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.
Another special one today whanau, far out I got an advance copy of the new Planet Hunter album that I’ve been spinning this week. I’m not too sure how many shows around the country Planet Hunter has done, so if anyone from outside of Wellington is reading this and doesn’t recognize the name, man give this fucking thing a spin and get woke to one of Wellington’s sickest bands.
Which Dragon Ball Super arc exactly was the Planet Hunter in?
Does this mean we won’t get an Aethea reunion?
What happens when stoner rock bands sound like they don’t smoke weed?
Planet Hunter is a complete anomaly man, they exist in this super weird space where they’re stoner enough for all the people who’ve never worn hemmed pants in their life to lose their fucking mind over them, but also calling them a stoner rock band actually kinda negates all the super cool shit they do. They’re like the guy at the show who gets way too drunk and annoying, does a few snortskies and turns into a maniac, so someone gives him a spliff just to not have the same fucking conversation AGAIN then post-spliff he’s actually really interesting and has dope riffs. That’s Planet Hunter.
I first got turned onto Planet Hunter because homie Chris Roberts, who most of you probably know by his stage name of “Dreaded guy who got murdered on Glassblower’s music video for Gatekeeper”, text me at like 2am and said they were basically the best band he’d ever seen and I have to see them. So obviously I didn’t go see them for like another 6 months, but man I can’t even explain how much I fell in love with this band when I finally saw them.
Planet Hunter is made up of William Saunders on guitars, Cormac Ferris on vocals Jed Van Ewijk on bass and David McGurk on the drums. God damn that’s a strong line-up, Will is the kind of guitarist that you know will always have the best tone of any show he’s on, but you have to avoid him after the set because you know he’s going to want to talk about his pedalboard. Jed is a monster bassist, I always remember when I first moved to Wellington he was playing in Aethea and even though they had the sickest live DM live show (Fuck Pixelated Stripper and Ringbinder were bangers) around at the time, they used to cover the Alex Kidd theme song too and everyone would always lose their mind so much harder at that, I love thinking about him still being punished about that 15 years later OH MAN YOU’RE THAT GUY ALEX THE KIDD RULES I LOVE SEGA MASTERDRIVE. I don’t actually know David well, so I really don’t wanna rag on him just in case he’s a pre-workout kind of guy and smashes my head in, but he’s a wicked drummer. Planet Hunter are also super brave because they’re the first band ever to my knowledge to have an actual art installation on vocals. Mark my words in 30 years people won’t be speaking about Marina Abramović without the mention of Cormac Ferris from Planet Hunter.
Image: Will Not Fade
Alright let’s talk about this album man, it’s a doozy.
Like everyone else in New Zealand, I also had to google the word Moscovium, because fucking hell, what? Turns out it’s a highly radioactive metal that only a few atoms have ever been made. Also turns out it has no biological purpose, just like Will’s dating life, I guess that’s why they named it that? Fuck yea concept album.
Generally, I like bands that are pretty fucking miserable, I fucking love the kind of band you have to google their political views before you buy their merch just in case, you know? Ugh, then having some punisher tell me I should separate the art and the artist like their opinion matters in the slightest while they’re probably quoting fucking Fight Club at me. But man, Planet Hunter isn’t that – There were several points during the album that I actually felt like it was trying to fix me. Bad news Planet Hunter, you fucking didn’t okay, and I resent you for trying. It’s got this really uplifting energy without ever being happy or annoying. Like crushing a zopiclone and going to Timezone instead of smoking weed and sitting in a tree like every stoner band wants you to do.
Man, Planet Hunter exist in such an interesting space, they don’t quite fit any specific genre tag without feeling like you’re doing them a disservice. The only way I can explain it is you know how all the metal and hardcore kids in their thirties had their music tastes all fucked up by the Tony Hawk 2 soundtrack? Planet Hunter are the kids who grew up on Syphon Filter. Syphon Filter ruled man, but don’t play it now because it sucks ass, I know you think it’s probably aged okay and after hearing me say this you’re gonna download it, but fight that man, it sucks now, you strafe with the left and right bumpers for fucks sake. God, it sucks so hard now. Not Planet Hunter though, they’re alright.
The album starts off so hardout strong with Humans of the Wild that wouldn’t feel out of place on any Melvins album when they had Big Business as a rhythm section, which is also their best era don’t even try tell me their new stuff is still good, they’re like a Melvins parody tribute band at this point.
Cormac’s performance on Moscovium is really fucking great man, every time I hear him sing I can’t help but think of an awkward interaction I had with him after the second or third time I saw Planet Hunter. I was drunk as and doing something else I won’t post just in case I ever want to apply for a job again, I went up to him after a set and gave him what I thought was a bangin’ compliment. I told him that I fucking loved his vocals so much because they’re clearly inspired by Maynard James Keenan but they’re not annoying as fuck and trying to sell me shit wine. I think that’s something Planet Hunter does really well, you can hear that they wear their influences on their sleeves, but it never just sounds like that band. Like you can hear Alice in Chains, but it’s not whiney and 47 years old. You can hear Tool but it’s not exhausting. There are hints of the more intense stoner rock bands like Red Fang and Sasquatch but the influences never overstay their welcome.
Also don’t fucking @ me for the Tool jab, I have no opinion on Tool and I can’t be fucked talking to you about them. You’re just mad your favourite band hasn’t had a good album since 2001.
The Ocean is a big standout on the album for me, starting with what people would assume is a synth but I fucking KNOW Will used a bit-crusher on his guitar to get that sound to save money. TELL ME I’M WRONG WILL. By the time the bridge hits this shit becomes oppressive, in the best way possible. The bridge is absolutely crushing and I could listen to that riff all day, in fact someone make me one of those 10 hour supercut Youtube videos of just this riff. Name it ‘Planet Hunter Fappening Leak’ so only the true fans will find it.
I’m a massive fan of Will’s guitar playing on Moscovium, his tone is as flawless as his life choices are flawed. He always seems to be playing exactly what the song needs in the moment instead of appealing to his ego and putting flashy shit all over it, but when he needs to be flashy he’s right there with a texture or a lead that becomes the centre of the track. Don’t even get me started on the chorus riff of Droning, it’s shit like this that helps differentiate Planet Hunter from any other band in the perceived genre.
Jed has been such a mainstay in the Wellington scene that you can guarantee if he’s playing on an album the performance will be tight as fuck, and his bass performance here is fucking awesome. His tone is never overwhelming but always present. The way him and David are in sync is perfect and best represented in a song like Valley and I fucking love that David doesn’t fall into the ‘what would a stoner band do’ groove, his performance is unpredictable and can go from classic stoner vibes like in Dying Since Birth to frantic psychedelic passages almost reminiscent of Earthless in songs like Droning.
I’m still getting used to reviewing albums I don’t fucking despise, so please bear with me while I find my voice with this style, and this isn’t some toxic shit about not being able to say nice things to people, I tell my friends I love them all the time, fuck I’ll kiss all of you on the lips right now DM me for my address don’t even fuckin’ try me. But I tell you what, being nice about an album is fucking hard work.
Is this album going to be for everyone who reads this? Fuck no, I know how broken most of you are. But man, I can’t stress this enough – Give this album a spin, even if you’re a beatdown lizard death metal gatekeeper hating on Stranger Things kids. There’s SO much here to love, so many genres being represented in a cohesive way and there’s layers to this album that every time I listen to it, I find more stuff that I love. Songs like The Ocean have the heaviness that make you want to close the curtains and reassess things, the songs like Humans of the Wild and Droning are pure party energy to impress your friends with, and we all know you’re struggling to impress your friends with your shit Soundcloud bedroom recordings.