Twelve Foot Ninja – Outlier


Album

Outlier

Label

Volkanik Music

Year

2016

Genre

For Fans Of

Meshuggah's riffs, Between The Buried & Me, Faith No More/Mike Patton.

Summary

Heavy metal purists need not apply.

Rating

85 / 100

Unless you’re familiar with 2012’s ‘Silent Machine‘, your first listen through Twelve Foot Ninja’s second album, ‘Outlier‘, will have many unexpected curve balls being thrown your ignorant way. “Oh, you like our heavy guitar riffs and our typical heavy metal sound, do ya?” the band asks. “Well, fuck you! Have an instrumental section that’d make pretentious chamber music groups red with envy, ha!”.

So yes, if you couldn’t tell, Melbourne’s Twelve Foot Ninja are a fusion metal band.

If you mixed Mike Patton’s vocals, Between The Buried & Me’s tendency for jazzy instrumental breaks and zero-fuck tolerance for genre conventions, as well as Meshuggah’s crisp yet beefy guitars, you’d have Twelve Foot Ninja. Now, as much as I love Sweden’s best metal export (alongside In Flames, of course) having one Meshuggah is more than this world can handle, and I’m glad these Aussies are nowhere near as repetitive or as punishing as one of their key musical influences tend to be. In fact, they borrow just the right amount of influences from other bands to help create their own sound. Sure, it ain’t an original sound, but when you listen to a Twelve Foot Ninja song, you can almost instantly tell it’s a Twelve Foot Ninja song.

That’s the ace up their sleeve; Twelve Foot Ninja are recognisable and stick out whereas others are simply indistinguishable and blend into the background.

Now, ‘Outlier‘ may only be ten songs long, but each and every track more or less evenly dives into the band’s heavy and non-heavy styles. Yet, it never once feels formulaic. It never feels like it has to duck in and out of hard-hitting metal moments and overly melodic, jazz soundscapes to meet some arbitrary quota. All of the band’s musical transitions feel natural and necessary, as opposed to feeling shoe-horned in to show that they’re more than just a metal band. Funnily enough, if these fusion sections were to be removed from the equation entirely, I know that I wouldn’t give as much of a shit about this band as I currently do. Because after a dozen or so listens through this record, the charm hasn’t worn off yet, and I doubt it ever will.

Now, one thing that I absolutely love about this band is that they’ve got their grooves down fucking pat! The drums and guitars are just so rhythmically tight together that it’s nigh on impossible to not bang your head, tap your foot or air drum along. Or do whatever the fuck you personally do when a song gets its hooks deep into you. Speaking of the songs, this is one really consistent album with a lot to love on it!

Monsoon’ starts off with a goddamn banjo (or what sounds like a banjo) and the fact that it returns at various points throughout the song to race alongside the rest of the instrumentation, is just so damn cool you can’t help but smile. ‘Sick‘ is, as its name suggests, a fucking sick song and is perhaps the best example of TFN’s sonic duality. Both album opener ‘One Hand Killing‘ and the heaviest song you’re bound to hear on Triple M, ‘Invincible‘, have some of the gnarliest riffs the band has to their name. Seriously, Meshuggah’s Mårten Hagström and Fredrik Thordendal would be very proud. But this album isn’t just about the riffs. For instance, the bright, chirpy trumpets on ‘Point Of You‘ were a welcome touch and helped to make a good song even better. Likewise, the 8-bit synth sounds used on album closer ‘Dig For Bones‘ were a great inclusion to really build up its bridge section, and they made that song all the better for it.

Finally, what helps to make ‘Outlier‘ so good is the production and the mix, which does the music so much justice that you’d think the figurative lawyer had paid the whole jury off. The sonic quality of this album allows for each member of the band and each element in their musical arsenal, metal or otherwise, to have a strong platform to stand loud and tall upon. Of course, sharp musical clarity for each instrument isn’t always a necessity for an album to be good, but here, it was definitely needed and Twelve Foot Ninja and their engineer have nailed it.

Conclusion

‘Outlier’ is ten songs that are more than just your average rock and metal tunes. In fact, Twelve Foot Ninja are more than just your average rock and metal band. Their mixture of tight, heavy metal conventions is shaken up by their superb knack for cleaner, dynamic musical sections that evokes a mixture of latin and jazz styles. Whichever the case, it’s all superbly executed. ‘Outlier’ is as long as it needs to be and is a very consistent release. So come on in and join the clan.

…that last part could’ve been worded a bit better.

Tracklisting

  1. One Hand Killing
  2. Sick
  3. Invincible
  4. Oxygen
  5. Collateral
  6. Post Mortem
  7. Point Of You
  8. Monsoon
  9. Adios
  10. Dig For Bones

‘Outlier’ is out Friday, August 26th through Volkanik Music. 

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