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.
Adoneye are one of the best bands in Wellington. Certainly one of my favourites, at any rate. I proclaimed my excitement for this forthcoming release in my end of year reviews for both 2020 and 2021, and it’s finally here: a five track EP called Sessions.
Like almost every amazing band, Adoneye are greater than the sum of their parts. I know drummer Jignesh Jasmat from local prog-rock band Ovus, so clearly he has some great chops. He’s that guy that has twice as many cymbals as I do on his drum set-up, along with the skills to actually make use of them. I actually used to work with bassist Jesse Hill, and have been to countless jams at his house. He played in Opium Eater, which are hard to describe (I’m going to go with avant-garde prog-metal), but he’s an absolutely outstanding musician with the capability to play any genre. And then you’ve got Dean on guitar, that weird skinny stoner guy you see at parties who blows you away when he starts playing guitar. Dean is a phenomenal songwriter, and you can see the passion when he starts to sing.
Adoneye onstage. Image: Supplied
One reason I love Adoneye so much is because they straddle a variety of styles that I love, and pull it off with such talent. Take opening track “Beautiful Aliens”, for example. It’s bookended with beautiful, tender fingerpicking. Dean coos into the mic and Jesse’s vocal harmonies add just the right boost. It’s sweet and serene, but segues into a grungy anthem. Dean is borderline shouting, and the fingerpicking has switched to hard strumming. And before you know it, we’re back to the calm as is nothing ever happened. Such brilliant dynamics!
Jig is a monster on the drums. It’s borderline criminal how well he pulls off some of his fills and flourishes. Tumbling down the toms, adding a choked accent on a splash here and there, it adds such flavour, but sounds so subtle and feels effortless.
Jignesh Jasmat with Adoneye at Newtown Festival 2022. Image: Will Not Fade (Originally taken for The Mousai)
“I Eat Foxes” is the song that always sticks in my head the most, not least because of its interesting title. There’s this little repeating pause they’ve written into the bridge that lasts for slightly longer than feels comfortable. Just to throw you. Or to add an extra challenge. It reminds me of the crazy intro to “Living is a problem…” from Biffy Clyro’s Puzzle – almost written just to show off how tight they can be as a band. This is music for musicians.
Also, the lyrics “I’m like a stone, you show me how to live” are definitely Audioslave references right?
I think one thing that gives Adoneye a point of difference is that they’re a rock band with an acoustic guitar. How many rock bands can you think of like that? I’m not talking about switching it up for a token ballad. This contributes to the homely feel of the music. Even if Dean is screaming (as he does when he gets into it), Adoneye’s music just feels nice.
The mix and levels are great. We hear Jesse’s fingers travelling up and down the fretboard with basslines only a freak like him could pull off so casually. We hear Jig’s wee flourishes and snare rolls. We hear Dean plucking each string. But it’s all balanced, and none of the elements overpower the others.
Sessions is an outstanding debut offering, one that the members of Adoneye should be proud of. It showcases their fantastic skills as songwriters and musicians. And it just feels great. It’s chill, it’s driven, it has a comforting warmth that hits the spot for me every single time. Highly recommended.
2022 marks the fourth year of the homegrown FromThePit music photography exhibition. This year the exhibition will be digital only and run during New Zealand Music Month (May 2022).
We are excited to announce that we have the work of 50 talented photographers in this year’s curated exhibition. All images feature New Zealand musicians playing live in New Zealand in the last two years.
This year’s exhibition contains stunning images of musicians across a range of genres and includes artists such as Producer and DJ Lee Mvtthews, Kiwi pop legends SIX60, L.A.B and and Benee, Auckland Punk natives Dick Move, Kiwi legend Tami Neilson and rock band Written by Wolves.
Throughout the year, dozens of photographers are usually huddled into music venues up and down the country capturing photos of New Zealand’s vibrant music scene. It’s a difficult and unpredictable environment to work in, but these photographers work tirelessly to capture the magic they see before them.
Part artists, part historians, but all music fans, they all strive to take the perfect photo which reflects how it felt to be at the concerts and communicates the excitement of a live music event.
As we journey through a time where live shows are in short supply, concert images take on a new importance; reminding us of all of the vibrant music scene we enjoy in New Zealand and the abundance of creativity which will always find a way to bubble out.
The exhibition will be available to view online and on select screens across the country during May 2022.
FromThePit is provided in partnership with Auckland UNESCO City of Music, NZ Music Month, Independent Music NZ (IMNZ) and the New Zealand Music Commission, and others to be announced soon.
Find out more about this year’s exhibition and an archive of previous years’ exhibitions at www.fromthepit.co.nz
FromThePit 2022 is designed and curated by New Zealand music photographers Dave Simpson, Chontalle Musson and Stella Gardiner.
