Tonight saw the full evolution of Gojira, a band who are surely destined to stand alongside the likes of Alter Bridge as the next Download headline collective. The evening was completed by Alien Weaponry, who won over and decimated the audience and Employed To Serve, who showed that they are on an upward trajectory. You can read the Gojira report here.
Alien Weaponry – Employed To Serve
Cardiff International Arena – 17 February 2023
Words: Paul Hutchings
Photography: Georgia Brittain
It’s been a heady yet steady rise for New Zealand’s Alien Weaponry. Formed as long ago as 2010 when Henry de Jong and his brother Lewis were still in primary school, the band rose to prominence a few years ago with their debut release Tu in 2018. Festival appearances followed, and they rightly grasped the publicity afforded to them by the music media, partly because of their age but also due to the fierce (and welcomed) embrace of their Māori culture.
The lights dim, a huge band logo is portrayed behind them, and Lewis appears on stage behind his drum kit. He defiantly performs the Haka, something that the Welsh rugby fans in the audience will no doubt be familiar with as Henry and bassist Turanga Morgan-Edmonds join him.
The ceremonial dance completed, Alien Weaponry launched into a 40-minute set that draws deep on the band’s heritage. Many of the songs are sung in their native tongue, but it doesn’t detract from a fiery performance.
An early shout-out to Cardiff rock club Fuel, where the band played in 2019, goes down well. They won’t be squeezing back in there anytime soon. A rammed Sophie Tent at Bloodstock 2018 saw me walk out, utterly bewildered at the fuss. I’ll admit my view hasn’t changed. Their music is a bastardised cross between Machine Head and Korn, with a huge reliance on big riffs and pulverising low-end combinations. There’s little else to consider. No mesmeric lead guitar work, little change in style. Just blistering riff after riff and lots of high intensity from the band.
Henry is particularly animated, potty-mouthed and encouraging of the raging circle pits, demanding a huge wall of death and generally cajoling the front lines to engage in battle.
They draw from both their albums, with Holding My Breath particularly aggressive. By the time they get to set closer, Kai Tangata, they’ve not only won the audience, but they’ve also decimated them. I may not get the rather one-dimensional assault they unleash, but I’m certainly in the minority.
Their combination of powerful Metal combined with their heritage ensures they’ll continue to climb. One expects that the Cardiff crowd will, in the main, be with them every step of the way.
Employed To Serve
Four albums and over a decade into their career, Woking’s Employed To Serve continue to gain momentum. Two albums in with Spinefarm Records, the band is an imposing presence. They hit the stage early, bang on 7 pm and bathed in red light, deliver a 30-minute blitz of what I’d describe as modern Metal.
They are uncompromising, with the focal point singer Justine Jones whose growling roar meets the approval of those who’ve made it in early. Fellow founder member Sammy Urwin isn’t initially that impressed. “Time to wake the fuck up, Cardiff”, he jeers. The pit responds, and there are soon limbs flailing, security getting an early warm-up for later with a few keen crowd surfers getting airborne.
Musically, Employed To Serve bring that crossover of Metalcore, Djent and Deathcore, which is definitely popular. It’s certainly not to my tastes, being a little too repetitive, but the slower breakdowns on the likes of Owed Zero break up the raging furnace.
Dull Ache Behind My Eyes brings a roar from those familiar with the band. Whilst Urwin adds lead guitar and backing vocals, Jones paces the stage. The other two outfield players, bassist Nathan Prior and guitarist David Porter are content to hold their ground, head banging in time with the pumping grooves they are exporting.
Thirty minutes is over quickly, with Mark Of The Grave, one of four from the most recent album Conquering, giving the pit dwellers a final opportunity to punish each other.
The ovation suggests I’m once more out of step with the modern Metal world, but despite my views, it’s evident that Employed To Serve are on an upward trajectory. This tour will have only enhanced that.