Most years, I post a great big list of my favorite noisy releases from Aotearoa New Zealand. But that end-of-year list never materialized in 2019.
Mainly, that’s because I injured myself and spent the time I should have been writing that list wallowing in a Netflix-and-pills coma. I'm better now, and while I know this post is well overdue, I still want to highlight a few rowdy NZ releases from 2019.
To save you from having to wade through too much waffle, I deleted the original 1500-word introduction I wrote for this post. And I’ve kept the blurbs below fairly short and sweet too.
Obviously, deleting that epic introduction means you'll miss out on a raft of insightful remarks. Like my perceptive observations about the crucial role of underground music in the self-surveilling panopticon we all inhabit. Or my heart-wrenching comments about punk and metal's ability to exorcise our demons.
I also wrote a staggeringly astute paragraph about underground music being one of the last vestiges of defiance in a world so often given to blind conformity.
And I'm certain you would have also loved my side-splitting gags about the noisy NZ albums I ignored this year. (Long story short; I've got no time for cooked interviewees and/or dog-whistling bigots and/or sniveling MRAs and/or ‘edgy’ plonkers exploiting the trauma of mental health illness under the guise of free-speech martyrdom.)
And yes, I'm fully aware I'm a little pissy-pants libtard.
Clearly, you're just going to have to take my word that everything I wrote in that original introduction was sharp-witted and thought-provoking. But when have I ever lied to you? I mean, aside from now.
PS: I struggled to come up with a healthy-sized list of NZ metal releases that struck a chord in 2019. That’s partly because the NZ metal scene releases fewer recordings than NZ's punk scene, which means appetizing metal releases are scarcer by default. This year is set to be a lot more fertile for NZ metal though, with new releases from heavy-hitters like Winter Deluge, Exordium Mors, and the almighty Vassafor on the horizon.
Ok, here we go...
Piggery – S/T
The best deafening release from Aotearoa's shores in 2019 – punk, metal, or otherwise – was the crushing debut from Pōneke (Wellington) punks Piggery. The band’s self-titled release featured grim-faced and blown-out deathcrust, which was packed with apocalyptic menace and tipped its hat to the bleakest and most demolishing 90s metalpunk. As I've said before, Piggery delivered the harshest punk from the Southern Hemisphere's darkest depths. Feral. Filthy. Ferocious. A stone-cold ominous classic.
Distant Fear – Mortal Column
The best NZ metal release in 2019 was the storming debut from Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) trio Distant Fear. Mortal Column featured withering levels of audio violence, with murky and merciless death metal assailing pitch-black, concussive crust. Mortal Column's doom-choked churns were dense and disgusting, but most of all, they were decimating. A full-bore assault on the senses. Sick af.
Total Ruin – S/T
Knuckle-dragging Pōneke trio Total Ruin delivered pulverizing hardcore, driven by brain-drilling percussion, on their 2019 self-titled 7". The band’s bone-breaking intensity was dispensed with brutal efficiency. Nihilistic dirges comprised of cement-mixer bass, incomprehensible vocals, and primitive riffs made for a downer buzz for the ages. Guttural chaos has never sounded better.
Heresiarch / Trepanation / Serpents Athirst / Genocide Shrines – Scorn Coalescence
Scorn Coalescence was a 4-way split featuring venomous Tāmaki Makaurau band Trepanation, Aotearoa war metal brutes Heresiarch, and notorious Sri Lankan groups Serpents Athirst and Genocide Shrines. Each band delivered a punishing vortex of malignant metal, and Scorn Coalescence was militant, misanthropic, and a 666% metaphysical battleground.
Various – Rungus Among Us
Various – Hairy Palm Vol 2: Plastic Rites
The best compilations make you want to dig deeper for more music, and that's definitely the case with 2019's Rungus Among Us and Hairy Palm Vol 2: Plastic Rites. The former was released by Pōneke label Razored Raw, and Rungus Among Us lifted the lid on NZ’s capital city’s thriving subterranean punk scene. See within for a raft of raw hardcore from DÄHTM, Pvnisher, Piggery, Bowel Rupture, and many more.
