Twelve Foot Ninja – Outlier
By Bailey Graham
What do you think when I say the term ‘Fusion Metal’? Do you think Jazz-inspired melodies over brutal prog-metal riffs? Do you think of piano-laden choruses and funky basslines over screaming vocals? Or do you think of oriental instruments and 7-string guitar madness?
If the answer to that question is ‘all of the above’, then you have a firm understanding of who Twelve Foot Ninja is. Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, Twelve Foot Ninja are one of the most entertaining and bizarre metal bands to come out of this country, and I mean the latter adjective in the most positive way. Their debut 2012 release ‘Silent Machine’ saw millions of YouTube hits and numerous awards received by the then-newcomers, which must’ve only served as motivation to continue their wacky yet brutal assault on the senses with their sophomore release ‘Outlier’. After such a successful debut release, hopes are high for what is expected to be an another superb full-length album.
Opening track ‘One Hand Killing’ is truly a superb opener in many ways, as it showcases everything Twelve Foot Ninja represent – a perfect amalgamation of extremely tight djent-like riffs and unquestionably funky clean guitar phrases. When you include Kin Etik’s incredibly versatile pipes into the mix, what you have is the essence of what Twelve Foot Ninja have set out to create. Segueing perfectly, ‘Sick’ utilises dissonant, almost diminished clean guitar chords to replicate the sound of impending doom, before raining, even more, hellfire upon my ears in the form of the ever-so aggressive distorted prog riffs of Stevic Mackay and Rohan Hayes. Applying the same song structure as previous tracks, ‘Invincible’ exhibits more killer riffs and uplifting, clean sections. Within the space of 3 tracks, I’ve heard Etik go from the smooth stylings of a crooner to a powerful baritone and then into a vicious metal scream, more often than not in that order. If there’s anything to understand about this band’s latest release, it’s that they not only have a grasp on the concepts of musicianship but are indeed masters of it.
‘Oxygen’ has an almost soul-rock groove to it, as the infectious rhythmic grooves cascade over each other until they eventually make way for the bone-crushing tonality of the djent riffs. A slight oriental vibe shined through as my ears are graced with the consistently heavy introduction to ‘Collateral’, and as the track continues. That oriental vibe only serves as a calming agent for what can only be described as a freight train hitting you at full force, and by that I mean those bloody riffs – they’re massive. I begin to wonder at this point if Etik’s lungs are reinforced with steel, as I’ve rarely come across such a talented and versatile vocalist. The muffled guitar lines of ‘Post Mortem’ makes way for some incredibly funky basslines and something I thought I’d never hear in a heavy music album – sections of finger-pinked flamenco guitar, which I have to point out, is brilliant. ‘Post Mortem’ stays relatively mellow compared to the previous tracks of the album, which only acts as a segue for the crooning, bluesy sounds of ‘Point of You’ – what I feel to be the most easy-going song of the album, which it’s tantalising trumpet and piano-filled phrasing.
Moving onto ‘Monsoon’, the oddly eerie plucking of the sitar is quickly dwarfed by; you guessed it – more riffs, this one especially body-moving and invigorating, the whole track itself as a journey through the blend of South-Asian inspired groove and modern day progressive rhythms. The penultimate track of the album, ‘Adios’ delivers probably the catchiest lyric of the album – ‘This Is My Last Song For You” left me whistling the lyric over and over again. The polyrhythmic nature of Twelve Foot Ninja became especially noticeable on this track, with elements of polka, piano-driven cords and the signature Twelve Foot Ninja djent riff being beautifully melded with each other to produce one of the stand-out tracks of the album. ‘Dig for Bones’ rounds up the album with technical brilliance and bizarre elements out to shine. Video game arcade jingles and country-inspired guitar added that conventional touch of weirdness one has learnt to expect from a Twelve Foot Ninja song, and a brilliant piano melody to conclude the album, as it fades to dead silence, I’m am reminded of how unique this band is. Looking back through the experience that was ‘Outlier’, I can’t help feel as though the band has slightly overused their trademark sound, somewhat losing its charm as the album progressed, but it’s a sound that the Australian fusion metal act can honestly claim as all their own.
There truly is no other band like Twelve Foot Ninja. Possessing the stylistic oddities reminiscent of Mr Bungle and pure progressive brutality that can’t be touched, Twelve Foot Ninja’s sophomore release is without a doubt, a worthy successor to their critically acclaimed 2012 debut. Only a new band by traditional standards, Twelve Foot Ninja have earned a world-class reputation as innovators and inventors of the best (and most bizarre) that metal can be. It’s that sound that garnered them numerous awards and hundreds of thousands of devout fans over their 5-year career, so I really can’t be too harsh here. In conclusion, ‘Outlier’ is a superb album with as many twists and turns as one with expect from Twelve Foot Ninja. I there’s one thing to take from this album it’s that Twelve Foot Ninja, are truly masters of incorporating elements into heavy music that would otherwise just sound ridiculous, and ‘Outlier’ is a shining example of heavy metal fusion done right.