It’s a dream the three Northland teenagers have harboured since they formed a thrash metal band five years ago – and a secret they have guarded closely for the past three months. Now, they can finally tell the world – in August 2018, Alien Weaponry (Niel de Jong) will become the first New Zealand band ever to take the stage at Wacken Open Air, the world’s biggest and most prestigious heavy metal festival.
“We set a goal when we were 10 and 12 to play at Wacken [Germany] before we reached our twenties,” says guitarist and lead singer Lewis de Jong, 15. “We would watch YouTube videos of these giant crowds stretching to the horizon, just moshing hard out and doing enormous circle pits and go, ‘Yeah, that’s what we want to be doing.’ I know it’s just the beginning, but being invited to play at Wacken Open Air feels like we’re making it as a metal band.”
While the band has known about the billing since September, the official announcement was only made around midnight NZ time via the ‘Advent Calendar’ on the Wacken Open Air website, which has been announcing 2 or 3 bands a day since 1 December.
“It’s funny because most people are counting down to Christmas at the moment,” says 15-year-old bass player, Ethan Trembath. “But we have been counting down to the day we can tell people we’re on the bill at Wacken.”
Nicknamed ‘The Holy Land’ by metal fans and described as ‘The Mekka of Heavy Metal Culture’ by Sam Dunn (writer and director of award-winning documentaries ‘Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey’ and ‘Metal Evolution’), Wacken Open Air attracts metal fans from all over the world each year, with all 75,000 tickets typically selling out less than 24 hours after they go on sale, before the lineup is even announced.
Headliners for the 2018 festival include Brazilian metal giants Sepultura and ‘Godfathers of British Metal’ Judas Priest.
“We are often compared with Sepultura [who sing in Portugese as well as English] because quite a lot of our songs are in Te Reo Maori,” says drummer Henry de Jong, 17. “So it will be cool to play at Wacken with them and hopefully meet them.”
The band are also hoping to meet Judas Priest, either at Wacken or Metaldays in Slovenia, where both Judas Priest and Alien Weaponry are also performing.
“We saw Judas Priest at Westfest in Auckland 3 years ago and they were amazing,” says Ethan. “It’s still hard to believe we will actually be playing the same festivals as them next year.”
Rob Halford, lead singer for Judas Priest, has said of Wacken Open Air, “Wacken is one of the most important festivals in the world … [it is] a home [for metalheads], a special vibe, strong and powerful.”
Alien Weaponry is grateful to Creative New Zealand for assistance with their travel costs to Europe, and will be announcing more European festival dates via their Facebook page in the coming weeks.
They have just finished recording their debut album at Roundhead studios, which will be released in early 2018 and can be pre-ordered via their crowd funding campaign on Indiegogo https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/alien-weaponry-debut-album/x/17378038#/