Review Summary: Ingredients: Choking Victim, Sublime, Protest The Hero, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Skindred, System Of A Down, Red Hot Chili Peppers... okay then.
Genre-bending is a lot like cooking meth; if you **** up you'll end up with burns and broken eardrums, but if you get it just right you'll be left with a little piece of pure and ever so addictive heaven. If such a comparison is valid, than Ninjaspy are the Walter White (from a TV show called Breaking Bad for you hippies) of the metal world. Consisting of three brothers from hazy Vancouver, the oddly named Ninjaspy are mainly a ska-hardcore band. And that's right, I said "mainly"; chiefly due to the fact that pretty much every genre under the rock'n'roll sun is on this LP.
What makes this band so special is not their unique sound per se, but the quality of its execution. But don't get me wrong, no other band out there sound like these guys. Ninjaspy, taking nutrients from their ska-punk roots, combine the abrasive sound of hardcore with the funk of ska, and have flawlessly achieved a seamless outfit for their musical ideas to flourish; branching out into uncharted territory with the sturdiness of an oak. The instrumental proficiency of the three brothers is what keeps this album moving forward in such a captivating fashion. Each member does their part more than sufficiently, with each brother having plenty of moments in the soundscape's focal points.
The bass work compliments of Tim Parent here is nothing short of finger-poppingly groovy. During the ska moments of this album, his funkin' abilities shine through the drum's offbeats keeping the headbobbing always irresistible. As the headbobbing turns to headbanging, his style takes on a capable metal outfit, following the metalcore-esque chugs and riffs of the guitar, while still finding the appropriate times to throw in the odd flashy fill. As the foundation of the band's sound, drummer Adam Parent does well to keep the beat interesting, and the cornucopia of polyrythyms on this album serve as a prime examples of his abilities to hold cohesive yet unorthodox beats.
With such a solid rhythm section firmly in place, the guitar work and vocals have their work cut out for themselves in order to keep up. Oh, and I should mention its one brother, Joel doing both (simultaneously; he can do it live perfectly), and extremely well I might add. His voice is truly something to behold. There aren't many vocalists out there with the kind of range this guy has. Spencer Sotelo and Rody Walker should be envious of this guy's vocal dynamics. From high pitched wailing to screams to growls, every tone he has is commanding in its own right. Furthermore, his abilities on the guitar are nothing short of impressive. Although you won't find any two hand sweeps of five minute solos on this album, there's no shortage of shredding. His capacity to switch scales so seamlessly allow for an extremely diverse yet cohesive soundscape. The sudden changes from metal/hardcore to ska are executed in such a fashion that any shadow of an awkward moment only really occurs when one songs switches to another, and even then the three hombres still hold it all together better than most bands do; each song transitions quite seamlessly into the next. Even on the mainstream-esque chorus parts of this album (given it's a genre I tend to hate more than love) Joel's vocals boast enough soaring range to keep it impressive and contrast well with the polyrhythmic hardcore sections.
The lyrics on their own are certainly worth noting. With songs like We're Out Of Tampons
being album highlights for their seriously awesome musical content, oftentimes the lyrics themselves are not serious in the slightest, offering another interesting contrast in their music. For Ninjaspy, this works swimmingly. This is a very fun album, and for someone like me to give a "fun" album a 4.5, it would have to be overwhelmingly redeeming in its qualities. In lieu of the whimsical themes present, there is a certain moral depth to the lyrics that show themselves every so often. Amidst the humor often lies symbolism to something more profound and a couple reads of the liner notes will reveal just how big of hippies these guys are.
The album only really falters due to its lack of seriousness. As giddy and enjoyable as this album is, there's something to be said about instant gratification and cheap thrills VS. a deep emotional and intellectual investment into one's music. In terms of execution, there isn't much at all to gripe about here, but if one was to be nitpicky, it would be justifiable to say some of the ska moments on this album seem a little recycled from song to song, and can sometimes blur together. However it should also be noted that the album doesn't suffer from a short shelf life, hosting enough diversity and subtleties to keep it engaging from listen to listen.
Given the sheer talent of these guys, it's no surprise how well they manage to keep the balance and diversity of musical spices in check. Dabbling in everything from big band to metalcore, mainstream rock to ska, djent to punk; Ninjaspy have crafted something not only entertaining from start to finish, but a seriously quality album for even the douchiest of music buff's to enjoy.