End of an empire

New Zealand experimental hardcore act END OF AN EMPIRE unveil eloquent debut album “Within, Without”

END OF AN EMPIRE: Lyle Jasper (drums), Rowan Miller (bass, backing vocals), Hamish Dobbie (guitar, backing vocals), Sam Coates (vocals). Photo by John Setter.
With some innovative experiments and captivating organic feel, “Within, Without” by Wellington, New Zealand based hardcore band END OF AN EMPIRE pushes onward with a mission and interesting lyrical content places the band firmly at the forefront of innovation in post hardcore underground this year. To celebrate its recent release on August 1st, we have teamed up with vocalist Sam Coates to give you some more details about this intersting project, dig deep into the details of “Within, Without”, share some thoughts about their local scene, and give you a special Top 10 Records That Inpsired END OF AN EMPIRE list. Check it out below.

End of an Empire is a Wellington, New Zealand-based hardcore band, consisting of Sam Coates (vocals), Hamish Dobbie (guitar), Lyle Jasper (drums) and Rowan Miller (bass). Hamish & Sam had been in a hardcore band together a number of years ago. 

Comments Sam: “We’d both taken time off of being in bands, and really wanted to get back to making music. Rowan & I have known each other for years―and Rowan & Hamish had also played together in a pop-punk/power-pop band―and Lyle is a friend that Hamish & I go to church with. Rowan is also a member of Wellington ska crew Dimestore Skanks where he plays trumpet. The band started with Hamish & I sitting in my lounge, fiddling with song and riff ideas in mid-year 2019. We didn’t really have lyrics to anything until we brought Rowan & Lyle in and knew we had actually finished songs. The initial idea was to incorporate a whole tonne of looping tracks a la post-pop bands like Youth League, but in a hardcore context. That kinda faded when we got together and started jamming as a full band, but Hamish & Rowan have really different writing styles, so we feel like combining their two distinct sets of influences keeps it really interesting for us. The most recent development is Lyle moving back home to Canada (we miss you, Lyle!), which means we’re currently solidifying our line-up.”

“Within, Without is our debut release, which came out on the 1st of August. I (Sam) personally get a bit over bands releasing EPs and having to wait for ages to get more material from them, and really wanted to do a full-length. We had most of the tracks written by the early part of 2020, but then when Covid-19 sent the world into a tail-spin, we were kinda stuck in our homes for a bit. We finished off the composition to the final song on the album remotely, with Hamish combining everything into a demo for us all to learn. Fortunately for us, New Zealand is a really isolated place, and the great majority of our population understood and respected the intention of the Government in going into lockdown, which meant that we were all able to get back into the outside world reasonably quickly. With that, we recorded the album pretty much as soon as social gatherings were allowed again (over 3 weekends). The album was recorded, mixed & mastered by our DUDE Joram Adams. He plays in Wellington hardcore bands ColdxWar and Brainwave (see recent IDIOTEQ feature HERE) and is just a super talented dude all-round.”

