It's difficult trying to keep my finger on the pulse of New Zealand punk or metal these days. I mean, I joke a lot about being an ol' crusty-bearded hermit, who hardly ever leaves his bunker. But that's also the absolute truth.
Being an out-of-step recluse isn't all bad news though. It means I have plenty of time to obsessively hunt down underground music. Plus, as an outsider, I'm oblivious to most of the in-fighting.
Below is the result of my obsessions. It's a bunch of impressive underground NZ punk and metal from 2017, and the good news is I have zero interest in 'heavier' mainstream music, so there's no vapid rockers ruining the view.
Although, that said, who knows... maybe there are some tedious tunesmiths below? Maybe the Dadrock gene finally won the war in 2017? Maybe that's left me defeated and entirely unaware of my own dull-eyed conformity?
I'll leave that up to you to decide.
Feel free not to let me know the answer.
One thing I was stoked to witness this year was the visceral run of releases from new Wellington-based DIY punk label Razored Raw. In fact, if you sit the label's Pantihero and Corpse Rat debuts alongside ferocious 2017 releases from bands like Spiteful Urinator, Total Ruin, and Poverty & Spit, then you've got a mountain of raw noise highlighting just how gloriously feral and fucked-up NZ punk can get.
On the metal side of the aisle, Vassafor returned with another formidably intimidating album this year. Arc of Ascent delivered more world-class, mind-bending metal. And Heresiarch, Methchrist, and Stalker surpassed all expectations with their respective (and ear-splitting) full-length debuts.
One album that's missing from the metal list below is Bulletbelt's latest, Nine Centuries, but that's only because it hasn't been released yet. Bulletbelt experienced troubles this year, but Nine Centuries is unquestionably the band's most artistically successful album yet. Everyone involved in its creation should be justly proud of their efforts: it's a thrilling, imaginative and passionate album. Here's the first single, "Cloak the Night". Nine Centuries is out 11 December.
I should point out, I do deliberately steer clear of some NZ metal. I’m also not in any kvlter-than-kvlt clique. So I miss hearing about some releases. I’m going to be a lot more selective about the NZ metal I cover at Six Noises in the future as well. So, if you're looking for a far broader range of NZ metal, check out sites like NZ Metal.com, Under the Radar, or Ambient Light, who all feature local metal from outside Six Noises' zone of coverage.
Fingers crossed, you'll find some fresh discoveries below. Most of the releases are decidedly savage. Some of them are markedly sinister. And a couple are savage, sinister, and downright inspired to boot.
Cheers for supporting Six Noises this year. Have a fantastic festive break.
FYI: I know there's a fuck ton of unranked music here. Read the rationale behind my EOY17 list mayhem
Corpse Rat: S/T
Brain-smashing blackened crust from Wellington noise punks. Brutal rawpunk that's as indebted to visceral first wave black metal as it is to ultra-blown-out Japanese hardcore. Pure ear-fucking/bile-spitting brilliance.
Spiteful Urinator: Absurdities and Death Rites
Spiteful Urinator’s palpable disdain of all and sundry is a welcome reminder that genuinely confrontational punk rock isn’t dead yet. If you’re looking for music that sounds and feels like it fucking hates your guts, this is the perfect place to start.
Total Ruin: Demo
A churning, bass-driven audio assault with harsh, sludgy, and knuckle-dragging rawpunk throughout. Perfect primitive tunes. A+ ugly noise.
Poverty & Spit: EP
A squalid, eccentric and ear-piercing racket. For lovers of mind-melting punk and hardcore that takes a steep dive off the deep end.
Red-raw, utterly abrasive and throughly obnoxious. Blown-out, sludgy, and grungy noise with "fuck-you" production values that'll strip the enamel right off your teeth. Awesome, all round.
"Dumb Beat ... punk for morons": sludge-fuelled, in-your-face noise punk that's so lo-fi and fucked-up it's beyond brilliant/awful/brilliant.
Sick Old Man: Tribunus Plebis EP
Released in late-December 2016: kängpunk and råpunk with a hefty injection of raw black metal. First-rate fucking mayhem all round.
Various artists: NO NZ
Released by label Razored Raw: a storming compilation of bile-spitting noisy NZ punks. Featuring the likes of Spiteful Urinator, Stress Ghetto, Corpse Rat, Feral Blood, Sick Old Man, the perfectly named BusPuncher (and more artists besides).
Over-Population: Civilization and Its Discontents
Ultra-nihilistic sludge punk. Hate everyone and everything? Press play below. You’re definitely not alone.
