Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Heavy Metal Ninjas - Heavy Metal Ninjas (EP) (2012)

When we were in our early teens, the combination of metal music and ninjas would have been enough to send us into a testosterone induced rampage. Maybe it still can. The Heavy Metal Ninjas, hailing from New Zealand, are ready to test the "forever young" phrase. Despite a name that seems hokey and cheesy, this five piece instrumental outfit is anything but. With bonafide guitar Gods Richie Allan and Stu Kora at the helm, there is nothing silly or childish to be had here, but rather a four song offering of pure guitar metal, with some of the most eclectic riffs you could want.

While the stigma surrounding acoustic guitars in metal may never go away, the riffs that open "The Author" aren't any less impressive. A combination of picking and strumming, they come accompanied by a faint chanting voice. As the electricity kicks in, those same riffs, done with massive distortion, blow the speakers apart. With whammy bars and strings bending at their will, you find yourself floating in the sea of a surprisingly well crafted song. Sure, there are some solo portions that may seem more like showing off than playing a coherent track, but it all works as a whole. The base riff that plays throughout will easily become your soundtrack for hours to come. Lost so often is that direct correlation between blues and metal, something that "What If" puts on display. It, like the previous track, starts clean before moving into the heavier direction. Some deft finger work, in both the guitar and bass areas, contributes to what plays out as a solid track. Not to be missed, the backing band lays down the optimal tempo and sound to build upon. The guitar whines over top of it all, until the background fades away, leaving the shriek of bending strings alone to the finish.

The space age feel of "M45" isn't exactly a new one, but it works as a launching point for the most dynamic track on the EP. There is a more driven feel here, with a more clear beginning, middle and end. rather than a barrage of solos, the guitars take on the role of the vocal line, something that is easy to conceive but difficult to achieve. Compared to the other tracks, this one feels more complete, like more of a composed metal offering, instead of just guitars and a backing band. With the addition of some true vocals, you could have an instant classic. And while there is something to be said for writing a complete track, "Redshift" may boast the most intriguing guitar work, even if it is slightly disjointed. With an endless array of shredding techniques, the fourth and final track becomes a monster of metal riffs, bordering on that classic new genre of djent. The drumming takes on a life of its own, crushing and crashing through kick and snare fills that will leave you dizzy.

It wouldn't be entirely wrong to say that the music presented on this EP is the instrumental embodiment of what a ninja is: high flying, fast, flawlessly skilled. The Heavy Metal Ninjas have certainly lived up to their moniker, one that could have been disastrous. But while these four songs all held water, both on their own and together as an album, it remains to be seen if a full length effort would be as captivating. After all, sixteen minutes of guitar leads is hard enough. But constructing and perfecting forty minutes or more, that could prove to be more difficult than achieving Total Victory at Mount Modiriyama.


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