Twelve Foot Ninja
16th September 2016 - Volkanic Music
01. One Hand Killing
06. Post Mortem
07. Point of You
10. Dig For Bones
In 2012, Twelve Foot Ninja’s debut album Silent Machine placed them at the vanguard of a whole fleet of Australian bands breaking out of their homeland and making a name for themselves on the international stage. With a collection of humorous videos (and even a comic book) under their belts which complemented the bouncy, party-vibed, riff-packed songs, it was clear that the quintet didn’t take anything other than the music itself especially seriously.
Along the way, the band accumulated a strong and faithful following that dug deep into its pockets to provide the band with a whopping $50,000 budget with which to film a video for the Silent Machine track “Ain’t That A Bitch”.
However, this proved to be something of a mis-step, resulting in a wildly indulgent schlock-horror fantasy that, to date, has accumulated barely a third of the Youtube views of either of the preceding videos, “Coming For You” and “Mother Sky”. Indeed, fewer times even than the video for lead single from Outlier, “One Hand Killing”, which itself is prefaced by a somewhat over-long introduction that spreads its joke just a little too thin.
But video indulgences aside, “One Hand Killing” certainly sets the tone for Outlier. Echoing the sentiments of the song’s first line, Twelve Foot Ninja are definitely putting their money where their mouth it, delivering a pit-friendly stomper with a big, hooky chorus.
As the album progresses, it becomes clear that the band have cherry-picked some of the best elements of the last quarter-century of alternative metal. It has the djenty buzzsaw low notes of bands like Monuments from this decade, the polished hooks of noughties-era Incubus and a great fat dollop of Faith No More from the nineties.
This last influence looms especially large, especially in Kin’s vocals, which utilise a considerable proportion of Mike Patton’s signature techniques. From the phrasing and harmonies, through slightly nasal highs, angelic falsettos, full-voiced croons and ferocious screams, all the way to breathy, whispered sections. There is a point where influence bleeds into flat-out hero worship, and Kin crosses that line several times throughout Outlier.
Of course, this is not an intrinsically negative thing, and there are certainly worse people to idolise than Patton, but it does come at the expense of the band really carving out an identity of their own. Similarly, the band’s genre-hopping adventures carry more than a passing resemblance to those seen on King For A Day or Album of the Year, albeit with that nu-metal/djent twist. However, the bhangra style hook in “Monsoon” does feel just that little bit crow-barred in for the sake of it.
There’s no denying that Outlier is a lot of fun, and these songs are sure to translate very well to the stage when Twelve Foot Ninja hit the road again, but it’s a flimsy, shallow kind of fun that may prove to be more of a transient thing than a long-lasting apprectiation. There’s not been a tremendous amount of progression in the band’s sound since Silent Machine, so the chances are strong that if you liked their debut, you’ll find much to enjoy here. For the time being, at least.
Ultimately, the one thing Outlier really doesn’t do is stand out from the pack. There are some great riffs, huge choruses and at least a couple of moments that could raise a wry smile but – especially on album closer “Dig For Bones” – they just sort of fizzle out. The album definitely starts strongly, but doesn’t quite carry that strength through the full forty minutes. But still, it’s hard to imagine that their shows would be anything other than a party – and provided that you’re not expecting much deeper than that, you can’t really go wrong.