Knee Splitter: Phase Stun
High-speed, unhygienic, and horrible (via lo-fi wizards Carpet Dungeon Recordings). Perfectly scummy and grinding misanthropic punk.
Feral Blood: Demo 2017
DIY Nelson d-beat. A hugely promising riot of raw, visceral energy. A band to keep an eye on, for sure.
BusPuncher: Garage Vomit
No-fi d-beaten Dunedin crusties unshackling an aptly smashed and wrecked melee. Crank it up. Real fuckin' loud. 🤜🚌🤛
Stress Ghetto: S/T
Bleeding-raw frenzied hardcore smashing headfirst into powerviolence. A total blast – both metaphorically and sonically.
Abschäumer: Blood & Greed
Lo-fi crusty noise: barbed-wire sonics wrapped around pulverizing/obnoxious punk. Mind-shredding fun.
Master Blaster: Pass Out
Abrasive, scorching and relentless hardcore from Auckland crew. A-grade battering and bruising punk.
Ayn Randy: S/T
Pop-friendly, grungy AF, and ceaselessly driving punk from upbeat Wellington four-piece.
Tyrannosaurus Wreck: S/T
Lo-fi chugging noise punk + grimy gutter metal + bass-heavy grunge = red-raw/low-end rumbling noise.
Hollywoodfun Downstairs: Tetris
HFD carve out new creative territory while sounding honed to a razor’s edge. Tetris is the very definition of intensity.
Long Distance Runner: No Value
Razor-sharp post-hardcore with an unorthodox edge: driving melodies, heart-pounding riffs, supersonic intensity all round.
Blame Thrower: 63.5
Blame Thrower sound like they’re having a whale of a time, all of the time: punchy, grunty, propulsive and greasy – rip-snortin’ fun.
Hedge Fund Trader: No Birds
A big step up from their far rawer debut. Post-hardcore fiercely fused with screamo and powerviolence.
The Hellebores: S/T
Sonically caustic, trashy and catchy, and frothing with garage punk energy.
Human Resource: S/T
Avant-post-hardcore. Cerebral noise/drone/punk wrapped around erudite prose.
Wizz Kids: Attention
Urgent and energetic tracks smashed out in a single session. Fans of raw, melodic, and spiky punk see within.
Markdown: Markdown/Blame Thrower split
Hyper-speed, high-energy "fartmouth" hardcore. Yep, fartmouth. You get the picture. Markdown's 2017 Dead Broke EP was only released on cassette - hence not streaming it below - and it was packed inside a "trashy-80s-Markdown-themed-soon-to-be-banned-video-nasty" VHS case, which also housed a backpatch, tab book, badges, photos, flash kit, needle, ink and stencils. Super fun packaging.
Club Stupid: To the Max!
"Faster than light, dumber than shit: new tunes by old jerks": TBH, I don't think I could come up with a better description of the AK hardcore band than that.
Tape Wolves: Esoteric Surf Trash
First-rate fuzzed-out garage punk from the enigmatic lupine trio. Bloodbags: Busted Chops and Dead Eyes
Garage punks Bloodbags released two A+ scungy/scummy 7" EPs this year. You should buy both of them. Right now.
Stalker: Shadow of the Sword
"A neck-wrecking barrage of pure speed metal mayhem!" Stalker inhabit a red-hot radioactive battlezone, where bullet belts, gauntlets, and over-the-top bravado are mandatory. Stalker smashed it out of the park for their Napalm Records full-length debut. Shadow of the Sword is about as fucking metal as fucking metal gets.
Malediction isn’t an act. It isn’t entertainment. It’s a testament and a tribute to the horror that potentially awaits us all in the great beyond.
Arc of Ascent: Realms of the Metaphysical
Mesmerizing heavyweight music delivered at a meditative pace. Realms of the Metaphysical reaches back in time and up to the heavens, all while exploring what lies deep within. No question, Arc of Ascent operate on a whole other plane of existence.
Heresiarch: Death Ordinance
Fuelled by staggeringly impressive/psychopathic levels of hatred and hostility, Death Ordinance proves, without a doubt, that Heresiarch are henchmen of the apocalypse, through and through.
Opium Eater: Ennui
Opium Eater have poured their hearts into their debut, and they’ve laid their souls bare along the way: Ennui’s mix of expressive and journeying music ensures it's both evocative and engrossing.
Methchrist: Nomadic War Machine
A skull-cracking riot fuelled as much by pure fucking spite as it is by any creative ambitions. Raw and ugly noise purpose-built for the bitterest, angriest, and most nihilistic times.