Tāmaki Makaurau label Hairy Palm released Hairy Palm Vol. 3: Plastic. Rites, which dug into Aotearoa’s underground punk and punk-adjacent scenes. Twisted tracks from noiseniks like Mutation and Noxo appeared alongside ferocious contributions from Spiteful Urinator, Total Ruin, Piggery, Stress Ghetto, Bowel Rupture and more. Both compilations made for great introductions to the nastiest NZ noise.
Bowel Rupture – “Black Line” and “Virus”
Pōneke punks Bowel Rupture released two bulldozing tracks in 2019, which appeared on the compilations above. “Black Line” and “Virus” were both A-grade examples of raw and head-splitting crust/black/grind/death metal. Keep an ear out for Bowel Rupture’s upcoming 7” split with Pvnisher, which features the band’s heaviest and most intimidating work yet. Bowel Rupture grow evermore obliterating with every release.
Spiteful Urinator / Dogcock – S/T Split
The 2019 split from Kirikiriroa (Hamilton) crüe Spiteful Urinator and fellow Hamilton malcontents Dogcock is the final release from the Spiteful boyz. The band finished up by delivering more of their reliably vile and volatile hardcore, which was matched by Dogcock's gruesome/grinding combination of sewer-stained punkmetal.
Malevolence – Unending Death
Steadfast DIY trio Malevolence have been making an annihilating racket since 1992. The Tāmaki Makaurau band's Unending Death EP featured a noxious stew of grindcore, crustcore, death metal, and boiling blackened noise. Stubbornly challenging – and as raw as a perforated bowel – Unending Death proved that Malevolence still had plenty of rabid bite.
Stress Ghetto / World Peace / Heckdorlan – Split
Stress Ghetto / Total Ruin – Split 5"
Pōneke powerviolence trio Stress Ghetto blasted their way through two split releases in 2019. Stress Ghetto's 3-way split with Californian bands World Peace and Heckdorlan was chock full of septic eruptions and was released to celebrate the three bands' US West Coast tour. Degenerate noise also reigned supreme on Stress Ghetto's pummeling split with Total Ruin. Expect rampant disorder… and sledgehammering fun.
Kruor Noctis – Craven Whispers
Nystagmus – The Other Path
The abrasive black metal of Aotearoa bands Kruor Noctis and Nystagmus is ice-cold and corrosive. Kruor Noctis' evocative 2019 EP, Craven Whispers, featured bleeding-raw riffs, ghoulish growls, and all sorts of crypt-dwelling and blastbeaten necro nastiness. Nystagmus' compelling EP, The Other Path, shrouded melancholic and macabre tracks in DSBM's atmospheric shadows. As bleak and sinister as both releases were, Kruor Noctis and Nystagmus also delivered a lot of rousing music, meaning both bands often sounded as triumphant as they did desolate. Two wickedly corrupt communiqués; highly recommended for fans of morbid magick.
Contenders / Unsanitary Napkin – Split
Contenders – S/T
The energetic 2019 split release featuring Pōneke punks Unsanitary Napkin and Kirikiriroa crew Contenders will make you want to dance as the world burns. Unsanitary Napkin tackled socio-cultural ills, while celebrating collective resistance, with spiky anarcho-hardcore loaded with tempting hooks. As well as delivering ripping contributions to their split with Unsanitary Napkin, Contenders also dropped a riotous self-titled 7" in 2019. Both releases featured honed and anthemic hardcore. A+. 10/10. Gold-medal stuff.
Vomit Storm – S/T
Vomit Storm’s long-lost (and self-titled) second album finally saw a release via Pōneke label Limbless Music in 2019. Vomit Storm’s sound is Motörcharged, slathered in crust, and aptly tagged as "rungus thrash" on Bandcamp. The band’s sophomore album was an untamed free-for-all, with Vomit Storm delivering 17 dumpster-diving/putrid-smelling blasts of unadulterated mayhem. So. Fucking. Insane. So. Fucking. Good.
