Raise your hands to the damned sky: Beastwars’ Matt Hyde battles cancer

Legendary Beastwars vocalist Matt Hyde has been diagnosed with cancer. Here Toby Morris pens a tribute, and outlines how fans can help Hyde win his battle. 

If you’ve ever seen Beastwars you’ll know what I’m talking about in that headline. You’ll know who is singing it too – Matt Hyde with his white beard and his arms stretched out to the crowd, eyes wide like he’s in three dimensions at once. He’s in a trance, his intense stare harnessing and channelling some ancient power.

I’m wildly biased, but Beastwars are right up there on my list of all-time favourite bands. Watching them is like witnessing a slow motion avalanche, or a mountain crack in two. If monumental riffs are your thing they’re the masters, and I’d make a case for Matt Hyde being one of New Zealand’s most singular, charismatic and engaging performers. I’ve been drawing posters and t-shirts for them since the early days and over the years of watching and listening I’ve fallen deeper and deeper in love.

Image: Toby Morris

And over those years I’ve gotten to know the band well, but never really known Matt. He’s an enigmatic guy and, in truth, his stage intensity makes him slightly fucking intimidating. I guess I’ve found it hard to separate Matt the fearless cosmic warlock from Matt the man.  

But this week that reality came crashing to earth. Matt has cancer, Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. The dude is mortal after all. The band says the doctors tell him he has a good chance of beating it, but it means at least six months off work. So the band is trying to raise money to help him out. They’ve found some rare coloured vinyl pressings of their three albums and are selling some new t-shirt designs (full-disclosure – one is illustrated by me) with the proceeds going directly to Matt. You’ll never have a better reason to buy a metal t-shirt.

Photo: Dani Caddy Photography

I’m not trying to write a eulogy here – the prognosis is hopeful – but it is heavy news. As you might expect for a doom band, a huge chunk of Matt’s lyrics are reflections on mortality and futility (they called their last album The Death of All Things for fuck’s sake) so it’s sobering to hear them again right now. Listen to the last 20 seconds of ‘Mihi’ – there’s a little crack in Matt’s voice I never noticed before.

But even in the doom you can find some hope. A few years ago I got to do the cover for the ‘Tower of Skulls’ seven inch, the first single on their second album. I listened to the song about three thousand times while I tried to work out how to do it justice and the lyrics became burned in my brain, and now I often think about the final lines when the world seems impossibly shit:

Wash all the wounds

The wounds of the earth

Blessed the weak, the cursed and insane

Come lie with us

Deep in the river

Let’s try to get in it’s way

You can help support Matt through his treatment by buying a t-shirt or vinyl album here.

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