hardcore bands. Although, Gravel Pit certainly aren't alone, with fellow Pōneke punks like Unsanitary Napkin and Ayn Randy also dangling plenty of captivating hooks.

Black Arts mixes hurtling 90s skate punk with crossover thrash and equally barreling hardcore. As before, shout-a-long choruses and Bailey Palmer’s powerful vocals play a big role here. Gravel Pit craft high-speed tunes with rapid-fire guitars and drums, and the catchy cadence of a band like Good Riddance echoes in the mix. Gravel Pit’s latest music also reminds me of the recent (and more sinuous) pursuits of Propagandhi. A lot of punk bands see progression as a deadly sin, but it's great to see Gravel Pit showcasing much stronger songwriting and more distinct creative ambitions.

Easy Off – Mot Strömmen
Mot Strömmen is the second corrosive-sounding release from Kirikiriroa (Hamilton) "clean shirt" crusties Easy Off. The band's self-titled 2019 demo, which came aptly packaged in a cigarette pack, featured an obnoxious brew of raw punk, d-beat, and barbwire-wrapped crustcore. Mot Strömmen features more of the same, and then some.

In fact, Mot Strömmen pretty much doubles down on Easy Off’s nails-on-a-chalkboard abrasiveness. The six blown-out tracks here are all screeching nightmares. Relentless percussion, throat-scouring vocals, and nerve-shredding riffs fester in a garbage heap of tinnitus-inducing ear-fuckery. It's ghastly, of course. And crude. And ugly. And all the rest. But, obviously, that also means Mot Strömmen comes highly recommended for fans of deafening noise.

Catsick – S/T
Ōtautahi (Christchurch) label Dust Up! released one of 2019's best NZ punk releases – see Nervous Jerk's insanely catchy 1994 7" (and while you're at it, check out Zhukov's 2019 EP II, which was also released by Dust Up!). Also well worth tracking down is Catsick's scrappy self-titled debut. The band's four-song EP is a triumph of snarling punk with filthy noise aplenty, and oodles of obnoxious attitude. "Counterfeit Friend" and "Psychic Levitation" are full-bore blasts of bass-driven nastiness, while "A Thousand Eyes" and "Thanks and Gratitude" are just as unsavory and unpalatable.

Everything here sounds like it could fall apart at any second, and Catsick tick all the crucial raw, ragged, and rough-edged punk rock boxes.

Fucking horrible, but also fucking wonderful. You know the deal.

Spiteful Urinator / Dogcock – Split
(Note: Portions of the blurb below were previously published in Vol 13 of In Crust We Trust.)
Kirikiriroa (Hamilton) malcontents Spiteful Urinator recently announced they were calling it quits after more than a dozen releases, all of which oozed overwhelming amounts of contempt. To my mind, Spiteful Urinator were always one of NZ's most authentic punk bands. Certainly in terms of being their true selves on and off stage. The band's demise is genuinely sad, but it's also true that Spiteful Urinator’s surly inclinations wouldn’t countenance such sappy sentiments.

The good news is, Spiteful Urinator's vocalist Dane Bailey, and guitarist Sean Carmichael, have been playing together in reliably antisocial bands for decades, and they'll no doubt carry on. Even better, if Spiteful Urinator's recent 7” split with fellow NZ brutes Dogcock is their final recording, the band are exiting on a spitting/snarling high.

Spiteful Urinator stick to their usual noxious MO on their split with Dogcock, delivering harsh bursts of strident punk constructed from d-beat, jagged hardcore, and raw black metal. Dogcock grind their way through an equally gruesome amalgam of polluted punk and sewer metal, matching Spiteful Urinator's feral volatility every step of the way.

Hasta la vista, Spiteful. Long may your crotchety stench linger.

Winter Deluge – "Mass Graves"
Exordium Mors – "Surrounded by Serpents"

I think it’s safe to say that the members of Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) black metal bands Exordium Mors and Winter Deluge would disagree with a lot of the lefty, group-hug sentiments espoused by most of the bands above and below. It's also a 666% safe bet to say that Exordium Mors and Winter Deluge are talented musicians whose single-minded determination has resulted in them signing to well-respected international labels; in Winter Deluge's case, that's iconic French label Osmose Productions; in Exordium Mors' case, that's increasingly popular Indian label Transcending Obscurity Records.

