Twelve Foot Ninja – Outlier (2016)

Twelve_Foot_Ninja_Outlier

4 years we’ve been waiting.

It was worth every bit.

The opening track ‘One Hand Killing’ carries all the elements you might expect to hear: a catchy vocal tag, a gong, massive riffs, hand clapping, bouncy heavy bits, instantly awesome chorus, oddly funky bits and falsetto-meets-screaming vocal work.

This is THE way to start an album like ‘Outlier’…with a boom. As the first taste of the album, ‘One Hand Killing’ left a few listeners questioning if the band was just going to hit harder and heavier rather than progress and develop. It’s a safe to say that Twelve Foot Ninja have achieved both.

They’ve levelled up on ‘Outlier’. Its phatter, more focussed and wont age quickly. The legacy of the bands 2012 album ‘Silent Machine’ is proof that song writing and production don’t need to fit trends as much as they need to fit the band and these new songs carry that same trademark ‘Twelve Foot Ninja Sound’. There are sprinkles of electronic-glitches and 8-bit tones, latin percussion, acoustic guitar, keys & rhodes organ, brass sections and loads more to enjoy. This is of course aside from the low tuned mammoth sized guitars and pummelling drum work.

As a reviewer, the first 10 minutes can say a lot about an album. It’s those initial impressions which decide if songs are skipped early, listened through or passed over entirely. In this case not one song could be skipped. Every piece has a surprise in store and in true ninja fashion it usually sneaks up completely unexpected and surprises you.

Track #2 ‘Sick’ throws in ‘John Frusciante’ style stabs and jangly funk guitar before jolting back and forth from rock-hardened passages and heavy groove breaks. The catch line ‘Are you sick of being tired? Are you tired of being sick?’ is instantly embedded in memory…ready for the next chorus to come around.

‘Invincible’ is the radio pick off the album. Nik’s lyrics are a little repetitive but makes for an accessible song which suggests it was crafted to be sung along to. This doesn’t diminish the songs worth, it’s just an instant song which doesn’t steer to far from the formula. Perfect for new listeners but far too heavy to get the radio play that it could. Instead we can only hope for another hilarious video from the band to catapult this anthem into the masses attention. At present there’s a lyric video out there to help with learning the words…which isn’t that hard to begin with really.

 

‘Oxygen’ feels like the most straight forward and perhaps sincere track on the album. There’s a bonafide gold solo/lead break in the middle movement backed by a jazz interlude and also introduces some of the more jazz-centred and percussive sounds that are peppered throughout the album.

‘Point Of View’ was a massive highlight amongst a collection of already fantastic songs…but this time it’s for the funk, groove and differences to the rest or the material. A song like this breaks up the strong run of heavy and hard hitting tracks and sits just past mid way through the album. Twelve Foot Ninja can bring the groove and jazz to the party in seamless transitions and coherence that never quite came across on 2012’s ‘Silent Machine’. The latin-tinged elements of that first album felt almost comical and a little bit polarising. This new jazzy/funk flavour sits even better and leaves behind the humorous novelty to show a more refined and mature band pairing strong musicianship with equally strong song writing and hooks. The brass and keys paired with the excellent vocal performance in Point of View’ give the biggest chorus lift on the album when Nik belts out “When will you see, the things in you, that you find in me?”.

#9 ‘Adios’ is again using a repetitive chorus to great effect and whilst it’s a fairly straight forward affair for the most part.. BUT WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE. The band pulls out one of the best riff-into-breakdown transitions on the album. It gets super low and Deftones-ish as the serrating guitars and bass roll through the riff building and building, listen to the drumming change and throw the whole feel off…and then bring it back again harder and heavier. I lost my mind.

Closer ‘Dig For Bones’ might be the most complex song on offer and seems a fitting way to round out the album. It’s no drawn out ballad or epic album closing track. Its utterly off the wall and intense. Come for the riffs, stay for the arcade game and 8-bit blips and glitches that take it to a whole other level.

In summary ‘Outlier’ is 10 tracks of highly evolved Twelve Foot Ninja. It manages to meet the current standard for heavy whilst introducing fresh idea’s and being a lot of fun to listen to. Production is top notch and every sound or effect is deliberate and considered. The song selection is great and there has been a definite improvement in song writing and hook delivery. The pace is maintained throughout and caters to both new listeners and devoted followers alike.

AOTY contender. This is amazing.

 

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