It’s awesome to see the rise of Wellington punks Dartz. They’re fast gaining momentum as a band to be reckoned with, especially with the recent release of their debut album, The Band from Wellington, New Zealand.
They are fast witted and forthcoming with the banter, and their songs are relatable, capturing a slice of NZ life. Drinking beers, driving crap cars, living in substandard housing, struggling with the cost of living… These are things that almost everyone in our country has experienced. Somehow they ride the line between being both silly and fun, and authentic.
I especially enjoyed their cover of Deja Voodoo’s “Beers”, which proved fitting within their repertoire. “Dominion Road (Dumpling House)”, a reworking of The Mutton Birds song, also proved endearingly nostalgic, with a breath of fresh life breathed into it.
The press release for this tour details how The D4 created a world of recklessness and high octane energy, touring the world relentlessly with incredible rock and roll bands. Their big album 6Twenty came out in 2002, so they’ve re-released it as 6Twenty One and given it the vinyl treatment for the twenty-first anniversary, along with this tour.
My first exposure to The D4 was the song “Sake Bomb”, on a CD sampler. I know that I’m showing my age here, but I didn’t have a have clue what Sake Bomb actually was. I thought it may have something to do with warfare. My exposure to alcohol at that stage was limited to the scrumpy, Speights and awful RTDs that we drank at highschool parties. It certainly didn’t extend to Japanese spirits.
I guess that I’m just slightly too young to have known The D4 when they were big. I do remember Jimmy Christmas’ next band Lugar Boa having a strong presence on The Rock radio station and at many gigs during my later teenage years.
I have actually seen them play before, at this same venue in 2018 with The Datsuns. But in all honesty, the only memories I have of that night are reduced to remembering that it was extremely hot, and of being concerned for my friend Conor, who got knocked out during The Datsuns’ set.
Well it’s a shame, but nothing felt especially knockout about tonight’s set. The musicians were all clearly weathered players, but it lacked that feeling of danger or excitement that I’d want from a band who writes so many songs about partying and drinking. They have a history of sharing the stage with Guitar Wolf – one of the most exciting rock bands I can think of. But this just felt pedestrian.
Dion Palmer appeared to put the most into the performance, with a bit more movement and plenty of guitar solos. He really should have been centrestage. “Out of my Head” had a bit more oomph, and the aforementioned “Sake Bomb” was fun – possibly because it was a lot faster and more energetic than many of the other songs.
They finished up with the encore of “Exit to the City”, “Feel Like It” and “Invader Ace”.
All in all it was fine, but lacking the energy that I expected from a band of their reputation. Many bands do anniversary tours these days. One punter was wearing a tour t-shirt from when Shihad played Killjoy and The General Electric albums in full. I remember those being killer gigs. In recent years I’ve seen David Dallas play The Rose Tint, and Jakob play Solace. Both were incredible nights. But sometimes these anniversary tours just feel like stale cash grabs and tarnish treasured memories about music that used to feel vital.
I first discovered Winter Dust through the first A Thousand Arms compilation, Open Language. I was instantly hooked. The song was called “There”, from the Thresholds EP – one of the best EPs I can name from any genre of music. It was emotive, passionate, raw, compelling. It just sucked me in completely.
Their next release, Sense By Erosion, was just as incredible, channeling more of that intense emotion into truly incredible music. In my review I wrote: “By taking the beauty of post-rock, the intensity of hardcore and the emotional aspects of emo, Winter Dust have fused their own sound that ticks all the right boxes for me.“
That was in 2018. The “before times”, if you will. Things have changed a lot since then.
Winter Dust faced some tragedies. In December 2019 they were involved in a car crash, totaling their van and destroying a lot of their instruments and musical equipment. And then in 2020 the world came to a standstill, with Italy hit especially hard.
I was planning to return to Europe in 2020 with my American brothers in Ranges, and we were to tour and play at dunk!Festival. I was really excited for that trip, and was planning to visit Italy for the first time to meet the members of Winter Dust, and possibly even see them play live. I’m online friends with a some of the members of the band. I remember them painting a scene that I interpreted with absolute terror, discussing how the pandemic was ripping through Italy at a pace that the medical professionals couldn’t defend against. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think I recall someone discussing mass graves. I do recall the sense of shock and disbelief. It was gut wrenching. The world was coming to an end.
