Alien Weaponry’s Lewis de Jong on leading the Haka for New Zealand metal, broken bones, and why being heavy is still the goal

Lewis de Jong
(Image credit: Miikka Skaffari/Getty Images)

Alien Weaponry’s Tangaroa is the Waipu, New Zealand, trio’s most boundary-pushing statement yet, folding elements of dark alternative and prog into a foundation of groove metal and lyrics often sung in the native indigenous language, Māori, also known as te reo (“the language”). 

Naturally, this means guitarist-vocalist Lewis de Jong is itching to get out on the road to support their sophomore album. When reached in early July, the guitarist adds that he’s also desperate to finally yank off the cast that’s been on his fretting arm since the spring, the result of a scooter accident in Christchurch following a performance alongside the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.  

“I just brushed it off,” de Jong says of picking himself up after crashing into a metal pole. “[Then I] stumbled up to my hotel room and compared my two thumbs and went, ‘Oh, shit… they look a bit different.’ I thought I had dislocated it, so I was trying to snap it back in place, but it turned out it was broken.”  

Though the guitarist will be good and ready for a fall tour with Gojira, Tangaroa remains a bone-fracturing affair. Take the dissonant harmonics and jackhammer-judding rhythm work throughout Tītokowaru, a Haka chant-laden account of the titular Māori leader’s resistance to 19th-century colonial powers. 

Manically paced drum-and-bass tempos inspired Ahi Kā, where de Jong caustically cranes an Ibanez Weeping Demon pedal throughout a tension-filled run of detuned pull-offs. “It’s actually a pretty simple riff,” he says, “but you add the wah pedal and the drums and [you’ve got] a really nice build-up.” 

The slow-brooding, seven-minute Unforgiving offers a different kind of darkness, where delay-drenched arpeggios set the mood for two separate lead sections – one an atmospheric, Pink Floyd-styled wash of bends; the next a classic shred fest. 

Though longtime bassist Ethan Trembath laid down the low-end just before exiting the band, current bassist Tūranga Morgan-Edmonds came through with both guitar solos on Unforgiving. “I’ve been trying to expand my horizons on everything, but I’ve always been primarily rhythm-based,” de Jong explains. “Tūranga jumped in and did some work on that song; what you’re hearing isn’t me.” 

Though the sorrowful pivot of Unforgiving certainly shakes up Alien Weaponry’s parameters, a jarringly galloped, string-snapping finale proves that the New Zealand unit are ultimately determined to wreck us.

As de Jong confirms, “We put that in at the end to remind people that we’re still heavy, and that we’re not just going to write depressing ballads now.”

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Gregory Adams

Gregory Adams is a Vancouver-based arts reporter. From metal legends to emerging pop icons to the best of the basement circuit, he’s interviewed musicians across countless genres for nearly two decades, most recently with Guitar World, Bass Player, Revolver, and more – as well as through his independent newsletter, Gut Feeling. This all still blows his mind. He’s a guitar player, generally bouncing hardcore riffs off his ’52 Tele reissue and a dinged-up SG.