End of an Empire by John Setter

End of an Empire by John Setter

π‘‡β„Žπ‘’ π‘›π‘Žπ‘šπ‘’ π‘Šπ‘–π‘‘β„Žπ‘–π‘›, π‘Šπ‘–π‘‘β„Žπ‘œπ‘’π‘‘ 𝑖𝑠 π‘Ž π‘ π‘–π‘šπ‘π‘™π‘–π‘“π‘–π‘π‘Žπ‘‘π‘–π‘œπ‘› π‘œπ‘“ π‘‘β„Žπ‘’ 𝐻𝑖𝑛𝑑𝑖 π‘ π‘Žπ‘¦π‘–π‘›π‘” ‘π‘Žπ‘  π‘€π‘–π‘‘β„Žπ‘–π‘›, π‘ π‘œ π‘€π‘–π‘‘β„Žπ‘œπ‘’π‘‘’ (π‘€β„Žπ‘–π‘β„Ž π‘™π‘œπ‘‘π‘  π‘œπ‘“ β„Žπ‘Žπ‘Ÿπ‘‘π‘π‘œπ‘Ÿπ‘’ π‘π‘Žπ‘›π‘‘π‘  β„Žπ‘Žπ‘£π‘’ 𝑒𝑠𝑒𝑑 π‘œπ‘£π‘’π‘Ÿ π‘‘π‘–π‘šπ‘’, π‘šπ‘œπ‘ π‘‘ π‘Ÿπ‘’π‘π‘’π‘›π‘‘π‘™π‘¦ π‘œπ‘› π‘šπ‘¦ π‘Ÿπ‘Žπ‘‘π‘Žπ‘Ÿ π‘‡β„Žπ‘’ π‘Šπ‘Žπ‘Ÿπ‘Ÿπ‘–π‘œπ‘Ÿπ‘  π‘œπ‘› π‘‘β„Žπ‘’π‘–π‘Ÿ π‘Žπ‘™π‘π‘’π‘š π‘€π‘œπ‘›π‘œπ‘šπ‘¦π‘‘β„Ž, π‘€β„Žπ‘–π‘β„Ž 𝐼’π‘š π‘Ž 𝑀𝐴𝑆𝑆𝐼𝑉𝐸 π‘“π‘Žπ‘› π‘œπ‘“), π‘€β„Žπ‘–π‘β„Ž 𝑀𝑒 𝑓𝑒𝑙𝑑 π‘€π‘Žπ‘  π‘Ÿπ‘’π‘Žπ‘™π‘™π‘¦ π‘Žπ‘π‘π‘Ÿπ‘œπ‘π‘Ÿπ‘–π‘Žπ‘‘π‘’ π‘‘π‘œ π‘‘β„Žπ‘’ π‘œπ‘£π‘’π‘Ÿπ‘Žπ‘™π‘™ π‘›π‘Žπ‘‘π‘’π‘Ÿπ‘’ π‘œπ‘“ π‘‘β„Žπ‘’ π‘Žπ‘™π‘π‘’π‘š π‘‘β„Žπ‘’π‘šπ‘Žπ‘‘π‘–π‘π‘Žπ‘™π‘™π‘¦β€”π‘‘π‘’π‘Žπ‘™π‘–π‘›π‘” π‘€π‘–π‘‘β„Ž π‘‘π‘’π‘Ÿπ‘šπ‘œπ‘–π‘™ π‘π‘œπ‘‘β„Ž 𝑖𝑛𝑠𝑖𝑑𝑒 π‘Žπ‘›π‘‘ π‘œπ‘’π‘‘π‘ π‘–π‘‘π‘’ π‘‘β„Žπ‘’ 𝑠𝑒𝑙𝑓.

Asked about their take on COVID-19 and plans for the future, the band continued: “We just played a release show recently for the album, which sadly was Lyle’s last with us. He’s headed back to his native Canada, and we’re in re-tooling our lineup. That being said, the rest of 2020 is a little vague for us, but we won’t fade away. Given that New Zealand is (hopefully!) past the worst of the Covid-19 impacts, we’re really quite free to go about playing shows and writing and  jamming as a band, which is realise is so much more fortunate than a lot of bands in other places around the world. I expect there will be a lot of music written reflecting on the pandemic, as well as some of the issues such as enduring systemic racism that have become visible once again during the past few months.”

END OF EN EMPIRE live at 31 July 2020 at Capital Vineyard, Wellington, NZ, by Leah Vincent & Mell Leenders

END OF EN EMPIRE live at 31 July 2020 at Capital Vineyard, Wellington, NZ, by Leah Vincent & Mell Leenders

Wellington hardcore scene:

“Honestly, Wellington is pumping out some excellent music & bands right now. I’ve already mentioned ColdxWar, Brainwave & Dimestore Skanks, but others like Happy Valley (see recent IDIOTEQ feature HERE), Severed Beliefs, Glassblower and Starving Millions are pumping out music which is of a really excellent quality. Scenes definitely ebb and flow, and I feel like I’ve witnessed a few very obvious rebirths of hardcore in my time. It’s a cool feeling to see a bunch of new blood come into this space and enjoy what’s being created, and also contribute. Hamish Morgan (vocals for Happy Valley) is someone who’s put in a tonne of work to see all-ages shows happen for the past few years (he ran a series of shows called Hataitai Homewrecker out of his living room), and he deserves a lot of credit for that effort.”

