Twelve Foot Ninja
Australia’s maniacal rock-fusioneers Twelve Foot Ninja come to Voodoo Lounge, Dublin on Feb 19th 2022 and Limelight 2, Belfast on the 20th.
Twelve Foot Ninja launch immersive, multi-media project with new album, comic, novel, and game.
With the release of their long-anticipated third album, VENGEANCE, Australia’s maniacal rock-fusioneers Twelve Foot Ninja have just pulled something off that no other musical act in history ever has before. Aside from the genre-busting nature of the album itself and its swag of killer video clips, they’ve also released a computer game, comic book, and a decidedly grim yet literary fantasy novel. Talk about a veritable shit- tonne of content.
The quantum of content could be a ‘world-first’ for a band, but the fact is, breaking records isn’t exactly new for Twelve Foot Ninja. They once held, and may still hold, the world record for most successful crowdfunding campaign of a music video. And since 2014, they’ve amassed a mantelpiece full of awards – from being named ‘Best New Talent’ (Revolver’s Golden God Awards), ‘Best Artist/Song Discovery’ (SiriusXM Liquid Metal Charts), ‘Best Metal Music Video’ (Independent Music Awards) and a highly coveted ARIA nomination for ‘Best Hard Rock Record’. Little wonder, then, that they’ve also clocked up over 42 million spins on Spotify and 22 million plays on YouTube.
Twelve Foot Ninja has never neatly fit into one musical genre, and true to form, VENGEANCE sees them explore a whole new rich sonic palette. In a sense, the album-cover artwork says it all – a decrepit ’80s-era arcade video game listing sideways after being rudely plunged into the cracked earth of a dystopic wasteland. It’s a place where pinball meets post-truth.
Cue the sinuous and sinister synth-aesthetic that infuses the entire record. Think vocoders, vapour-wave and neon haze. Atari-style bleeps and bloops. Imagine the song of streaming data. Or the sound of a fax machine that has just become sentient. Or the mash-up of an uber-violent Nicolas Winding Refn film, the queasy soundtrack to a Bret Easton Ellis novel, and something the cyborg DJ might play at a futuristic industro-rock underground rave set in a Blade Runner-esque sci-fi. And then all of the above punctuated by the spectacular slabs of syncopated djent-style riffery that Twelve Foot Ninja is renowned for.
Guitarist/producer/polymath Stevic Mackay sums up the strange beast that VENGEANCE is as follows: “There are definitely some 80’s inspired permeations in the genre permutations, but I think more than alliterating p words, we became clearer on the distinction between “songs” and “riffs”; there’s a clear harmonic bone structure carrying all of the songs vs. bing bong riffs that only give musos stiffys.”
Album opener Start The Fire winds in with the lupine howl of a Tibetan Kangling (a horn made out of a human femur). It’s the sound of death (more on the kangling in the band’s comic book “Vengeance”). A chirruping pattern of digitised tablas and sliding panes of silvery synths then ratchet the tension before a demented scream and a snarling, bass-heavy, bowel-emptying riff drops in.
First single Long Way Home, with its quirky, off-kilter verses and ADD time-signatures, would arguably be the closet stylistically to Twelve Foot Ninja’s previous material if not for the four-to-the-floor drumming that drives an anthemic chorus and the explosive orchestral accents that colour the gigantic outro riff.
The album’s eponymous track, Vengeance, signals a major departure for the band, featuring a squall of industrial-grade synthesized guitars intercut by a patter of digital beats and a sinewy, Tokyo-tech cabaret feel. The text-speak acronym of IDK follows, somehow fusing an 8-bit side-scroller vibe, slinky bass, sardonic lyrics and a megalithic nu-metal riff.
Shock to the System proves another album highlight. The vocoder intro, hook-laden verses and stadium- sized chorus work together to brutally skewer our culture’s increasing reliance on technology and the perils of transhumanism. In typical Twelve Foot Ninja fashion, however, the middle of the song detours into a board-trotting, spoken-word pantomime, as a depraved character plots his own AI-enabled immortality.
Next up is the disco-ball boogie of Gone, boasting a melismatic bassline that bubbles throughout the entire song and could almost be lifted straight out of an African American 70’s detective flick.