Pvnisher – A Private Hell
Pvnisher – Aleswiller
Pōneke two-piece Pvnisher inject blackened hardcore into über-caustic crustcore, and then they trample the lot, wearing Bolt Thrower-sized boots. Pvnisher's 2019 releases, A Private Hell and Aleswiller, were stripped-down and nerve-shredding, in keeping with Pvnisher’s blown-out raw punk ambitions. Hope-shattering noise to soundtrack the endless miseries and horrors lurking outside your door.
TVX – S/T
The sudden passing of TVX’s singer Anna Antoinette Bouwmeester in 2018 was heartbreaking for many. But Anna's presence on the Pōneke stoner punk band's debut underscored that she was an impassioned and inspiring performer. TVX wrapped raw riffs (dripping with doom and buzzing distortion) around unruly bass and drums. A beautiful, cathartic, and aptly deafening legacy.
Stalker – “Powermad” / “Behold the Beast”
Pōneke speed metal heroes Stalker returned with two lightning-fast new tracks in 2019. “Powermad” and “Behold the Beast” were both breakneck/fever-pitch anthems bursting with spandex and leather, sky-high falsettos, and pyrotechnic riffs. Stalker have charisma and talent to burn. I double dare you not to fall hopelessly in love with them.
Zone Killer – Zone of Death
Zone Killer's second EP, Zone of Death, hurled ear-gouging grindcore at hardcore, sludge, and myriad sanity-mangling metalpunk influences. The Pōneke group's blast-beaten tracks featured chugging and lacerating riffs, guttural grunts, and plenty of mind-chiseling shrieks. FFO fans of confronting uproars and knuckle-smashing pits.
Terror Oath – S/T (reissue)
Terror Oath was founded by like-minded villains from Aotearoa black/death legends Vassafor and Canadian death-dealers Weregoat. The band's maelstrom debut was originally released on cassette in 2014, but Iron Bonehead Productions (re)released it on vinyl in 2019. Terror Oath's berserker tracks were murky as Hades, barbaric as Hell, and they leeched unbelievably raw and bestial strains of antediluvian noise. Poseur-stomping brutaility (✓). Slaughterhouse insanity (✓). Fuck you (✓).
DÄHTM – Silver Banshee
Derma – S/T
Pōneke trio DÄHTM's name stands for 'death and hatred to mankind' – see the lyrics to Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" – and the band's Silver Banshee debut was duly drenched in 420 layers of red-eyed doom. Heavyset crust, hardcore, and grinding punk delivered distorted riffs, fuzzed-out bass, and blazing vocals. Oh lord, yeah.
Derma's self-titled debut featured propulsive punk driven by distorted bass. The band's songs rocketed along with shouted vocals, off-the-chain punk and old school hardcore colliding throughout. Crude and crashing noise abounds. Merry ol’ murderous noise.
Bridge Burner – "Chlorine Eyes" / "Abyssal"
Tāmaki Makaurau band Bridge Burner released two hope-crushing tracks in 2019. Both featured throat-wrecking vocals and neck-snapping instrumentation, and “Chlorine Eyes” and “Abyssal” explored existential agonies as Bridge Burner hammered their message home. Expect brute-force music that delivers liberation via incandescent rage. Embrace negativity and misanthropy; catharsis awaits.
Ayn Randy – Talk Talk Talk
Nervous Jerk – 1994
Pōneke punks Ayn Randy and Ōtautahi (Christchurch) trio Nervous Jerk delivered some of the most upbeat and energetic punk of 2019. Ayn Randy's Talk Talk Talk EP featured shout-along choruses and mix of dirty grunge and garage punk (all of which equaled big hooks and maximum fun). Nervous Jerk's infectious punk will also leave you punching the air with glee, and much like Ayn Randy, Nervous Jerk leave things rough around the edges so their melodies never sound overly polished or sickly sweet. Nervous Jerk's 1994 7" featured jack-in-a-box tracks filled with whip-cracking riffs. Gutter (pop) punk par excellence.
Easy Off – Demo
Easy Off – Mot Strömmen
Kirikiriroa crusties Easy Off released an achingly raw demo at the start of 2019, and then followed it up with their six-track Mot Strömmen EP at the end of the year. Both recordings were crude and caustic, with the band's bleeding-raw punk, d-beat, and crustcore scoring high on the obnoxious scoreboard. In your face. Tinnitus-inducing. Unapologetically ear-splitting.
