Outlier Review

artist: Twelve Foot Ninja date: 09/05/2016 category: compact discs
Twelve Foot Ninja: Outlier
Released: Aug 26, 2016
Genre: Alternative Metal, Progressive Metal, Experimental Rock, Funk Metal, Fusion
Label: Volkanik
Number Of Tracks: 10
Twelve Foot Ninja get louder, heavier, jazzier and funkier in their follow-up album, "Outlier."
 Sound: 8
 Lyrics: 6
 Overall Impression: 7
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overall: 7
Outlier Featured review by: UG Team, on september 05, 2016
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Sound: From the get-go, Australia's Twelve Foot Ninja's approach to metal wasn't a conventional ambition to flaunt the most astounding instrumental skills or craft the catchiest hooks, but rather, to lavishly decorate their metal sound with a hodgepodge of additional styles. Showing a number of different genre pools to dip their toes into in their first two EPs - from electronica, reggae/dub influence, and even R&B - they earned the attention of Triple J early on for their experimentation, and then doubled down on the experimentation in their 2012 debut album, "Silent Machine." But though the numerous styles certainly spiced things up at face value, many of those fusions weren't as much trailblazing as they were inspired by others who did it first - the reggae/dub moments rang similar to 311, the dubstep breakdown in "Shuriken" took a page from Enter Shikari, and the posh instrumentation of the ending song was comparable to The Dear Hunter.

While it's regular form for every band to state how much more they want to expand on their next album, Twelve Foot Ninja do indeed improve in some areas in their follow-up album, "Outlier." They up the ante on their metal qualities, where riffs not only get heavier (see "Adios" and "Dig for Bones") and relatively trickier (see "One Hand Killing" and "Monsoon"), but also try out new songwriting tricks, such as the main riffs in "Invincible" and "Oxygen" shifting into lower keys at the end to harp on the menacing vibes. In the midst of this increased investment in heaviness, the lighter sections in songs still resonate well, if not contrasting the stronger metal energy even better, heard in the recurring leslie-effected guitar outros in "Collateral" and "Post Mortem," and the skillful, jazzy guitar/keyboard soloing in "Oxygen" and "Point of You."

In light of the numerous improvements made instrumentally, the genre-dabbling aspect in "Outlier" doesn't manage to be all that captivating. Much of the genre fusions that appear in here have been done before in earlier material, like the ska characteristics of "Oxygen," the chiptune section in "Dig for Bones," or the flamenco acoustic sections that appear in nearly half the album. More than anything, though, the genre fusion that appears in "Outlier" is funk metal, which essentially manifests in the same formula of early Incubus, uncannily heard in moments of "One Hand Killing," "Post Mortem," "Point of You" and "Sick," and even the final moment of frogs croaking in "Dig for Bones" ends the album in the exact same way Incubus's "Morning View" ends. // 8

Lyrics: With Twelve Foot Ninja's previous lyrical matter following suit with the band's name, crafting a period aesthetic of ancient warriors and kingdoms (their previous album also had a ninja-oriented comic book to accompany it), "Outlier" starts to branch out from that arguably kitschy theme. Though appeals to that ninja narrative are still found in "One Hand Killing" ("You are being hunted / Subject to summoning a landslide / You have adultered the altar") and "Dig for Bones" ("I lie in wait for you / My enemy eclipsed / The first and final warning / A fatal catalyst"), Etik's lyrics this time around are more concerned with articulating emotions and other meaningful messages. Romantic themes spring up in "Oxygen" and "Point of You," social commentary appears in "Collateral" ("When the riches and rewards are not enough / And all God's children could give a fuck"), and Etik doles out a number of life lessons, though those moments come off half-baked and simple in "Sick" ("Are you sick of being tired? / Are you tired of being sick?") and "Invincible" ("I never thought I'd find wisdom in being a fool"). // 6

Overall Impression: Turning the tables in terms of the previous mark they made as a band most renowned for their eclectic sound, "Outlier" succeeds for its advancement in Twelve Foot Ninja's aspects as a performing band, and falters in its quirky but derivative formulas for genre dabbling. In this tradeoff, the new album highlights both the wrongs and new rights that Twelve Foot Ninja ought to take into consideration to take things a step higher in their third album (whenever they decide to get started on that), but for now, "Outlier" shows promise in the band's capabilities beyond a wild ambition for suturing different styles onto their metal sound. // 7

- Sam Mendez (c) 2016

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