10 records that we love (and influenced us in End of an Empire’s sound in some way):

Advent β€” Pain and Suffering

This is one of my favourite EP’s from the last decade. One of the most aggressive hardcore releases I’ve ever listened to. Hardcore can very quickly become a stale genre so hearing this EP for the first time was a breath of fresh air. It has some incredibly creative songwriting, and I love the guitar work in it. It has especially influenced some of the guitar solos I’ve written for EOAE. (Hamish)

Blacklisted β€” When People Grow, People Go

This is my favourite Blacklisted release. A fantastic mix of extreme aggression and melancholy melodies. I can’t get my voice to do quite what George does, but I appreciate how he writes, and the ebb & flow of how the band constructed this album. Track-listing order choices are really important to me; I think there’s a real art to creating the listening experience across the album as a whole, rather than just having a collection of songs. This album does that excellently. (Sam)

Cruel Hand β€” Lock and Key

One of my favourite hardcore albums of all time. It’s full of really well-written songs, very solid arrangements. I remember seeing them on their tour of this album almost a decade ago, and it’s one of my favourite shows to this day. I’ve learned so many songs off this album on guitar. They make for great warm ups, and often inspire me in the riffs and songs that I write. Cruel Hand is probably one of the most influential bands for me, and Lock and Key perfectly encapsulates who they are in my opinion. (Hamish)

Fugazi β€” The Argument

From the first bar of the first song on the first album, Fugazi demonstrated that they could bring great and interesting grooves and augment them with thoughtful lyrics, but I believe their finest hour was their final one, 2001’s The Argument. What a final statementβ€”all things in perfect balance. This album is loud and soft, fast and slow, catchy yet original. The lyrics are heavy enough and abstract enough. From the moment the intro track drops into the riff of β€˜Cashout’, I was hooked. (Rowan)

GraveMaker β€” Ghosts Among Men

One of my favourite records of all time. Just the perfect blend of groove without feeling the need to go overboard on being too ‘heavy’. They’re also not afraid to pepper melody into their sound to keep it interesting. But at their heart, they’re a no-frills hardcore band. I think the vocal patterns are something that I really gravitate towards. (Sam)

mewithoutYou β€” Catch For Us the Foxes

It’s hard to choose just one mewithoutYou album but this is the one that got me in to their music and features what are still some of my favourite drums parts of all time. Ricky Mazzotta is able to convey passion and intensity through his drumming without being overly technical or taking away from the rest of the instrumentation. A prime example of how creativity and originality outweigh pure technical skill in drumming 9 times out of 10 for me. If there’s a shadow of his drumming in the parts that I played on this album, I’m happy. (Lyle)

Pantera β€” Vulgar Display of Power

I go through many phases of listening to Pantera, and was listening to this album a lot when we started writing ours. What can I say? Dimebag’s riffs and solos on this album are almost unmatched in my opinion, killer tracks from start to finish. Dimebag’s guitar work on Vulgar Display of Power particularly influenced some of the fast songs that we wrote for our album. (Hamish)

Rage Against the Machine β€” The Battle of Los Angeles

One could pick anything by Rage or Audioslave to showcase Tim Commerford’s powerful bass work. Probably his best lines are spread across those six studio albums, but this one has a bunch of my favourites on it. I love Commerford’s feel. His tools are fairly unsophisticatedβ€”mostly he sticks to the same pentatonic scales that Black Sabbath and Cream were jamming out 30 years earlier, but he maximises the rhythmic potential of every note. He knows when to double a guitar line, when to do his own thing, and when not to play at all. Listen again to tracks like β€˜Testify’ and β€˜Guerilla Radio’ with the bass up loud, and then imagine how much worse they’d be without his touch.

Seventh Star β€” Brood of Vipers

Though I love the music on this album, it’s the way the lyrics are written that secures its place on this list. I’ve always been aware of the need to vary your writing styleβ€”not just have every rhyme scheme the same on every song, being selective when using more expressive words when a simpler, to-the-point phrase might hit harder. I think Johnny Intravaia has maintained that balance excellently on Brood of Vipers. There’s a line in the song ‘Fear’ that has stuck with me ever since I first heard this album in 2005β€”’this uncertainty is certainly insanity’β€”that remains one of the most concise, excellent turns of phrase for a song I’ve ever heard. I always admire good writing, and this album was instrumental for me learning how to write for hardcore. (Sam)

Thrice β€” Vheissu

Riley Breckenridge has a fairly unique talent of combining power and grooviness that can be really hard to pull off. Sometimes in heavier music the drums trade feel for power or speed but this album never feels like it’s compromising one for the other. He somehow maintains great feeling and subtlety as well as intensity throughout the whole thing. (Lyle)

End OF An Empire

Track by track commentary:

The Feeling

This song is about having stepped away from being in bands for a couple of years (general burnout at first, then getting married would be the highlights from that time), and realising that I do miss playing shows, and wanting to be part of bands again. It felt like a natural album opener, as it’s short and punchy, and really sets up the journey back into the space of exploring the rest of the album thematically.

