Sulfatebegan as the solo project ofPeterRuddell, known for his work with the noise-rock groupWaxChattels— who were nominated twice for theTaiteMusicPrize, as well as forBest Alternative Artistat theAotearoaMusicAwards. The solo endeavour ofSulfatequickly morphed into a two-piece band, withDavidHarris’metronomic drumming proving integral to the sound of the group.
From the inception of the band the ethos has always been to create intensity through restraint, and they developed a live reputation for“startling, sonorous… crushing yet considered”performances (AmbientLightBlog). Sonically, things develop slowly, creating an atmosphere and mood that“invades the subconscious”(Graham Reid) before the crushing noise sets in.
Sulfatereleased their debut self-titled album in 2019 viaPrison Tapes, setting out with the intention of making a truly DIY record. With their debut, the band reached #1 on multiple student radio stations, and completed two tours of New Zealand and a tour of Australia.
It is with this foundation set thatSulfatecreated‘Godzone’, an album written during the chaos of 2020, and recorded early 2021 atRuddell’shome studio in Balmoral, Auckland.HarietEllis, who featured as a guest on‘Bush’on the debut record, has joined as a full-time band member, adding grinding, distorted bass guitar to the mix and with vocals featuring more prominently.
Drawing on influences fromBailterspaceandTropical Fuck StormtoJóhann JóhannssonandEarth, this sophomore album displays a natural progression from their self-titled debut. Sonically,Ruddellhas been honing his production skills over the past two years, recording and mixing local actsDick Move,Na Noise(both nominated for ‘Best Independent Debut’ at theTaite Music Awards) andJazmine Mary. This has paid dividends, with‘Godzone’sounding more polished, yet retaining the DIY character of the first record.
The thematic content of the record has its sights firmly set on New Zealand society. With “Bottle It In” we hear frustration over the pace of social change; in “Crossing”, how these desires for this change are not always followed through — instead we simply enjoy the scenery; and in the titular song “Godzone”Ruddellsings of the cognitive dissonance of many New Zealanders, and how we willfully ignore the effects our actions have on our surroundings as we go about or day-to-day lives. “Forgetting” echoes this sentiment, discussing how we often misremember facts and convince ourselves of alternative realities, be it deliberately or subconsciously, so as to not have to deal with consequences and face changing our behaviour.
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