In March 2020 Winter Dust made a post on their band page: “Here in Italy shows are banned, and so will be everywhere, soon.” And sure enough, their damning prophecy came true.
I felt so isolated, living on a small island nation, stranded in the Pacific. Just a few months earlier I was so full of hope – so excited – with plans to see the world and go traveling and meet up with foreign friends. And in a short space of time that was taken from me. It’s not fair to compare – and New Zealand had a lot better experience of the pandemic than most – but I found it extremely difficult to process. I grieved the loss of live music, and struggled with the feeling of complete helplessness over what was happening throughout the world.
A lot of what I just discussed hasn’t got much to do with the songs that Winter Dust write. But it provides context for what I’m reliving as I listen to this new album. The music is so emotionally potent already, and now brings up strong personally feelings and memories.
I’ve just scrolled back through the Winter Dust Facebook feed and found two posts from that time. I remember the feeling of dread and uncertainty, but looking back with hindsight on my side, I commend how they worded those posts. They were pragmatic, sending a message that yes, times are hard. But they also shared a message of hope: that we will get through this. Here is a post not long after their car crash, and here is a post about the looming pandemic. They were so strong in the face of all they were going through, and I’m so glad that they survived. And I’m grateful for this new album: Unisono.
Something to differentiate Unisono from Winter Dust’s previous works is that it features Italian singing. Which is awesome. Why wouldn’t a band from Italy sing in Italian? In a recent interview with DafenProject, Marco Vezzaro (vocals and guitar) explained that he could only express the things he needed to convey on this record accurately in his native tongue.
I don’t understand Italian and I feel that to put the lyrics through an online translator would somehow tarnish the music or cheapen the experience. But I don’t see this as a barrier. The music is still beautiful, the singing compelling. I don’t understand the words, but I can hear the emotion.
The magnificent guitar tone that opens “Castelli de Sabbia” is one of my favourite moments of the record. I don’t play guitar so won’t be able to do it justice with any description, but it’s so full sounding, especially when coupled with Vezzaro’s throaty vocals. It’s so central to what I love about Winter Dust’s sound, so familiar. Almost homely, in a weird way.
My two favourite tracks on Unisono involve guest appearances by fellow Italian duo Six Impossible Things. “Buio Presto” features such sweet singing courtesy of SIT singer Nicole Fodritto, with the music slowly elevating the mood, especially with snare-heavy drumming. And then BOOM, the guitar comes in and everything steps up a notch, with Vezzaro’s impassioned hardcore vocals bringing a touch of anger.
And lead single “Due Novembre” launches straight into it, with the band coming in full force, while Fodritto and Vezzaro harmonise. It a wonderful blending of textures. I love how they bring the song down to a simmer, Fodritto easing us out as the galloping drums cease and the other music trails off.
Some of these songs are shorter than I would have expected, and could use a bit more fleshing out, with more instrumental breaks for breathing room. I guess I’m used to the post-rock passages that take the time to unpack and explore musical ideas. These elements are still present, but Unisono leans more on the hardcore aspect of Winter Dust’s sound, being more direct, aggressive and concise.
There are many layers within the music, but I wouldn’t call it dense. It feels well balanced. Twinkling piano sits beside the distorted guitar. Overdriven intense passages are spaced out with reverberating breathing moments. There are six musicians in the band, plus the guest appearances from two members of Six Impossible Things. And together they pool their expertise to span the spectrum of music and the feelings that it can convey.
The last record, Sense by Erosion, featured a single called “Duration of Gloom“. I know it’s not the correct lyric, but I always hear the opening line as “Setting fire to the sun!”. That doesn’t even make sense, but the vocal delivery is so visceral. I picture Vezzaro delivering his searing call to arms as he cries out to the universe, shouting out to any who will listen. This is often what comes to mind as I listen to Winter Dust’s music. The impassioned vocals of someone crying out to the void, with brilliant music that carries just as much power and emotion to match.
