Reliqa: 'There’s So Much Space For Positivity In Heavy Music'

13 June 2024 | 11:32 am | Mary Varvaris

For this week’s cover story, Reliqa’s Monique Pym offers ‘Secrets Of The Future’ - the band’s debut album and her musings from within the Australian heavy music scene.


Reliqa (Credit: Kane Hibberd)

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Since bursting onto the Central Coast progressive metal/alt-metal scene in 2018 with their epic pair of EPs, Afterlife and Eventide, Reliqa have become one of Australia's most in-demand heavy acts.

Reliqa released their incredible third EP, I Don’t Know What I Am, in 2022, showcasing a band that embraced diverse influences for an epic 23-minute listen. With that EP, Reliqa presented themselves to the Australian metal scene as a band that pulled no punches.

You’d think that COVID-19 would diminish the momentum of a band just starting out—they’d already scored opportunities after releasing EPs and playing at BIGSOUND, but it didn’t. If anything, Reliqa had more fire in them and secured opening slots for Australian hard rock and prog metal icons Karnivool and Northlane.

And then, the band—vocalist Monique Pym, guitarist Brandon Hutcheson, bassist Miles Knox, and drummer Benjamin Knox—locked in some massive opportunities to open for international stars on big stages, including Spiritbox, Halestorm, BABYMETAL, and Sevendust.

The hype around Reliqa hasn’t died down. If anything, it’s increased. In February, they signed to Germany’s premier heavy music label, Nuclear Blast, and Australia’s own Greyscale Records.

A month later, Reliqa announced their debut album, Secrets Of The Future, released just two weeks ago. The record was produced by producer/engineer Chris Blancato (Northlane, MAY-A, Vilify).

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Secrets Of The Future lives up to its title, melding elements of melodic metalcore, contemporary rap, K-pop, J-metal, atmospheric pop, modern progressive metal, and more traditional rock and metal for a futuristic, stylish album.

Reliqa formed in high school with a shared love of dystopian stories like Blade Runner, Brave New World, and Neuromancer. At the time of writing, lead vocalist Monique Pym is an English teacher by day and a commanding singer by night. And that appreciation for dystopian, sci-fi literature is infused with the band’s brand-new debut album.

Science fiction didn’t inherently inspire Secrets Of The Future, but the storytelling, including predicting the future and protecting the present, certainly played a part.

“Having foresight into the future is a really important thing for us, and it keeps coming up in our music because our music is quite diverse in its influence,” Pym tells The Music over Zoom ahead of the album’s release.

“That inherently feels a little bit sci-fi, and it feels a little bit futuristic, modern, and forward-thinking. I love the themes behind the movie Interstellar and how it's got this fear and rage towards what's happening, towards the future and where we're headed, but it also has this underlying sense of hope and admiration for what we could become. Those sorts of themes have a nice interplay on the album.”

On the band’s passion for highlighting the positives of human nature, Pym states, “There is so much space for positivity in heavy music that people don't tap into too much. Of course, it's an amazing place to let out all of those negative energies and frustrations. It’s definitely cathartic, but there's also space for joy and eagerness, and that's something that we like to have woven into our music. It’s very human.”

All the themes of Secrets Of The Future are remarkably human, mining all the aspects of being a group of young people carving out their space in a busy heavy music scene.

Reliqa recently dropped the single Dying Light, a song “all about the attitude”. Pym reveals that the music video for Dying Light was the first of three videos (preceded by Terminal and Killstar (The Cold World) in release order) filmed in just three days—an overwhelming yet exhilarating exercise.

“It was a really chaotic process, but so much fun,” Pym shares. For the music videos, Reliqa established their debut album era with filmmaker Colin Jeffs (Ten of Swords). “He is incredible—he is industry standard at the moment, like, he's really shining.”

On the music video’s energy and influence, she adds, “Because the song has a hip-hop-oriented progression, we leaned on our resident hip-hop head, our drummer, Ben.

“He loves hip-hop and pop; he particularly loves UK rap like Grime, and so he said, ‘What do you perceive when it comes to a music video for this?’ Because he's very in that world, and he's the one who had the idea of the behind-the-scenes parts—it’s very metal; you can see the cameras, you can see the backdrop, it’s a bit more raw in that sense. We caught on to it, and Colin loved it.

“I love how it turned out. I was a little nervous that it was going to seem a little bit too diva-y; I didn't want to seem like a diva, to be honest. I was like, ‘Are people going to think we’re divas?’ It's really a character we're playing in that music video, but I think it translated okay, and people seem to like it.”

With their album and upcoming Australian headline tour on the way, Reliqa have confirmed that they’re here to stay. 

Secrets Of The Future is packed with diverse sounds and songwriting – exactly what you’d want from a futuristic progressive metal album with that title. All the singles differ, but so do choruses like The Flower, the slower, feminine Sariah, and the more pop-oriented influence evident on Crossfire.

