Down Under(ground): Aotearoa New Zealand Punk Vol. 2
The second installment of Craig Hayes' writings on recent punk releases from the arse end of the world.
A couple of months ago, I wrote an article featuring a bunch of recent punk releases from Aotearoa (New Zealand) for the riff-lovin’ website Last Rites—see Down Under(ground) Vol: 1.
Down Under(ground) is an ongoing project, gathering rowdy Aotearoa punk releases every few months, and before I go any further, I want to say kia ora! (thanks!) to DIY Conspiracy for hosting this batch of unruly New Zealand music.
Aotearoa is a long way from anywhere, and there’s a lot of other noise out there, so cheers to DIY Conspiracy for offering to shine a light on more underground punk from the far southern reaches. (Also check this Sam Thurston interview while browsing for more NZ punk on DIY Conspiracy)
Over the years, the Kiwi punk community has worked hard to carve out a self-supporting scene that’s driven by a do-or-die attitude. These days, New Zealand’s (NZ) punk DIY scene is buzzing with activity. But, obviously, not every release spilling from the gutters of NZ punk is a gem.
Still, there is always great music to talk about, which is Down Under(ground)’s mission. Below you’ll find examples of melodic NZ punk, chest-beating hardcore, mind-mashing crust, and even some Motörcharged madness.
Cheers for checking out Down Under(ground) Vol: 2. Enjoy the NoiZe!
Zone Killer – Zone of Death
Zone of Death is the second EP from Pōneke (Wellington) four-piece Zone Killer, and it’s also the band’s first release for NZ hardcore label Elimination Records.
Zone Killer deal in primitive audio violence, with grindcore, hardcore, sludge, and other extreme influences colliding at top speed. Tracks like “Traitor Seized (Flayed Like a Fucking Pig)”, “Enmity Manifest”, and “Cruelty Unit” feature as much blast-beaten mayhem as they do mangling noise, with guttural grunts and high-pitched shrieks cutting through the turbo-power mix.
Zone of Death is a full-bore assaultive uproar, and while the EP rushes by at a breakneck pace, Zone Killer make brisk rhythmic adjustments to add more shading to the otherwise blistering picture they paint. Zone of Death is feral, filthy and ferocious—all tempting signifiers for hardcore, grindcore, and powerviolence fans—and the EP’s jacked-up intensity remains abrasive throughout.
All signs point to Zone Killer’s impending full-length debut being a nerve-shredding triumph.
V.A.–Rungus Among Us
Over the past few years, Pōneke (Wellington) label Razored Raw has released an increasing amount of deafening music from homegrown and, occasionally, overseas bands.
Razored Raw’s latest compilation, Rungus Among Us, focuses on the thriving subterranean punk scene in Aotearoa’s capital city. A raft of harsh-sounding Pōneke punks feature, including DÄHTM, Pvnisher, and raucous newcomers Bordger. Plus, two of Pōneke’s best (and heaviest) punk/metal bruisers appear—see the stampeding rites of Piggery, and Bowel Rupture.
Internationally known d-beat crew Rogernomix turn up, as do Pōneke’s much-loved political agitators Unsanitary Napkin. Grungy punks Ayn Randy add a few sun-lit melodies to the darkness of Rungus Among Us. But as crusty hooligans G.D.V. and powerviolence trio Stress Ghetto make clear, the cacophonous compilation mainly concentrates on raw hardcore and noxious metalpunk.
Rungus Among Us is the perfect place to start if you’re looking to explore dank and dirty punk, from the arsehole end of the world.
Pvnisher – Aleswiller
Pōneke (Wellington) two-piece Pvnisher are filthy enough to give ya scabies, and they’re tailor-made for fans of ear-fucking feedback and hope-shattering misanthropy.
The duo inject blackened hardcore into caustic crustcore, and their (blown-out) guitar and (anvil-heavy) drums hurtle forth with Bolt Thrower-levels of trampling momentum. Pvnisher’s latest release, Aleswiller, is a four-song compilation—a harsh clearing of the throat, before the band’s next endeavors. Aleswiller includes a couple of re-recorded demo tracks, which sound meaner and burlier than their more lo-fi predecessors, but Pvnisher still keep things stripped-down and über-crusty as per their raw punk aesthetic.
Pvnisher drummer/co-vocalist M (aka Matai Szwed) is head-honcho of label Razored Raw, and Aleswiller‘s “Feed Me the Fetus” features on Razored Raw’s Rungus Among Us compilation (see above). The similarly pulverizing “Downward” also appeared on a recent compilation, in this case, the excellent Hairy Palm Vol. III, which collected blaring bands from throughout Aotearoa, and was released by the always interesting Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) label Hairy Palm.
DÄHTM – Silver Banshee
The five letters in Pōneke (Wellington) trio DÄHTM’s name stand for ‘Death And Hatred To Mankind’, which are, of course, lyrics from Black Sabbath’s iconic “War Pigs”. Fittingly, the three wahine in DÄHTM play down-tuned and doom-drenched punk—all distorted riffs, fuzzed-out bass, thumping drums and graveled vocals. DÄHTM’s first release, the six-track Silver Banshee EP, sounds as heavy as a runaway tank, and DÄHTM have no problem conjuring an aptly weedian atmosphere to ramp up their red-eyed tracks.
Songs like “March to Extinction” and “Te Ārai i te Pō” dive deep into the scuzziest corners of metalpunk, while “Altered States”, “Loathe”, and “Feeding Fears” crawl through the sewers of feedbacking noise to ultimately emerge as exorcising hymns. Fans of grim crust, heavyset hardcore, and grinding doom should check out DÄHTM’s downbeat debut.
(FYI: it’s also well worth pointing out Silver Banshee‘s jaw-dropping artwork, courtesy of Pōneke artist Xoe Hall.)