Both bands have released preview tracks from their upcoming 2020 releases, and Winter Deluge's recent "Mass Graves" is taken from their Degradation Renewal EP, which is due for release in late April. "Mass Graves" is another bone-chilling blast of black metal that holds fast to the genre's triumphant and remorseless roots. Winter Deluge's last belligerent release, 2016's Devolution - Decay, was a savage success filled with hateful (and hate-fuelled) tunes. The band incite chaos and provoke alarm, and from the sounds of "Mass Graves", fans have good reasons to be excited about the return of one of Aotearoa's most merciless and genuinely misanthropic black metal bands.

Exordium Mors released "Surrounded by Serpents" as a teaser for their upcoming album a while back, and the track delivers another blistering onslaught of venomous black/thrash. The band's last full-length, 2014's pulverizing The Apotheosis of Death, was Exordium Mors' best (and most ambitious) release yet. The band have no doubt poured hours of villainous energy – and equal amounts of corrupt creativity – into their upcoming (and as yet untitled) 2020 full-length. "Surrounded by Serpents" is certainly as sinister as it is hostile, suggesting another overdose of malevolence awaits. All hail the inescapable march towards death. Exordium Mors stoke the flames of annihilation.

Stoned Titan – S/T
Holy shit is low-slung, weed-fuelled metal popular in Aotearoa. Big fat doom riffs and psychoactive sludge are consumed with insatiable relish, propelling bands like Beastwars to chart-topping highs. Mysterious metal duo Stoned Titan fall squarely into the well-blitzed psychonaut category too, with the band's earth-quaking drones being pitch-perfect for fans of getting baked and contemplating the transcendent.

Stoned Titan's self-titled debut features fathomless soundscapes filled with buzzing guitars that drift along on red-eyed tendrils and blazing telekinetic currents. The long-form "Indica" kicks things off, with Stoned Titan diving deep into the track's introspective depths. Elsewhere, it's Sleep via Pink Floyd via Om via Earth courtesy of Stoned Titan's aptly named navigators Lord Skullrot ("Chief Spliff Surgeon, Cosmic Wayfarer and Bong Technician") and Cumhn Hellnium ("Bong Construction, Cold Water Extraction, and RPD Consultant").

Planet of the Dead – Fear of a Dead Planet
The bombarding debut from Poneke doom/stoner band Planet of the Dead was produced by James Goldsmith, who had a hand in the success of Beastwars' IV album in 2019. Planet of the Dead's Fear of a Dead Planet features eight massive tracks that'll appeal to fans of Electric Wizard, Ufomammut, Sleep and kin. Malcolm McKenzie's reality-shaking riffs rain down hard, while Mark Mundell's graveled howls add a monstrous timbre to the band's crawling tracks. Definitely an album for fans of outer-limits adventuring. Tune in for the megalithic doom; stick around for the cosmic horror.

Stepped Out – Demo 2020
The debut demo from Ōtautahi (Christchurch) band Stepped Out features a couple of beatdown/slam-heavy tracks that place a firm tick in both the metalcore and hardcore columns. Parts of Stepped Out's Demo 2020 remind me of Jesus Piece, while other passages call to mind a band like Knocked Loose. Either way, you get two chest-thumping tracks with Vein-esque guitars and barking/gurgling vocals that drag dirty ol' deathcore into the mix.

No question, Stepped Out have got a sense of humor about things. But they're also using that humor as a wedge to discuss heavier points of interest. Fun and revealing – a pretty good combo, eh.

Xile – "World Demise" & "Diamond Eyes"
I wouldn't call myself the biggest fan of beefy hardcore or metalcore. (I’m more of a gutter-dwelling noise, crust, and raw punk fan.) But somehow I've managed to write about a whole bunch of brawny groups in this volume of Down Under(ground). I guess that's because NZ seems to be having a little resurgence in the broad-shouldered hardcore realm, with many bands attracting international eyes and ears, like Grafton, Auckland behemoths Xile.

Xile have been kicking around for a while now, and the band’s full-length debut, I am Your God, is due for release in early April via German label BDHW Records. The five-piece band have recently dropped a couple of videos to entice potential fans –– although, Xile already have a diehard fanbase at home. Watching "World Demise" and "Diamond Eyes", it's easy to see how the band's heavyweight sound is set to expand their audience well beyond the Southern Hemisphere. Both tracks are stacked with bull-necked riffs, vocals, and crashing percussion that ride the line between skull-cracking metal and neck-wrecking hardcore.

Xile's style of muscle-bound, genre-smashing hardcore isn't for everyone. But if you're a fan of Malevolence, Knocked Loose, or a metalcore crew like Kublai Khan, there's a lot about Xile's dynamic technique and sonic intensity that'll prove equally appealing.