Feeling old
And fire gone cold
Do I have the passion
For one more go?
The conventional social wisdom
States these outlets are the domain of the young
But I cannot just let my voice die as I age out
β€˜Cos I don’t think that I’m done
Priorities change and some people move on
Pressures of life and career and a family
But where’s the outlet when rage doesn’t die?
Don’t let the process of growing up kill your fire
I may be older
But I’m no colder
Still feel the passion
We may grow older
But I pray we never lose
The joy of our youth
The feeling of being free

Coming to Terms With

This song deals with a common problem in relationships: the need for one of the participants to solve the other’s problems, rather than just offer support. Since meeting the woman who’s now my wife, I’ve had a lot of discussions with married male friends as to why we feel the need to act this way when the person we love is upset/in crisis. One of the best answers I received is that in some ways, seeing their pain pushes the buttons on our own pain points; and while we genuinely DO want to help our loved one, there’s an element of wanting to be able to be in control of the things we ourselves struggle with. Sitting in pain is difficult, but sometimes it’s the best way to love someone. This song is an attempt to process that, in order to love my wife better.
Observer to a mind in torment
See her sinking in lament
Anxiety high, I’m idly by
Powerless in face of it

My synapses screaming

β€˜Rescue her from danger’

But frozen knowing I cannot
Fix, change or save her
Recoiling from brokenness
Pressing up against me
Compulsion to rescue
Snuff out all these feelings
That I push away in me
Flooding back through her pain

Frantic to escape what might
Drag me down again
What does it say about me when

Her pain is seen through my own fears?

It’s not something that I can control
And I’m coming to terms with the drive to fix her problems
As proxy for my own need to be in control in my own head
My nerves may scream to be in control but

My fight needs to be to let it go

END OF EN EMPIRE live at 31 July 2020 at Capital Vineyard, Wellington, NZ, by Leah Vincent & Mell Leenders

END OF EN EMPIRE live at 31 July 2020 at Capital Vineyard, Wellington, NZ, by Leah Vincent & Mell Leenders


This song is about the myth of redemptive violence. We see it in movies all the time: the antagonist is denounced as a violent, dangerous person, and the protagonist is… similarly violent and dangerous. It’s a really common, celebrated thing to honour the ‘heroic’ warriors of our own society, while denouncing the ‘evil’ warriors of anyone who’s on the other side. The members of this band try to take seriously the words of Jesus of Nazareth, who said to love our enemies. The beginning of the song is contextualised within the framework of migrant racial and ethnic groups, partly because of the Christchurch mosque shootings―which should be a huge indicator to any white person that ‘we’ are just as capable of being violent and destructive as any Islamic terrorist.
Through Othering, we’re discovering

The means to demonise a foe

Fixate on their violent actions

Our xenophobia grows
Breeding discontent
The presence of β€˜them’ in our land
Labelled violent, no shared values
Crush β€˜them’ with a heavy hand
Strike first, flex our might

Oblivious to what that means

When we excuse ourselves
For actions that we hate in β€˜them’

Breeds violence
Hypocrites, complicit
Indulging in narratives
Justified in our minds
Cast ourselves on side of right
Just like β€˜them’, violent minds
Just like β€˜them’ we’ve left behind

All pretense of moral ground
Just like β€˜them’ we stumble blind
We shall fall on our own swords