And this is what has always struck a chord with me about Winter Dust. And it remains true with this latest album as well. We hear pain and anguish and frustration. But we also hear tenderness and beauty within the melodies. Unisono, is cathartic, to say the least.
I’m passionate about music. I wouldn’t have gone to the efforts of creating this website if I wasn’t. I’m a busy guy, but take time to write about music that inspires me; that I believe more people should hear about. And of the many bands I’ve written about over the years, I think Winter Dust is one of the bands most worthy of more attention.
Listen to Unisono. It’s an absolute triumph. And listen to Winter Dust’s older material too. Buy their records and a t-shirt. They are truly one of the best bands out there and they deserve all the support they can get.
Winter Dust are Marco Belloni (keys, piano, programming), Giulia De Paoli (grand piano, keys), Fabio Gallato (guitar), Marco Macchini (drums), Marco Lezzerini (bass), Marco Vezzaro (vocals, guitar, looping).
I met Maurice Beckett last year after his band Jakob played their incredible album Solace live at The Tuning Fork in Auckland. I sheepishly admitted that I was the one who had once referred to him as a “hairy behemoth” in a review. Beckett just laughed. He was great to chat to, super laid back and didn’t take things too seriously.
Regular Will Not Fade readers should need no introduction to Jakob, the mighty post-rock trio from Hawkes Bay. Desbot is another post-rock trio with Beckett on bass, but despite sharing these similarities, they are very much a different beast.
Desbot released their debut album Pass of Change back in October, and I’ve been thrashing it the entire time.
Something I love about Desbot’s music is the feeling of momentum that each song exudes. The drums [play by Tom Pierard] are often driving, especially with open hi-hats, bright crashes and harsh china cymbals – big explosive, washy sounds. And the bass – often the star – is usually pulsing, throbbing, compelling us to nod our heads and tap our feet – to feel the music and the hypnotic energy it radiates. One of the best examples of this is the breakdown in “Eclipsed” – crushingly heavy as the band pummels us with dense slabs of sound that they conjure up.
Rounding out the trio is Nick Blow on keys. Most rock music is centred around guitar riffing, so the omission of guitar is enough to make this mix unique. The keys here are more ephemeral, often just colouring the feel and creating the mood with sci-fi swells and interesting effects. It’s a great move, being able to draw on countless crazy synthetic sounds that keyboard soundbanks can offer.
It’s an interesting dynamic: the rhythm section locking in tight to push the music, with keys plucking flavouring from the stratosphere to make it all interesting. And while the structure can feel linear and a bit simple, it is never boring. The music is often incredibly heavy and distorted, yet somehow feels hopeful and not oppressive.
The band explores texture and tonality, playing with space and sounds to bring a fresh, otherworldly feel to a lot of the songs on the album. They use so many interesting effects and inorganic timbres that it borders on industrial at times, with odd mechanical screeches and whirrs that make me envision a robotic production line, or even a futuristic spacecraft. Listen to the fantastic reverberating drumming in “No Response or Benefit”, or the warning siren sound that phases out slowly during the outro of “Pass of Change”.
It’s possible that this experimental feel arises from their writing process. Drummer Pierard shares that the trio all wrote and demoed ideas at home individually during lockdown periods – which pushed them to be more creative – and delays caused by the pandemic forced them to slow down and really take the time to craft and hone these songs and add more depth to the music..
In short, Pass of Change is great. A solid album that I happily keep returning to. I’m really hoping that they come to Wellington at some point this coming year because I bet their music sounds absolutely monstrous played live through a decent speaker system.
My favourite gig of the year wasn’t a “big” band. It was The Prog Alliance Tour featuring Claemus, Elidi, Pull Down the Sun and distance. It just ticked all my boxes. Great musicians playing prog and post-rock. It must have taken a lot of planning to organise a nine date tour for bands from three different cities, but the Wellington one was a great success and I’m proud of what they pulled off. distance also put out a stellar album, everything in exchange for nothing in August. Really cool to see how that project has evolved from a lockdown bedroom project into a fully fledged amazing band.
Sam Butler of distance at Valhalla
Speaking of awesome local prog-rock, Ovus dropped a tasty wee EP earlier in the month. Josh the bassist lives in Christchurch, but I’m holding out for an EP release gig sometime soon.