That diversity is down to the band’s desire to make music they’d be proud of. “Ultimately, we make music that we want to hear,” Pym shares.

“That's our ethos when it comes to writing: there’s no holds barred when it comes to the influences that we take, and when it comes to my own listening style, I don't necessarily listen to that much heavy music. Actually, that's a lie,” Pym laughs, admitting that she does indeed listen to plenty of heavy music, but in the broad “spectrum” of heavy, she finds herself in the middle, listening to melodic streams of metalcore.

“As a vocalist, one of the interesting things about working in metalcore as someone who doesn't scream was something I once saw as a weakness. I had a huge bit of insecurity about that not being part of my repertoire.”

Rather than treat not possessing a particular vocal trick as a limitation, Pym learned to make her vocal range her strength and honed in on the impressive things she could do. “I just wanted to represent myself through vocals, really,” she adds. “What you're hearing on the album is probably the most authentically me I've ever been.

“I hope that doesn't sound too vague; it's just an intangible thing because I don't really know how to describe it. More than that, I’m taking what I do have and using it to service the song, rather than trying to be too showcase-y, I guess that’s what I'm trying to say [laughs].”

Pym notes that working with Chris Blancato pushed the band to zoom out and view creating songs as recording music for a whole body of work. While having new limitations placed on the band helped, there was still pressure to put out a strong debut album and keep up the momentum they’d quickly gathered. But, it was pressure in a good way.

She explains, “I definitely want to give reverence to the fact that there was a lot of pressure involved, and that's something I'm still dismantling today. I'm still sort of like processing, I guess, because even though the album is done, it's packaged up, and it's ready to go, there's still a lot to unpack the next time.

“Everyone involved was so patient, trusting, loving and nurturing, which was fantastic. I have no one to blame for that pressure. It's just comes with the territory, doesn't it?

“With every major opportunity we are presented with, we do feel this need to step up. I think there's also a beauty to that because we thrive under pressure. It's very important to take stock of the opportunities you receive and use them to your advantage.”

Something Pym learned during the making of Secrets Of The Future was that she could exist in the Australian metal scene and retain her femininity – she didn’t have to become “one of the boys”.

“Being in such a male-dominated industry, it’s easy to strip back your femininity and put it away,” Pym declares, revealing that she spent time presenting her masculine side for quite a long time without even knowing it. “I had to treat myself as one of the boys sort of thing,” she adds.

“As we went through this album writing process – it was a conscious thing at the beginning, once I'd been doing a lot of internal work – I really knew that I wanted to embrace that femininity and, as you said, slow down and give reverence to it along the way.

“Songs like Sariah are a testament to that,” Pym continues. “It was a massive challenge because when you embrace femininity, especially in a heavy music space, you do unfortunately open yourself up to criticism, objectification – and that's not to say that that doesn't happen to people of other genders – it absolutely does, but I'm just speaking for my own gender at this point. You open yourself up and make yourself very vulnerable, but there's power in saying, ‘I don't care’.

“This is a side of me that I really want to embrace for me as a person. I'm not just evolving as a musician; I'm evolving as a person, too. We owe it to ourselves to explore different sides of our own identity and feel proud of that. Songs like Sariah helped me channel that. I feel a lot more myself, more so than ever before.”

Feeling more herself than ever before also presents a potential obstacle: delivering the very personal, dynamic songs to a live audience. Reliqa are taking Secrets Of The Future on the road this month – with some support from the government agency Create NSW.

“We're taking it day by day; it's tough out here right now,” Pym says of being a touring outfit in 2024.

“I know we’re not alone in that experience, but we're so grateful and actually really privileged that we have some support from Create NSW for this tour, which is really helping us get the expenses down pat. That has helped us get excited for the tour and have some support behind us because you get so stressed about figuring out the logistics.”

She adds, “Thankfully, we have a lifeline allowing us to focus on what we do best: creating a great show and bringing it to people. This will be people's first time hearing the album live; it'll be our first time playing it. Lots of firsts on this tour, first headline tour, all happening at once.

“It's important to take a moment and have gratitude for those experiences. We have so much respect for every band doing this right now at the toughest time in the world. Hopefully, this brings some joy to people and a little escape from reality.”

Admitting that she’s “terrified” to kick off the tour, Pym explains, “It’s a full-on album! It's exhausting to sing, but [I’m] really excited at the same time. This album [is] no longer ours; it's yours. You know what I mean? Whether or not some songs are our favourite songs, it's in the fans’ hands. So, I'm nervous for that, but I am really excited, too.”

Secrets Of The Future Is out now via Nuclear Blast/Greyscale Records.







SATURDAY 22 JUNE - BOOTLEGGERS, SYDNEY 18+ (With Bridge Left To Burn)


*w/ Caligula's Horse, RinRin not appearing

^Never Had So Much Fun Fest, RinRin not appearing

Tickets are available here.