We’re not justified

To defeat those we deem violent


This was a hard song to write, as it’s particularly personal to my (Sam) wife. She graciously gave her permission to use these lyrics; I wouldn’t have dared if she wasn’t okay with it. Prior to our meeting, she was in a relationship I’d describe as abusive, which definitely left her with some wounds she had to work through. This song is about my reaction to one of our first big arguments―my shock at the way in which her reactions spoke to having had to adapt her coping mechanisms to preserve herself from the manipulation. I have to admit, there was a part of me that found it overwhelming, and wondered if her issues were too much for me to handle. But I do want to stress that she’s the one who has been through the worst of the experience, not me. This song is my processing of what it would mean to support her working through what had happened, knowing that it’s not what I expected when we got together. Ultimately, to abandon her in her need was not an option, because I love her, in both good and hard times.
Today every woman looked so exquisite
Every smile so damn perfect
So far removed from the night before
When our words hit like battering rams
On the door of our connection
Laying siege to our dedication

And I begged you to get some help
You took it as an accusation
You took it as an accusation

I’m wishing I had other options

Everybody else seems so drama-free
Got me wondering what could have been
Wanting more than managing your problems
Noticing the beauty in other women
Imagining the life I could have with them
A thought I swore I’d never be contemplating
The intersection of exhaustion
And what a future with you might be holding
Am I willing to live with your trauma?
Or is getting out the better option?
Is getting out the better option?
When what we have is built on constance
Would I melt into the arms of another woman?
When I’ve vowed to be your devoted
Could I be the man I want to be

If I abandon you in your need?
I could not respect myself
I could not respect myself
If I abandon you just because

Life gets hard, life gets hard

I will not abandon you
The measure of this man is proven
In honouring the vow that he has made


I’ve seen a lot of examples of toxic masculinity―both overt and subtle―in my life. This song is a challenge for men to take ownership of their emotional literacy, and to learn that it’s not the fault of women if they (the man in question) aren’t seen as attractive. Blaming others is an easy out, shouldering the responsibility of learning to express emotions healthily is hard, but necessary.The use of ‘heel’ in the final line of the song comes from professional wrestling, where the ‘heels’ are the villain characters.

You’re so insecure
Masculine projection your main ploy
Under that brawny exterior
Just another little boy

Strong, independent women
Getting under your skin

They want nothing from you

Is that doubt sinking in?
Your definition of masculinity
Has your emotional state
Perpetual fragility
Emotionally stunted

Just taught to repress
Leaving you without words
Without options
So many men were never taught emotional literacy
Now you blame them when they find you lacking in compassion
Hide behind your pride and start to blanket hate on women
Your deficiencies weigh on your shoulders
Bare them like the man you say that you are
Your deficiencies weigh on your shoulders
Women aren’t a heel to justify your behaviour

END OF EN EMPIRE live at 31 July 2020 at Capital Vineyard, Wellington, NZ, by Leah Vincent & Mell Leenders

END OF EN EMPIRE live at 31 July 2020 at Capital Vineyard, Wellington, NZ, by Leah Vincent & Mell Leenders

Baring Scars

Lots of people in our lives have had rough journeys with their mental health. This song was written as an empowerment to not be afraid of their scars (whether mental or physical), but to be proud of still being here; and use those experiences as a springboard of strength for their lives going forward. As a depression sufferer myself (Sam), this is occasionally something I need to be reminded of as well.

Popping at a pill that’s supposed
To take the pain away
Keep demons at bay
Scars on wrists from
Knives running fissures
Separate tissues
Begging to feel something
Nobody can comprehend
Much less can they understand

The turmoil inside the mind
This is the fight for our lives
So draw the lines of battle

Define ourselves by the places where we unravel
So much harder to treat the patient
With an illness so evasive
The fight demands all that you have
But it will prove the depth of your strength
Bare those scars
They’re emblems of the fight to stay alive
We’re so much more than our mental war
But it’s part of what makes us who we are
Bare those scars

Imperial Christ

As followers of Jesus, it’s been quite distressing seeing what some political leaders have tried to pass off as faithful, pious actions in the name of the God I worship. To me, it’s insane that followers of Jesus would use imperialism and militarism without seeing the obvious disconnect with how he lived and what he taught―he’s called the Prince of Peace! Two specific references in this song are to the Australian (our closest neighbours, who’s Prime Minister claims to be a Christian) government’s policy of detaining asylum-seekers off-shore so they don’t legally have to process their requests, and the United States’ policy of separating children from their parents in border camps. It’s pretty obvious to me that this shouldn’t pass as ‘Christian’ behaviour… and yet, here we are…