Without doubt, Culture War is the band’s heaviest excursion to date, as they tear through abrasive metalcore riffs, blast beats, larynx-shredding vocals, a chest-beating chorus, and a breakdown so brutal it should come with its own X-rating. Even so, Twelve Foot Ninja somehow manage to weave in mariachi- type trumpets and a ‘spaghetti western’ vibe in the middle-eight, and make it work.
Over and Out sees an inspired (albeit unexpected) duet between frontman Kin Etik and Jinjer’s femme- fatale Tatiana Shmayluk. It has all the hallmarks of a straight-up smash-hit single. And yet, Twelve Foot Ninja save their biggest surprise for last – Tangled is a sparse but sophisticated slice of cinematica, that sees the band paint with simple brushstrokes; stripped-back acoustic guitar, mournful melodies and soaring orchestration. As the band’s first real ballad, it offers a truly moving, emotionally resonant denouement to the entire album.
Despite the band’s restless exploration of where music can go, rest assured that everything that fans hold dear about Twelve Foot Ninja remains intact in VENGEANCE: be it their genre-bending ability to segue seamlessly from one style to another; the inspired musicality to every composition; drummer Shane Russell’s muscular beats and tasty percussive flourishes; vocalist Kin Etik’s unrivalled ability to shift from a husky baritone, crooning falsetto and barrel-chested roar in a single line, while laying down a colourful backdrop of counter-melodies and rich harmonies; and of course, the virtuosic guitarwork of Rohan Hayes and Stevic Mackay.
What is markedly different this time around, though, is a renewed focus on songcraft and lyricism. In explaining the band’s hyper-attention to lyrics in VENGEANCE, vocalist Kin Etik quips:
“The lyrics on this album are a collaborative effort, based on themes that we were collectively wrestling with at the time, culminating in a more succinct, yet very different beast.”
Well, that’s the music covered. So now, let’s talk about the comic book, the computer game and this fantasy novel. As ambitious and unlikely as this ‘world-first multimedia release’ might come across, Twelve Foot Ninja deemed it a vital innovation. In the age of streaming, music has become increasingly disposable and devalued, the shelf-life of every artist’s album grows shorter, and the plight of the professional musician becomes all the more unsustainable. And yet at the very beginning of this band’s journey, Twelve Foot Ninja planned to expand the band’s offering with a suite of deeply immersive and premium content. Finally we will start to experience the fruits of that early vision – perhaps a fortuitous move in this uncertain world of snap lockdowns, but certainly a smart way of broadening the band’s already fervent fanbase. MacKay explains:
“This is an exorcism of content that’s spent a decade in gestation. “Catharsis” is close to what it feels like to finally share Kiyoshi’s story; and I guess respond to all questions pertaining to our name; All this time, so many have thought “Twelve Foot Ninja” was ‘tongue in cheek’ when in actuality’ the story genesis occurred a year before the formation of the band. I really hope our fans enjoy the vastness of what we’ve created, and we’re able to continue to surprise people with new methods of storytelling.”
What is PROJECT VENGEANCE?
The music and the comic book:
VENGEANCE, the third album by Twelve Foot Ninja, is scheduled for release on 15th October 2021 on Volkanik Music. On 9th July the band released a comic book of the same name, written by Stevic Mackay with artwork by George Evangelista. In it we see the band’s mascot character of the twelve foot ninja on a journey through the illumosphere to take on Paraxess. It doesn’t go to plan.
The high fantasy novel THE WYVERN AND THE WOLF is set in a grim and savage world, and tells the story of an orphaned samurai boy who is adopted by the ruthless leader of a clan of ninja. The novel represents a unique partnership with its author Nicholas Snelling, and was initially inspired by the original concept of the Twelve Foot Ninja by guitarist Stevic MacKay and his partner Fiona Permezel. Published by The Venn Gents, the book is available for purchase upon the band’s album release from www.twelvefootninja.com and www.thewyvernandthewolf.com
Twelve Foot Ninja released the video for their first single ‘Long Way Home’ via a video game entitled Uncle Brusnik’s Long Way Home.
Guitarist/Producer, Stevic MacKay created a multi-level, 2d platformer videogame replete with an animated backstory of a comatose boy from the 80’s who finds the avatar of his imagination (Brusnik) in a timeless reality ruled by a tyrannical, space-princess-cat-alien named Trevor. Fans who collected 12 brick phone discovered they could unlock the band’s first music video, Long Way Home. The band did not provide any instruction or information about the single launch and simply let fans discover it for themselves in the game.