Devin Townsend’s ‘Empath’ Gives The Best Feeling For Audiences In This Year’s New Hard Rock/Metal Field

Courtesy: InsideOut Music

This year is one of the strongest in recent memory for metal masses around the world.  This year saw new releases — powerful new releases at that — from some of the most well-known and respected names in the metal community.  Slipknot’s new album We Are Not Your Kind is just one of those important new releases that the metal masses received this year.  Amon Amarth’s new album Berserker gave the masses just as much to appreciate, as did new albums from Dragonforce, Killswitch Engage and The Offering.

Between those records and so many others, it goes without saying that developing a list of the year’s top new hard rock and metal albums was anything but easy.  That’s especially the case considering the release early this year, of Devin Townsend’s new album Empath, Hyvmine’s new LP Retaliation and up-and-comers Alien Weaponry’s debut album Tu.  This critic took a long time trying to assemble this list.  It was not a chore taken lightly.  As with other lists from this critic, it features the Top 10 New Hard Rock/Metal albums as well as five honorable mention titles for a total of 15 titles.  Without any further ado, here for your consideration is Phil’s Picks’ 2019 Top 10 New Hard Rock/Metal Albums.



  1. Devin Townsend — Empath
  2. Slipknot — We Are Not Your Kind
  3. Amon Amarth — Berserker
  4. Overkill — The Wings of War
  5. The Offering — Home
  6. Bad Blood — Bad Blood
  7. Whitechapel — The Valley
  8. Hyvmine — Retaliation
  9. Dragonforce — Extreme Power Metal
  10. Of Mice & Men — EARTHANDSKY
  11. Dream Theater — Distance Over Time
  12. Killswitch Engage — Atonement
  13. Awake At Last — The Change
  14. Corroded — Bitter
  15. Alien Weaponry — Tu


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‘Tu’ Is A Strong First Musical Salvo From Alien Weaponry

Courtesy: Napalm Records

New Zealand has, in recent years, started making a name for itself in the music community.  That was thanks to the breakout success of the hard rock band Like A Storm.  Early this summer, yet another band from New Zealand started making a name for itself in the form of Alien Weaponry.  The young, up-and-coming metal outfit released its debut album Tu June 1 through Napalm Records.  In the months since its release the record has earned its own share of acclaim thanks to its musical arrangements and its lyrical content.  Much the same can be said of the album’s lyrical content.  Both items will be addressed here, along with the album’s overall sequencing.  Each item is key in its own way to the whole of the album.  All things considered, they make Tu a solid debut for Alien Weaponry that shows great promise for the band’s future.

Alien Weaponry’s debut album Tu is one of the biggest surprises of this year’s hard rock and metal community.  It is a strong debut for the New Zealand-based band.  That is due in part to the album’s musical arrangements.  From start to end, the arrangements lend themselves so easily to the best works of Sepultura and Soulfly. The album opens with a familiar tribal sounding spoken word track in ‘Whaikorero’ that, again, presents that comparison to the band’s Brazilian counterparts.  That spoken word intro gives way to a full on aural assault that even more lends itself to comparisons to the noted bands.  The familiar thrash sound continues as the album progresses into ‘Holding My Breath,’ which is itself a very heavy song lyrically just as much as it is musically.  The heaviness continues on into ‘Raupatu’ and ‘Kai Tangata,’ which is musically yet another very close work to those of Sepultura and Soulfly.  The same applies to all of the works that make up the second half of the record.  Right to the end, listeners get a sound from the band’s arrangements that while familiar is still unique to the band, giving audiences plenty just from this aspect to appreciate..  The familiar yet unique musical arrangements featured throughout this album are key in their own way to the album’s presentation, but are certainly not the album’s only selling point.  Its lyrical content is just as noteworthy as its musical content.