Mosquito Control – Morbid Orations in the Pestilential Age
Mosquito Control's 2019 album, Morbid Orations in the Pestilential Age, might be one the harshest NZ metal albums you've never heard. The Tāmaki Makaurau band mixes soul-piercing howls with stripped-down riffs, drawing inspiration from the most gut-wrenching drone, doom, and sludge. Crushing tracks crawl across traumatic terrain, chewing your nerves up, and then spitting ’em out.
Pulvinar – Noisomekind
Pulvinar's roots lie in South Africa, but the politically charged deathcrust/grindcore duo now call Tāmaki Makaurau home. The band's 2019 debut, Noisomekind, was a boiling cauldron of metalpunk that'll appeal to crusties, grind-freaks, and rivetheads alike. Dual throat-scouring vocals roar amongst frenized blast-beats and riffs that'll strip the skin from your bones. FFO of armor-clad punk.
Organectomy – Existential Disconnect
Carnal – Lecherous Acts of Hedonism
Aotearoa brutal death metal bands Organectomy and Carnal converted scores of non-slam fans into staunch supporters in 2019. Organectomy's second full-length, Existential Disconnect, was a mind-twisting and blast-beaten blowout – with the band's gurgles, chugs, and squeals carving deeper and more diverse grooves. Carnal's long-awaited full-length debut, Lecherous Acts of Hedonism, also ticked all the mind-flaying, technical, and slam-sational boxes. Carnal and Organectomy drew swift praise for their rotten vocals, sicker riffs, and ultra-guttural adventures. Remorseless. Inhuman. Annihilating.
Chainsore – Noxious Blight
Noxious Blight was the debut demo from Chainsore, which is one of the innumerable projects from prolific Pōneke label Razored Raw head-honcho, Matai Szwed. In this case, Chainsore was a solo project for Szwed, inspired by old school groups like Bl'ast and Sedition. Noxious Blight's lo-fi production featured plenty of sand-blasted abrasiveness and distortion-drenched dirges. Bleeding-raw. Zero-bullshit. Tough as steel.
Long Distance Runner – No Escape
No Escape is the second 7" release from Tāmaki Makaurau five-piece Long Distance Runner. Much like the band's aggressive debut, No Escape featured a mix of heart-pounding hardcore, post-hardcore, and screamo. Razor-sharp arrangements with inventive twists and turns –– and plenty of cathartic to and fro –– highlighted Long Distance Runner’s smart songwriting and foot-to-the-floor intensity.
Earth Tongue – Floating Being
Into Orbit – Kinesis
Pōneke duos Earth Tongue and Into Orbit probably aren't thought of as metal bands by many metal fans. However, both groups wield plenty of dark and weighty riffs. Earth Tongue's fuzzed-out (and reverb-heavy) Floating Being LP featured 9 psych-fuelled tracks filled with off-kilter refrains and tripped-out weirdness. Into Orbit's Kinesis LP was melodic and explorative, and it featured plenty of heaving guitar and crashing percussion too. Post-metal and post-rock made an appearance, with Into Orbit toying with time and space, and tension and release, via heavily textured suites.
Swamp Dweller – 2019 Demo
Swamp Dweller emerged from South Otago's far-flung Owaka Valley in 2019 with a dirty and distortion-heavy demo that embraced the ugliest end of the sludge metal spectrum. Swamp Dweller's demo was rougher-than-rough, and tougher-than-tough, and it was all the better for its gut-punching rawness. Gnarly. Nasty. Instinctive. A more-than-solid debut.
Stormforge – "Madness and Might" / "Star Descended"
Power metal groups are thin on the ground in Aotearoa, but the unbridled shredhead heroics of Tāmaki Makaurau band Stormforge make up for that. The band's 2019 digital tracks, "Madness and Might" and "Star Descended", featured gigantic anthemic hooks, soaring operatic vocals, and pulse-pounding virtuosity. Expect chest-pounding melodic metal that tests the limits of technicality at every turn.