Picture the following. It’s Thursday evening and I’ve got work the next day. It’s dark and cold because it’s the middle of winter. I’m making dinner when a text arrives with an entirely unexpected invitation to see Alien Weaponry, a band I know nothing about. The venue is a small bar which I’ve been to just once, coincidentally also on what turned out to be a quiet week night.
Should I go? Would I have a good time despite not knowing their music? And would heading out on a week night (with sooo many adult responsibilities and all that) be worth the risk?
Alien Weaponry at the Last Chance Rock & Roll Bar.
Pic: Abby Phillips.
How to get the most out of a gig
You’ve read countless gig reviews before, each a blow-by-blow description of what the artists did on stage, what tracks were played or were neglected, whether the sound was on point, how the crowd responded, what those on stage were wearing, and on it goes.
This is not one of those gig reviews.
The Alien Weaponry Melbourne gig was great, but not necessarily for the traditional reasons that you might associate with a gig. To explain, I’ll have digress for a moment.
Quite simply: believe and accept that a brilliant night out has a lot less to do with what you imagine and expect it to be, and a lot more to do with how and what you choose to make of it.
Say what, I hear you utter?
I encourage you to delve further into this idea. I’ll concede that it comes across as an over-thought philosophical approach to something as unassuming as going out and drinking alcohol and enjoying heavy metal music. And yet I feel seeing things a particular way has real merit. That’s because how to make the most out of a heavy metal gig (or any other recreational occasion, I would say) can come down to something as simple as consciously deciding beforehand in your mind how you will actually go about it.
The other reason it was a brilliant night came down to the quality of my friends. Let me tell you a little about them.
Friend 1 was the source of the unexpected invite. She’s a battle-hardened gig veteran (and who incidentally is eight months’ pregnant) who does not hesitate to go to metal shows to see the bands and music that she loves. Friend 1’s partner was ill, hence the spare ticket.
Friend 2 is another gig veteran who can well be described without hyperbole as the life of the party. Friend 2 rarely misses a gig or event — if she does, there’s usually a damn good reason — and when it’s over and finally time to head home you’re left feeling, in large part thanks to Friend 2, that it was definitely worth doing.
Friend 3 is Friend 2’s partner. I’ve known Friend 3 for less than a year but he’s irrevocably now one of squadron, whether he likes or knows it or not. Friend 3 is also a highly talented guitarist and song writer.
Between Friends 1, 2 and 3 are at least 30 years of accumulated friendship. We’ve been through some amazing times together and, as happens with those who are closest to you, we’ve also overcome some darker times. These were the people that would be with me at this unknown show. The venue could have been uninhabited and I’m confident that we still would have had a rocking great time. Fun is what you make of it.
Alien Weaponry sold out the gig
Primitive may be up your cup of tea if you like complex but not unnecessarily flavours.
Pic: Abby Phillips.
Initial concerns about it being a quiet evening were quashed because the Alien Weaponry was in fact sold out. Looking around the venue it was a spectacular array of black band t-shirts. There were rockers, metal heads, old, young. Can you believe it… it was so diverse that some people even had non-black shirts?! On a mid-winter school night no less. That was a great start.
Support Primitive began proceedings with a tight and technical performance. I compensate for the fact that I don’t play an instrument by pointing out that I’m an expert at listening to other people’s music. To my ear, I would describe them as having an almost groove-like vibe while not venturing anywhere near djent or needlessly complex lands. I had no objections, even though it’s not quite my pint of cider, and there were some fantastic ensemble riff moments that got the compact room’s attention.
If you like it a bit technical without the snooty prog-tentiousness, then Primitive may be a Melbourne heavy metal band for you.
- Check them out here: Primitive Bandcamp
Alien Weaponry came on soon after. Mercifully, at a respectably early time for a school night.
“This is our first time in Australia,” announced vocalist Lewis de Jong. “Actually, this is our first time outside of New Zealand,” he added.