Worshiping with shows of force
It should enrage us

Imperial behaviours
Claiming the Prince of Peace
Blesses your callousness
Oppress your neighbours
Offshore asylum detention centres
Hell on earth, open-ended sentence
In what world would Jesus condone this in his name?
Child separation as disincentive
Pack them in cages and still claim you’re pious
When the bayonet on that gun
Is the shape of a cross
Yeah we got a problem
Wearing crosses as your war machine
Rolls over the vulnerable
Destroying the Kingdom
That you think you are advancing

Blessed Are…

This song was inspired by Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Blessed’ (1966), in which Paul Simon recounts his interactions with churches in Soho (New York). I love the song, but lament how often the church has failed to care for the lowly and the poor. If we are to take Jesus’ words seriously (‘Blessed are the meek…’), then why do we get it so wrong so often? I think often religious practice is diluted down to personal moralism and eternal fire-insurance, rather than an all-of-life embodiment of your beliefs. In essence, parts of the church have spent far too much time debating whether specific actions are moral/sinful or not, and not been about the action of loving people and caring for the disempowered and forgotten.

Blessed are the meek
For they shall inherit
Blessed are the weak
For theirs is the kingdom
The sat upon, spat upon, ratted on
Wandering the back-streets
Of life, forlorn

They are those
We turned our backs on
We have tended
Our own garden
Much too long
At their expense
Dismayed that the pastors
Are obsessed with punishment
And purity culture
And boasting in personal salvation
We have tended
Our own garden
Much too long
At their expense
Oh Lord
Why have we forsaken
Them (You)
A Gospel tied to moral performance
Turns redemption into control
The poor are treated as a project
Not as heirs,
I hope you’re proud

I Won’t Go into the Night

This song is about seeing certain people in my world become quite entrenched in xenophobic views as they’ve gotten older. In New Zealand, most of us are quite recent descendants of migrants, which further underscores my frustration at those who fear the ‘Other’. May I always look first to understand people different to me, rather than fear them because of those differences. ‘Going into the night’ here refers to the idea that as you get old, it’s easy fade into an attitude of no longer trying to understand those who are different.

Fixated by feeling that
The world has changed
Everything so strange
These kids are challenging
The axioms you were taught in infancy
All around you
People look nothing like
They did when you were young
And it frightens you
I would have hoped that
You would endeavour
To live out the Lord’s calling
To love your neighbour
But lately
All I’m


Is distrust
And demonisation
Of refugees
Retreating into
Shake me

Strike me

If ever I fall into
Fear of the Other
Don’t want to
End up like you

Devouring Locust

This is the last song we wrote―composed over distance while New Zealand was in lockdown. Rowan (who composed the initial demo) always gave his demo tracks really interesting and cool titles. This one was called ‘The Devouring Locust’, which I (Sam) decided to use as the springboard for the song’s subject material. We know that a lot of hardcore songs are laments or denouncements of certain things which we find to be wrong with the world―and those are important. But I would like to think that the reason we denounce is that we know (or at least can conceptualise of) what a better world might look like. It’s sometimes seen as naΓ―ve to be genuinely joyful when you see something good in the world, knowing there’s still so much that is wrong or unjust. But I think a life of simply focusing on the things you hate is unsustainable, and there needs to be hope for what a better world might look like in our expressions. The title ‘Devouring Locust’ refers to how a swarm of locusts will come and destroy an entire crop, leaving nothing but barrenness (see Joel 1 in the bible for those interested). I see an excessive focus on things you hate as having a similar effect on someone’s life.

The routine of rage like a constant haze
Endless opposition to all and no-one
If a better world were possible
Would you be on board

Or just find another

Place for anger going nowhere
Life defined by having something
To hate again
Self indulgent
Got a need to scream for something more
Believe that change is possible
Show as much joy in what I hope for

As dissatisfaction in the current
State of the world and its problems
Life defined by having something
I’m hoping in

A reason to sing
Start looking further forward than your next outrage
Feeding only on hate will never sustain
What have you been feeding on?
A steady diet of only things you hate
And nothing that could bring you joy
Would you even recognise a better world?
Would you just reject it out of principle?
Would you know a better world?
Blinded by your diet of hate

New Zealand experimental hardcore act END OF AN EMPIRE unveil eloquent debut album “Within, Without”
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