The lyrical content featured throughout the course of Tu is important to discuss because, again much like Sepultura and Soulfly, is rife with sociopolitical commentary from start to end.  The album opens, in fact, with the spoken word track ‘Whaikorero,’ which addresses the invasion of Queen Victoria’s military forces in the now infamous Invasion of the Waikato.  That invasion was led by Lt.-Gen. Duncan Cameron and was the biggest conflict of the 19th Century New Zealand Wars.  It involved British Colonial military forces and members of the Kingatana Movement.  The British Colonial forces defeated the Kingatan forces after nine months of combat, leaving them in poverty, but in 1995, Queen Elizabeth II signed the Waikato-Raupatu Claims Settlement Act of 1995 returning some land to members of the Waiakto-Tainui Tribe as well as financial compensation as a means to make a certain peace with those peoples.  Odds are that most audiences were unaware of this conflict prior to learning about it from the members of Alien Weaponry.  To that end, it stands out, along with the likes of ‘Ru Ana Te Whenua,’ ‘Raupatu’ and Whispers’ because of that outright commentary.

On an equally sociopolitical level, but not as intense as the other noted songs, audiences also get a commentary about the dangers of social media in ‘PC Bro.’  This song tackles the impact of social media on society today.  Front man Lewis de Jong sings in the song’s lead verse, “Flickering screens against glassy dead eyes/Have now become the norm/They live their lives through others’ eyes/Willing more and more/That you lose to the pressure/The watching eyes of the masses/Kill common sense/The media rules you/They are bored with your life/You need to make it right/To satisfy the fixated idiots that see your every move.”  He adds later in the song, “When will they see/That your life is a lie.”  This is pretty much spot on.  Given it is hardly the first time that any act has taken on the issue of social media and its negative impacts, but even with that in mind, it is still important to keep that reminder out there in hopes that people will eventually realize what social media has done and continues to do to the world.

The social and political commentary does not end with ‘PC Bro.’  The band takes on the very prominent issue of mental health with ‘Holding My Breath.’  De Jong sings in this song’s lead verse, “Before you judge me/Take a good hard look at yourself/You don’t know me/But you’re draining me of mental health/A lie based on popular opinion/I want to die ‘cause I can’t be forgiven/Locked in a room/Void of humanity/I’m in a black hole/suffering endlessly/Opening my eyes is worse than death/That’s why I keep on holding my breath.”  This is someone who is battling terribly, the effect of emotional and mental abuse, clearly.  This song is meant to bring to light, the very real and very serious concern of what people go through.  They point out here to people who are suffering from those negative thoughts that they are not alone.  It is a warning to everyone that people hold in those feelings so people need love.  That is of course this critic’s take on this song.  Hopefully it is somewhere in the proverbial ballpark.  If it is, then keeping it in mind along with the other songs noted here and the brutal musical content presented throughout the album, the record’s musical and lyrical content collectively does a lot to make the album stand out.  The musical and lyrical content is just a portion of what makes the record noteworthy.  Its overall sequencing is just as important to address as its general content.

The sequencing of Tu is so important to address because that work plays just as much into keeping listeners engaged and entertained as the album’s content.  It is clear in listening to the album from start to finish, the album’s energy never lets up.  The heaviness even in the simplicity of the album’s spoken word opener gives way to the already noted full-on heaviness of ‘Ru Ana Te Whenua.’  ‘Holding My Breath’ offers listeners its own intense thrash metal sound, as does ‘Raupatu.’  The same can be said of ‘Kai Tangata,’ which immediately follows ‘Raupatu,’ and ‘Rage – It Takes Over Again.’  From that point on, the energy and fire lets up little, if any.  In other words, those behind the glass and the boards made certain that listeners would have an album in Tu that ensured itself one of those rare albums worth taking in from start to end without stopping just as much through its sequencing as through its content.  Keeping all of that in mind, the album in whole proves to be a solid start for Alien Weaponry, and a record that makes the band the heir apparent to the throne of Sepultura and Soulfly.

Alien Weaponry’s debut album Tu is its own powerful first musical strike from the up-and-coming hard rock band.  It is a work that makes this band the heir apparent to the thrones of Soulfly and Sepultura with its musical and lyrical content.  That is due in large part to its collective musical and lyrical content.  When that is considered alongside the album’s sequencing, the whole of the elements makes Tu a record that puts the rest of the metal and hard rock community on notice that Alien Weaponry is locked, loaded and ready to go for years to come.  The album is available now through Napalm Records.  More information on Tu is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news and tour dates at:










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