I’ve been hyping them up for a few years now, and Adoneye finally released their long-awaited EP this year. It’s a beaut. It’s a shame that the band members parted ways and didn’t get to celebrate the wonderful music that they deserved to.
Alexisonfire continue to deliver the fire with recent album Otherness. I cannot get enough of the single “Sans Soleil”.
Reliqa were my favourite new discovery of the year. They killed it at Monolith Festival, and their new EP is fantastic.
Reliqa at Monolith Festival in Melbourne
Planet Hunter dropped their debut album. They’re Wellington’s best live band, so of course I’m a huge fan. And they managed to capture the energy and talent and distill it all into a fantastic record: Moscovium.
I’ve been friends with Vorn for many years now, and follow his projects with great interest. I actually joined one of his bands – Crash Bandihoot – on a brief tour in May. One of Vorn’s other bands, The Wellington Sea Shanty Society have enjoyed some relative success in recent years after the song “The Wellerman” started trending. I convinced Vorn to let me contribute backing vocals to their latest EP, so was very excited when that was released in August. I’m not credited, so maybe they weren’t impressed with my singing abilities? Anyway, TWSSS annual shows at Breaker Bay Hall have become a highlight to look forward to every year. This year was just as great as the others I’ve been to, and I also won best dressed – wearing a sexy mermaid outfit that I’d painstakingly created.
The Beths are progressing from strength to strength. They played The Opera House in Wellington recently in support of their third album – a big step up from the usual smaller venues they usually play here. And they crushed it. Seated venues are usually a poor choice for fun, energetic bands, but it wasn’t a problem.
The Beths at Peachy Keen, Wellington, 2021
Jakob rule. Returning to San Fran – their home venue away from home – they gave us everything we’ve come to expect of them, and also played a few new tracks to whet our appetite for the upcoming album. And Jakob bassist Maurice Beckett also released an awesome album from his side project, Desbot. Seriously worth checking out.
I was upset that Amy Shark cancelled her NZ tour with no explanation (and I’m still waiting for a refund, well over a months after the cancellation, and roughly a month after the scheduled gig date), but that freed me up to catch Avantdale Bowling Club that night instead. Playing the fantastic TREES album, ABC put on a stellar set of jazzy hip-hop. I love hip-hop with a live band, and this band was goooood. Also, it was pretty funny seeing people smoking it up and having a great time dancing and singing in a venue that feels as “classy” and conservative as the St James Theatre.
I caught my friend Taylah playing a bunch of times this year and was consistently blown away but the sheer talent that Tay and her band showcase. Always a fun night, and her songs are irresistibly infectious.
Taylah with Sam Nakamura at Rogue & Vagabond
2022 was a tough year for me on a personal level. Covid finally hit New Zealand and brought us up to speed with the rest of the world. This meant a lot of cancelled gigs, and missing a bunch of gigs that I was too exhausted to attend while I recovered from the virus. But I’m in a good space at the moment. I’ve been working with some local bands to build their profile and book gigs, and enjoying the challenge of discovering what success can look like within the creative fields.
The NZ borders opened and we finally had international bands return. I saw The Bronx in May – the first international band I’d seen in years. And I went across to Melbourne for Monolith Festival in August. It was an amazing opportunity to see a handful of my favourite bands on the same day, and a great reminder of what I had been missing.
The NZ music scene has flourished in recent years. Annual events like Newtown Festival and Cubadupa were the biggest gatherings in the world at the time – because NZ was covid-free and didn’t need to worry about social distancing – but sadly both were cancelled this year. But given the space, local bands had the chance to prove themselves worthy. I’m happy to see international bands touring here again, but it already feels like local bands are now struggling to book shows with reintroduced competition in a market already lacking enough venues for demand.
I’m not sure what 2023 will throw us. Life has been fairly unpredictable and anxiety-inducing for some time now. But I’m looking forward to releases from PROKOP, my favourite Italian post-hardcore group Winter Dust, and I can’t wait to see blues sisters Larkin Poe play in April. I saw that Trombone Shorty is coming to Australia as well, and hoping that he makes it over to NZ.
Welcome to Will Not Fade’s Artist Profile series, where we take a look into the people in the music scene who aren’t necessarily musicians.
