With their Australian neighbours grabbing the plaudits in recent years, New Zealand’s metal scene is now beginning to encroach upon the international community. Following Beastwars, 8 Foot Sativa and Heavy Metal Ninjas, Auckland quintet Set On End are the latest to emerge from a country more famous for Māori heritage, rugby and Crowded House than its metallic pedigree.
“It’s hard being a metal band in New Zealand but I think we punch above our weight, and now there’s a lot of NZ bands getting recognition,” states guitarist Matt Borsos, speaking of how even a tour to Australia is a huge achievement, let alone getting on the radar of the saturated European and American markets.
After forming and releasing an EP in 2009, lineup changes and family commitments have meant the band’s debut, The Dark Beyond, is only now seeing the light of day. Recorded in their hometown, its belligerent fusion of intricate, challenging riffs and undeniable groove caught the ears of US label Artery, whose involvement is a huge feather in the cap of both Matt and his country’s strong but restricted scene.
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“It’s hard to get recognition and get your name out there with no real metal label here,” he explains. “For us to be teaming up with Artery has been a big deal in the scene here, a lot of people are blown away.”
Lyrically the album tackles “humanity’s journey, striving for a better world and furthering our knowledge” reflecting a sense of light and hope that embodies the Antipodean spirit of living in such an idyllic, isolated environment despite the ever-present threat of encroachment.
“Our right-wing government is making policies that aren’t right for the people. We feel this sense of impending globalisation,” says Matt. “It’s Americanisation…”
His fears are clearly reflected in the music’s punishing bite. There are nods to Gojira and touring-mates Architects, as well as Dutch innovators Textures, but it’s the razor-sharp hooks in the music and vocals that make the likes of Iconoclast and Claw At The Throne perfect examples of crushing, modern metal.
“I listen to a lot of Sevendust as I like the groove, choruses and hooks,” Matt explains, while also underlining the time spent on the rhythms and pitch of Jesse Cleaver’s vocals to ensure they take the same hold without losing their rage.
Given the album’s lengthy gestation, the band are understandably keen to carry on writing, with the short-term aim of taking advantage of their international ties to jump across the Tasman and beyond: “We hope to get to Australia before the year’s out,” he muses. We reckon they have a pretty good shot.