It’s no secret that I’m a big Shihad fan. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen them play, but the figure is near 20. I’ve got all their albums on CD, as well as bunch of special editions, a live DVD and a handful of EPs and singles. They never quite “cracked America”, but to me, they embody the dream of a NZ rock band who have achieved the dream of making a successful career from their music. They’ve toured the world, shared the stage with rock heavyweights such as Faith No More, AC/DC, Pantera, Motorhead and Black Sabbath; and have just released their tenth album, Old Gods.
The band has changed a lot throughout their 30+ years. Their debut Devolve EP features blistering speed-metal and a Black Sabbath cover. The first time I heard one of the tracks I honestly thought it was a cover of a Metallica song I wasn’t familiar with.
Churn beckoned a more industrial sound, thanks in part to Killing Joke front man Jaz Coleman in the producer’s role. Killjoy was less metal, but still raw and heavy, boasting some of the band’s most enduring riffs.
The self titled record (known by many as the fish album) introduced a more radio-friendly rock which the band honed and perfected with the commercial alt-rock giants The General Electric and Pacifier.
Pacifier was derided by many fans and critics who viewed it as evidence of the the ultimate sin: selling out. I’ll always remember reading a passage written by Grant Smithies, in which he stated he’d prefer to rub himself raw with a cheese grater and throw himself into shark-infested waters than listen to Pacifier. Harsh words, but fantastically evocative writing.
I personally loved Pacifier. I was a teenager obsessed with bands like Linkin Park and Foo Fighters so I couldn’t understand how anyone could find fault with the music.
Love Is The New Hate was considered a penitent return to form, and although much of it was angry, there was a lot of sadness and mellow moments to be found. Beautiful Machine, by comparison, was very much leaning towards the pop side of things. It’s a lot softer, almost 80’s feeling at times. I enjoyed it, but it was more Foo Fighters than AC/DC.
Ignite was the most forgettable album of Shihad’s catalogue. “Sleepeater” was a hit when played live, but the rest of the album seldom gets a mention. When looking at an overall trend, it feels like the quality and “rockiness” of the band’s output had been in decline since the beginning of the 2000’s.
Shihad’s last album FVEYcame out in 2014. It’s the first album review I wrote when I started this blog. I raved about the album and how it felt like a return to form with the sheer heaviness of it all. Admittedly, I did tire of it when the new songs featured so heavily during the band’s ensuring tours. It felt a bit too chug-heavy and I wanted more dynamics. But I’ve given the record a few spins recently and I stand by what I wrote seven years ago: it’s a killer album.
The Adults at Meow, Wellington. Image: Will Not Fade
Front man Jon Toogood has a side project called The Adults. Their second album Haja stands among my favourites. I was fortunate enough to catch that iteration of the band at their first show in Wellington, and they even used one of the photos I took to promote that tour [although they didn’t even credit me for my photo, naughty!]
The Adults revealed a different side to Toogood. Stemming from when he married his wife in Sudan, Haja is a feminist pop/hip-hop album featuring contemporary NZ musicians and Sudanese drumming. A real departure from the hard rock of Shihad. And I learnt something else new about Toogood last year that arose from his marriage – he has become a Muslim.
I don’t wish to come from a place of judgement, I think it’s great that he has found a faith. It just came as a surprise. Look at this list of Shihad songs: “Missionary”, “Sport and Religion”, “The Bible and the Gun”, “Waiting Round for God” and “The Prophet”. I don’t claim to understand everything that these songs are about, but they are certainly anti-religion to an extent. And that’s fine that Toogood could write those songs, and then later change his beliefs. People are allowed to change. But I do find it interested that Shihad would name their new album Old Gods after hearing that Toogood has found a faith. To be fair, it sounds like the title track is aimed at those who have traditionally been in positions of power, rather than an attack on any specific religion. But Shihad are still taking potshots at churches, with one song on the album, “The Hill Song” taking aim at a group that shouldn’t be hard to figure out.
FVEY came from a place of unrest. There was never any doubt that the songs were written from a space of defiance against corrupt governments and world powers. I found it really amusing to see that National MP Chris Bishop featured on a podcast about Shihad recently. Bishop is allowed to enjoy whatever music he choses, but I certainly see an irony, considering that Shihad’s last album had songs that were essentially a middle finger directed squarely at his political party.
Old Gods comes from the same space. Sure, world governments have changed over the past seven years, but there’s still a lot to get angry about. If anything, people feel even more oppressed. One big movement from recent years is #blacklivesmatter. The movement sparked international demonstrations against racism and police brutality.
Another occurrence that sparked the rage was in 2019 when a scumbug came from Australia to New Zealand and went on a shooting spree at two mosques in Christchurch. This horrifying event shook us a country and highlighted how New Zealand as a nation is more racist than many would like to admit. Toogood played a number of gigs to raise money to help those affected by the attacks, coming public with his recent conversion to Islam.
