CD Review: “Spüken” by Ninjaspy

 

Before I even knew their name, I found myself dumbfounded and adoring that Vancouver threesome known as Ninjaspy.  By mere happenstance, I witnessed them in concert and reveled at the tumultuous exhibition.  Here were three men, producing a monstrous sound, hurtling around the stage like crash test dummies.  I was sure of some horrible collision.  Yet, despite the energy that exploded from the stage, each man was in full control of the situation and his own musical prowess.  At the end of that concert, I went home and bought every piece of music the group had yet released.  To my delight, a new album is on the horizon for Ninjaspy: Spüken becomes available April 14.

Ninjaspy self-describe as “three blood brothers in a hook-laden metal fusion fist fight to the death,” and honestly, that’s not too far off.  When the word ‘fusion’ gets thrown around, it’s not always clear what is meant.  Most bands I know take fusion to mean possessing an element of jazz in their playing, and I can certainly think of at least one moment on this disc featuring a lounge-jazz respite.  However, given their back-catalog, as well as their live show, that fusion seems to more predominantly feature metal mixed with reggae!  An odd combination, to be sure, as metal is often viewed as technical and exact, while reggae brings to mind a laid-back attitude and a certain level of looseness. But Ninjaspy combine these two elements surprisingly well, keeping the listener fully engaged with this merger within their songs.

Spüken is Ninjaspy’s second full-length release, but third overall, coming after their debut, Pi Nature [LP, 2007], and later No Kata [EP, 2013].  It’s been quite a wait for their hungry fans, but this has given the group time to dial in the ten songs featured on this album to their liking.  The opening track, and lead single, “Speak,” is a great characterization of the rest of the album.  It can be loud and boisterous, but it has no issue backing down to allow the dynamics of low and high to truly shine.  And of course, all the songs feature an underbelly of groove for good measure.  I’m sure some of you are worried about exactly how much metal there is in this metal-reggae fusion.  Rest assured, Spüken leans for the most part into the metal spectrum, which just a touch of the other thrown in for flair.  In fact, it dials back the reggae significantly from what was witnessed on former releases, a little to my disappointment, as I felt some of the excursions from the metal realm could have been pressed a little further before returning to the brutality.

I’ve really enjoyed the time I’ve spent with this release thus far.  So many of the songs have a special little something that makes them stick in my mind, whether it is the endless and circular lick from “Brother Man,” the funk-filled “Jump Ya Bones,” or the ethereal-turned-energetic “Azaria” (also available in an acoustic version).  Perhaps my favorite song in terms of sheer contrast and dynamics is “What!!,” a track that begins so seriously and erupts into one of the kookiest choruses I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing.  While I’d highly recommend starting with Pi Nature and working your way forward to Spüken, simply to make sure you don’t miss out on treasures like “Hit By A Cement Mixer,” “Out Of Tampons,” and “Skaingkh (The Skank),” you honestly can’t go wrong here.  Spüken is a metal powerhouse, carefully crafted and expertly executed, quite unlike any reggae-infused album you’ve heard before.

 
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