Who are you?
Hi I’m Liam (He/Him), a 20 year old Queer Trans man who loves to ride his motorcycle and take photos here in Pōneke Aotearoa!
How did you start off doing photography?
Back in 2019 my mum got me a Canon 800d for Christmas as I had been talking about wanting a camera non stop by that point. I was pretty natural at photography and started doing photography for people ASAP
Why do you photograph musicians?
Music runs in my family, Mum played guitar as a kid, Dad was a music lover, Sister is a music lover as well, Brother does guitar, drums, and vocals, my other brother plays drums and piano, and I myself play guitar, bass, drums, keyboard and do some vocals. So I have a passion for music and when I started doing photography it was pretty obvious I was gonna do music photography and also the photographer who I have been obsessed with for years and inspires me is a touring photographer for bands (Bryce Hall) so he’s another reason why I do music photography…
Also photographers in music are very important, A lot of people don’t realise it but we are the reason you see photos or promos of your favourite bands. Our photos are everywhere on social media pages of bands that we photograph. I basically also accepted there’s not a high chance I’d be good at my own music as I have severe stage fright and commitment issues, but I still wanted to do sometime in the music industry and turns out I’m somewhat good at photography so yeah… that’s another reason why photograph gigs!
Saving Grace at San Fran
Film or Digital?
Mirrorless! Haha, nah jk I haven’t used a mirrorless yet unfortunately but hope so soon tbh. Digital! No reason, but I’ve been wanting to get a film camera like a Canon AE1 just to experiment and play around with, I sometimes like doing moody landscapes and would love to try it out with a film camera.
Colour or black & white?
I’m gonna have to say colour as I also do automotive photography and love Cinematic and dramatic looks, but I do love myself a good B&W photo especially when I’m photographing a gig!
What has been your highlight as a photographer so far?
Oh man, there’s been so many highlights so far in my career… I wanna say the people I meet cause I meet some awesome and talented people! But also again going back to the automotive side of things working with motorcycle brands has been something I never thought I would do… like it feels unreal to go on DucatiAusNZ Instagram or The official Ducati club here in NZ and see my photos up there like what the hell!? That’s my photo I’m pretty sure they hired the wrong guy, cause there’s no way my favourite motorcycle brand should use my photos haha but they have… Sorry I’m having another Fanboy moment writing this haha
Ducati Lamborghini Diavel Transmission gully
What band would you most love to photograph?
Motionless In White or Bring Me The Horizon! That Bryce Hall guy I was talking about earlier is their touring photographer and when I was obsessed with Motionless in White back in my teenage years I would see his photos and be blown away and it would be my honour to take photos of MIW (cause I still love them) and hopefully take photos alongside Bryce!
Have you got a favourite venue?
A year ago I would have said Valhalla but today imma have to say Meow on Edward street or San Fran on Cuba street. I don’t hate Valhalla – I love Valhalla – but I’ve photographed there so many times and I don’t like how small and intimate it can get at times and I’ve had some bad experiences with my camera at Valhalla before haha.
Elidi at Valhalla
What do you consider your most essential piece of equipment?
Listen up photographers, the most essential piece of equipment is a Variable ND filter… done, don’t ask any questions, go get one and thank me later… On a serious note the reason I say Variable ND filter is cause I shoot outside a lot and it really helps with lighting and it gives the cinematic look that my automotive photos have! But on the gig side of things the only essential piece of equipment I can think of is a proper camera bag so you can leave your stuff somewhere or have your other lenses and camera bodies on your back!
What kind of ear protection do you use?
Next question please……… haha I don’t actually use ear protection but I’ve been meaning to buy some more ear protection recently…. But the couple of times I have used ear protection I used D’Addario ear plugs and they worked amazing!! I lost them while riding my motorcycle unfortunately haha
Ducati Multistrada V4S waiarapa
Have you got any advice for aspiring beginner photographers?
Don’t worry about gear too much, it’s about how you use it and you don’t need to study photography to be good at it… YouTube exists and guys like Peter McKinnon or Chris Hau will teach you more important things in like 10 minutes haha.
How can people contact you if they want to use your services?