In a recent conversation with Grant Smithies (the same guy who wrote the scathing Pacifier review), Toogood shares how he was watching footage of an English crowd tear down the statue of an historic slave-trader. He wrote a song about it. To quote the interview: “That song is about the fact that many of us aren’t prepared for such people to be portrayed as heroic anymore, especially in the middle of the streets where we live.”
I live in Shihad’s hometown of Wellington, New Zealand, and a lot of streets here are named after wealthy colonials who first settled here. It sounds like a lot of these men were not good people. (Here’s a funny song about Wakefield, by local band Housewitches) I’ve got a magazine sitting on the table in my lounge. The magazine is called Massive – the Massey University student rag – and the main head line of the cover is about how former prime minister William Massey was a racist. They’re outing their own namesake. I think that gives a pretty clear example of how far some elements of society have come. So-called heroes are being scrutinised and some of us have decided that we don’t want to glorify people who were responsible for atrocities.
“Tear Down Those Names” is a thunderous cry to action. Sonically, it’s extremely similar to FVEY, with dense, downturned riffing.
My personal favourite, “Feel the Fire” harkens back to Beautiful Machine, with an synth-drenched uplifting feel. I love it so much. It makes me happy and I can happily play it on repeat. It stands out on an album of heavier tracks. There’s still that omniscient bass tone from Kippenburger, but there’s a lot more treble in the guitars, and the song exudes vibes of hope.
“Empire Falling” is also one of the better tracks, with interesting palm-muted rhythmic strumming and a lighter feeling chorus. It’s about how Toogood is kept awake at night worrying about raising his children in a world dominated by so many bigots.
Maybe I’m being a bit dismissive, but some of the themes in FVEY came across as overly paranoid. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that the government needs to be held to account more than they are. But naming the album after a collection of spy agencies gives of vibes of conspiracy theories. I leveled the same criticism at Killing Joke in my review of their last record. There’s distrusting authority figures and then there’s going full-blown antivaxer. Head too far down the conspiracy route and people just aren’t going to take you seriously. I’m trying to say is that the themes of Old Gods seem more realistic than they did in FVEY. Complaining about governments spying on us sounds a bit too James Bond-fantasy. But it’s harder to deny racism when we’ve recently witnessed extreme nationalism under Trump, Brexit, #blacklivesmatter, mosque shootings and so on… And I think that makes more sense given Toogood’s personal situation. Toogood has a Sudanese wife and two bi-racial children and now he’s witnessing forms of discrimination such as racism in a different light. Suddenly the message seems a bit more targeted than ‘sticking it to The Man’.
In an 2014 interview with NZ Musician, drummer Tom Larkin discussed the impact of Green Day’s American Idiot, and how it was a vehicle for planting dissenting ideas in the minds of a demographic of Americans who may not have otherwise been questioning the status quo. Lead guitarist Phil Knight namedropped Rage Against the Machine as a big influence on the new album in a Guitar World profile too. I’m not sure how much I buy into the whole message. I’m not opposed to the message of fighting the bankers and the politicians, but it seems a bit futile. “Eat the Rich” is a great sentiment (Motorhead and Aerosmith both have songs with that name), but not sure it’s so great in practice. Look at America, where the last president organised an attack on his own government. Nothing appeared to changed for the better or worse.
Voting doesn’t appear to make much of a difference – neither of the two big political parties in NZ appear interested in making changes to improve the lives of their citizens. And governments have refused to acknowledge what the people have voted for in a majority of the referendums we’ve had over the past few decades. Maybe I’m just cynical. Maybe we need more bands like Shihad spreading the fire of discontent so that the population don’t become as jaded as I am.
I went through Shihad’s albums earlier and explained how the band have continually evolved throughout the years, changing their sound as they progressed. Each record had a unique sound. This has earned them accusations of selling out every step of the way, but it has also meant that they’ve never felt stale.
Interesting then, that after their longest break between releases, Shihad haven’t altered their sound. In many ways, Old Gods feels like an updated version of FVEY. I’d argue that the topics seem more relevant with this album, but the sound and themes are very similar. The gang vocals outro of “Kill! These! Old! Gods!” may as well take the place of the “GCSB!” cry from the previous album.
Remember how I said I got a bit tired of FVEY being so chug-heavy? It does feel a bit more like more of the same. It’s weird, I would have found the premise of an album’s worth of “My Mind Sedate” very exciting as a teen. But I’ve since learnt that too much heavy riffing gets old. Variety and dynamics go a long way. Old Gods is a good record, but could use a few more tracks like “Feel the Fire” .
I’ve got a ticket to see Shihad play next month. It was originally going to be in November but had to be postposed. I just hope that the concert actually takes place, because I could sure use something to make me feel amped up for once.