Pulvinar – “Tick the Boxes”
Pulvinar’s roots lie in sun-scorched South Africa, but the bulldozing crust/grindcore duo now call Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) home.
Musically, Pulvinar are influenced by Bolt Thrower, Axegrinder, Fukpig, and similar heavyweight punk and metal battlers. The politically charged two-piece have earned a solid live reputation in underground NZ punk and metal circles, and Pulvinar’s first demo is due for release via Pōneke label Limbless Music in the near future.
There’s no doubt plenty of NZ crusties, grind-freaks, and rivetheads are looking forward to Pulvinar’s first recordings, and rightly so. Pulvinar only wield a couple of instruments—in this case, drums and guitar—but like similar mind-smashing duo Pvnisher, Pulvinar make a phenomenal amount of noise with dual (throat-scouring) vocals, blast beaten percussion, and riffs that’ll strip the skin from your bones.
Check out Pulvinar’s DIY video for “Tick the Boxes” below. More music from the band can’t come soon enough.
No Brainers – S/T
Like scores of other NZ punk bands, the line-up of Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) rockers No Brainers features musicians who play (or have played) in multiple other bands—in this instance, frenzied-sounding groups like Blame Thrower, Markdown, Dateless and more.
No Brainers’ seven-song debut explodes with maximum energy from its very first seconds. The band tear through high-speed, three-chord, Descendents-like tracks that are all firmly focused on guzzling cheap beer and cheaper pizza as the world burns. Tracks like “Low Life”, “Skull it”, “Acid Melt”, and “Tropical Punch” are delivered with plenty of zest and zeal, and if sitting back and sinking brews as society crumbles sounds like a good time, No Brainers have got the perfect end-of-the-world party tracks for you.
Zhukov – EP II
Ōtautahi (Christchurch) punks Zhukov write short, punchy songs inspired by “dialectical and historical materialism”.
Sound good, comrade? Fuck the bourgeois—who doesn’t love a revolution you can dance to, right? Zhukov’s full-throttle EP II is here to give you hope when wage slavery and hyper-capitalism threaten to sap the last drop of sanity from your weather-beaten soul. Riotous songs like “Join the Brick Throwers’ Union Today”, “Burn it Down” and “The Fighting League of the Commercial Middle Class” won’t just get you riled up, they’ll also get you ready to fight back.
Zhukov’s scuzzy hardcore is left rough around the edges with bouncing bass, crackling guitars, and plenty of shout-along moments to share. The band also drop subversive hooks into their fiery manifesto, without you even noticing. Recorded at Christchurch’s Dogshit Factory, EP II is aptly ugly and messy. Trouble-makers and rabble-rousers, this one’s for you.
Derma – S/T
Derma’s self-titled debut features seven galloping tracks built for speed and powered by relentlessly driving bass.
The Pōneke (Wellington) band’s songs whiz along with shouted vocals and infectious hooks embedded in tracks like “Squeezed”, “Belief Economy”, and “Bacon Boyz”, which no doubt sound even better in a sweaty club, community hall, or off-the-chain house party. A knockout pogo punch propels “Luxury Fever”, and scratchy guitar, pounding percussion, and distorted vocals keep “Johatzu” barrelling along. Derma’s sound falls somewhere in the grimy garage punk meets old school hardcore realm—maybe?
Let’s just call it propulsive, primal punk, spurred on by tireless bass. Whatever the case, the band’s rough-sounding debut is a promising start. No question about that.
Nervous Jerk – 1994
Ōtautahi (Christchurch) trio Nervous Jerk deal in spring-loaded power punk on their three-song 7″, 1994.
Charging bass, drums, and whip-cracking chords keep things upbeat and energetic on jack-in-a-box tracks “1994”, “Vitamins” and “Strong Man”. Nervous Jerk’s songs are constructed from pure pop punk, with sing-along choruses and infectious melodies, but the band’s sound is also left scratchy and sandpapered, so things never get too polished or sickly sweet. In fact, it’s that gritty crunch that gives “1994”, “Vitamins” and “Strong Man” their bite and their edge.
All of which adds to the fact that Nervous Jerk’s latest batch of buzzing tracks are purpose-built for getting you punching the air and howling with glee in a split second flat.
Dateless – Extreme Brewed Crash Cooled
Dateless’ guitarist and singer, Sam Wrightson, has a voice that’s as rough and raw as face-planting on cracked concrete, and it suits the coarse-grained punk his Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) band deliver extremely well.
Dateless features members from Markdown, Two Wolves, and Tentacles of Destruction, so there’s plenty of noise-making experience in the band’s ranks. The trio put that to good use on Dateless’ Extreme Brewed Crash Cooled debut, which features five songs that simultaneously feature a lo-fi, demo-like abrasiveness and a crashing hardcore toughness. “Dumb Fucks”, “G.F.Y.” and “Catching the Loser Cruiser” are all scrappy and skody—like the rest of the scruffy music here—with Dateless combining humor and snark and speedy garage punk grit.
Exit Fear – Deathnote
Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) trio Exit Fear have cited Cursed and His Hero is Gone as prime influences, and you can hear that in the band’s thickset and determined songwriting.
Exit Fear’s second EP, Deathnote, features three action-packed bursts of crusty hardcore (or grinding crustcore, if you prefer). Singer Dorian Noval’s powerful vocals play a key role on “Little Mermaid,” “Deathnote” and “Seymour Butts,” which isn’t to diminish the rest of the band’s hard-hitting instrumentation.
On Deathnote, Exit Fear keep things lean and mean for maximum impact, much as they did on their similarly impressive first EP. (Parts of this blurb were originally published in a monthly punk feature I write called In Crust We Trust.)