Stone Angels: Patterns in the Ashes
Unearthed recordings that were eerie, ominous, and markedly nefarious. Fiendish sludge and doom, framed by matching atmospherics.
Vesicant: Shadows of Cleansing Iron
Vesicant make zero compromises on Shadows of Cleansing Iron, delivering an obliterating wall of noise with overwhelming concussive force.
Triumphs: Computer Man
Computer Man avoids technical showboating in favour of expressive storytelling. Not a single word is spoken on the album, but Computer Man still tells a vivid and often enthralling tale.
Bloodnut: St Ranga
St Ranga is a dirtier, punchier, grimmer and more jagged-edged album than Bloodnut’s debut. Fingers crossed, the band continue to explore darker territory in the future.
Voice of the Black Pharaoh: Suffering is Free, Big Spender
Ultra-raw and ultra-ugly debut EP from irreverent (Anti-)Christchurch black metal duo.
Exaltation: Demo 2017
Vile, raw and fierce death/black metal: featuring members of Winter Deluge.
Blindfolded and Led to the Woods: Modern Adoxography
An über-aggressive onslaught backed by heart-pounding musicianship.
Enter the Soil: That Amber Lit Morning
That Amber Lit Morning drives a stake into our heart of hearts with bruising and expressive music. Enter the Soil provides an ocean of solemn music for us to luxuriate in.
Wending Tide: The Painter
Woozy, wall-of-noise atmospheric/post-black metal from mysterious Auckland, New Zealand band. I literally know nothing about Wending Tide, aside from the fact that German label Naturmacht Productions were clearly impressed and stepped in to release the band's debut EP on CD this year.
Dark Divinity: Seasons of Dark
Melodic death metal isn’t my cup of tea. I prefer putrid and filthy death metal – more Golgotha than Gothenburg. That said, credit where credit’s due, because "Seasons of Dark", the strapping first track from NZ melodeath band Dark Divinity, met with a rousing reception both at home and offshore this year. Dark Divinity clearly have a bright future ahead.
Wolf Wizard: "Black Crows"
It's only a single song, but "Black Crows", from amp-melting Hamilton trio Wolf Wizard (featuring ex-Arc of Ascent guitarist Sandy Schaare), sparked a lot of interest in the stoner rock/metal band's upcoming full-length debut. (Due for release via German label Clostridium Records.)
Bridge Burner: "The Blood Never Lies"
Ditto on massive interest being sparked by a single song. Bridge Burner's full-throttle, "The Blood Never Lies", is taken from their long-awaited first full-length, Null Apostle, which is due for release in 2018. Null Apostle is creatively imposing and utterly decimating, and it's destined to be an indomitable debut. I count myself lucky to have heard the album already. It's fucking HUGE. I can't wait for you to hear it too. Barshasketh / Outre: Sein / Zeit
I admit it's a stretch claiming black metallers Barshasketh are a NZ metal band nowadays. But the once Wellington-based band's split with Polish band Outre shows Barshasketh continuing to evolve into an evermore creatively sinuous band. Vicissitude: "I" and Decimation Hammer: "Vituperation"
Former NZ-based label Black Chaos Productions has been uploading tracks from its '2017 Sampler' CD onto YouTube recently. Included were tracks from a couple of NZ black/death metal bands I'd never heard of before: Vicissitude and Decimation Hammer. Both bands deliver harsh, murky and murderous music, and you should check out the rest of that Black Chaos sampler. It also contains tracks from A-grade NZ misanthropes like Blood of the Moon, Sabbatic Goat, Trepanation, and Unholy Sex Cult... as well as some rowdy ockers too. Bottle: “Where Here Is”
“Where Here Is” was only released online today. But I snuck it in here regardless because it’s a ripping doom number taken from Dunedin band Bottle’s first full-length, which is set for release on 2 December. If you’re a fan of Witchcraft, Pentagram, or heavy psychedelic rock and metal in general, then mark that release date down. I’m looking forward to checking out Bottle’s debut album immensely.
I haven't sorted any of my EOY picks into a specific order. That’s because I’m not really interested in who’s better or who's the best these days. I don't feel any compulsion to studiously rank the music that matters to me. And the last thing that music needs is to be pinned to a board and scrupulously arranged like a soon-to-be-forgotten museum exhibit.
That's just me though. If you’re interested in debating who deserves the most critical applause or underground acclaim, then have at it. And have fun while you're at it. I just don't have a dog in that fight anymore. I'm more interested in simply sharing all the thundering noise I adored in 2017. You can pick the winners or losers. Trust me, you'll do a better job than me.