Review Summary: A genre-bending beast of an album.
There seems to be something fairly gimmicky about bands that use ninja and samurai outfits as a major part of their stage image. Aside from the downright silliness involved from the get-go, it's easy to assume that such groups tend to use costumes only to mask their lack of musical skills and creativity. However, there are two notable acts that totally refute this theory. Both Texan Shaolin Death Squad and Melbourne-based Twelve Foot Ninja make oriental culture a vital ingredient of their style. While the Americans combine it with pristine progressive metal, the Australians' influences are even more all over the place. Their previously released EPs adroitly balanced such potentially distinct styles as alternative rock, technical metal, dub, funk and electronica. Thus, it's hardly surprising that their first full-length has been one of the most eagerly anticipated records of the year.
The two years of waiting have certainly paid off as Silent Machine
is an expertly crafted album that fulfils high expectations. The band continues to rely on their boundlessly eclectic fusion of numerous styles. Thankfully their songs never feel forced or impenetrable. They're quite the opposite actually meandering swiftly throughout a multitude of genres. Opener “Coming For You” seamlessly blends heavily industrialized 'djent' with playful bossanova and filthy funk to maximize comedic effect, whereas “Kingdom” makes great use of layered guitar play implementing a fabulous eastern melody into a metallic onslaught before it settles on a soulful chorus.
Such a bizarre mixture of styles would make any acclaimed band run for their money, but Twelve Foot Ninja ground their potent genre layering in top-notch songwriting. While mostly ditching traditional song structures, they are aware that dynamics and hooks are essential in keeping their audience engrossed. That's why, their compositions abound with instantly memorable segments that run the whole gamut of moods and tempos. For instance, laid-back dub makes its presence felt in some of the album's heaviest cuts, such as “Mother Sky” and “Vanguard.”
The infectiousness, which propels most tracks on the disc, frequently stems from Kin's comfortably versatile vocals. He may have an inclination to channel Mike Patton perhaps too often, yet his knack for haunting melodies is undeniable. He's also the catalyst for impeccable, face-melting choruses that are unleashed on an unsuspecting listener. “Deluge” serves as an ideal example with its dreamy melody in the pre-chorus that mutates into a sudden burst of vocal madness.
Although the sonic diversity is ingrained in an elusive style of Twelve Foot Ninja, they are first and foremost a heavy rock quintet with a distinctly modern sound. Stevic and Rohan routinely come up with arrestingly tight rhythm riffs that are a driving force behind many songs. Meshuggah-style chugging is used sparsely enough not to cause an overdose though. The outstanding title track employs this approach most effectively keeping the bludgeoning technical metal attack to its last bombastic minute.
Thanks to its genre-bending approach, Silent Machine
surpasses most great records released this year. It's an album that signals that Twelve Foot Ninja are rapidly becoming a force to be reckoned with in the realm of eclectic music. Along with now disbanded Dog Fashion Disco, they may be the worthiest successors to Faith No More's legacy and that's a tremendous compliment in itself.