Like almost anyone who has something to say about Alien Weaponry in any kind of official capacity, I’m yet another person to hyper-focus on what has already been said numerous times before. Namely, that this is a teenage heavy metal act from New Zealand and that only one of them was able to drive when they got their first tour bus.
Taken out of context, three teenage metal heads playing their first gig outside of their home territory on a Thursday night during winter would seem mildly endearing.
Tonight it was three guys doing just, but on the back of a recent signing to Napalm Records while on their way to a European tour that includes a little-known heavy metal festival called Wacken Open Air.
How many local bands get to do this?
Also, metal kudos for touring with Nervosa, who are as thrash metal as you could want.
What is it that brought out so many people to see Alien Weaponry on a winter weeknight? I would say it was many things, mostly of which have something to do with what makes heavy metal inherently great.
Alien Weaponry play a mid-tempo kind of groovy thrash. It’s not Destruction or Exodus-grade neck-snappingly heavy, nor is it Annihilator or early Megadeth-level complex. It’s fun and, most importantly, has a distinct and brilliant element: the use of Māori haka (look it up if you’ve never heard of a haka).
For the uninformed, think ritualised tribal shouting in another language. Not only was it fantastically original but the result was a vocal style that was neither shouted, growled, screeched or even distorted — yet it was, in every sense of the term, So Metal.
The fact that it was live also made it so much more authentic than if it had been a mere pre-recorded sample. That, and it’s not just occasional featured chanting. Various songs are in native Te Reo language.
As I said, this one element is so incredibly metal.
Everyone loves a Kiwi
Another possible explanation of the good turn-out may have something to do with the nature of New Zealanders. Like Canadians, there is something about Kiwis that somehow seems to make them statistically just that little bit more likeable than just your average person.
Alien Weaponry are from the tiny town of Waipu, in New Zealand’s Far North. They come across as being honest, down-to-earth guys with the right attitude and who are mad for heavy metal (and a bunch of other music too).
To prove the point, and also because you should definitely do yourself a favour, watch this six-minute documentaryabout them. From what it’s like to be a heavy metal band in a town where everyone knows you, to the benefits of being able to legally drive the tour van, it’s not your ordinary metal doco. Honestly, just watch the damn thing to understand why they are winning hearts and minds.
So they played the Last Chance’s cosy and tightly packed band room. Moshing soon began, its movement being immediately felt and seemingly transferred through bodies in the tight room. Then one mosher went down, crawled to the hallway, and proceeded not to go anywhere. He was clearly in strife and when he managed to remove his boot it looked like he’d seriously damaged his ankle.
The moshing seemed to get more sedate after that. Turns out the poor bloke had broken his ankle in five spots. Even so, after the gig, Alien Weaponry gave him a shout out for insisting he stay and not miss the show.
"Big shoutout to this dude who fucked his ankle up in the mosh last night and insisted on staying to the very end propped against the wall ... that’s some Melbourne dedication right there".
Incidentally, he started a GoFundMe to cover his expected financial difficulties.
All that is great about heavy metal
When it was over, and then, with one encore, it really was all over, I left delighted. In fact, I can say everyone left delighted.
Here, on a school night, at the heart of winter, at a small venue, did a rag tag bunch of misfit punters venture out and have a brilliant time, showing legitimate appreciation and respect to two heavy metal groups, one of which contains members who aren’t event 18. At the time of publication, Alien Weaponry are playing gigs across Europe, including the appearance at Wacken.
To borrow a line from Venom’s 2011 song, Punks’ Not Dead:
“It don’t matter about your age. It’s how you feel. It’s not a phase.”
Their first show in Melbourne... and the first show outside of New Zealand. Then onto greater things.
Pic: Abby Phillips.
It made me once more supremely thankful that I live in a city where I am spoilt for choice when it comes to weekly gigs that play music that is hard, fast, nasty and heavy.
All these things came together in the form of another reminder of why heavy metal is great — even if Metal Archives currently still refuses to list them.
And it was entirely unexpected.