It is a little-known fact that Canadians are patriotic. Most people think we just apologize a lot (I’m sorry, but it’s true), but just because most of our flags are pinned up in basement windows where we’ve run out of aluminum foil doesn’t mean we don’t love our country. So, when I get promos that might be interesting, often the fact that a band hails from my home country will be enough to tip the scales and get them into my speakers. Thus is the case for Vancouver’s Ninjaspy, which I pronounced “nin-JAH-spee” until I realized no, it’s “ninja-spy.” Nobody said Canadians (or at least yours truly) are smart. Anyhow, this trio of brothers has been working hard on their fusion-metal release, and dammit I’m going to take a chance and spin Spüken.

Ninjaspy have been around for more than a decade, and Spüken is the result of a successful crowdfunding campaign that allowed the boys to take their ten best songs from the decade and record them with producer Garth Richardson (Red Hot Chili Peppers and others). This is a good thing and a bad thing, as we’ll get into. As to the style, fusion-metal is what I mentioned above, meaning the band blends a ton of styles and genres together, from reggae to ska to jazz to prog metal, to overall craziness in the vein of System of a Down and Dillinger Escape Plan. Listen, when a band lists Meshuggah and Steely Dan as influences, you know it’s going to be a bit chaotic. At times this is a catchy, mesmerizing formula, and at other times it’s too scattershot to truly succeed.

Take the opening track, “Speak.” It opens with a groovy ska-tinged clean verse before exploding into the chorus. Harsh vocals in the chorus, clean vocals in the verses, and an overall smart arrangement make this a standout song and a great start to Spüken — the Parent boys (Joel, Tim, Adam) definitely have the chops to execute this style. “Shuriken Dance” (the song that clued me into the correct pronunciation of the band’s name) betrays the band’s System of a Down influence, with harsher vocals but the same jarring yet tight arrangement that SoaD was famous for. The ska feel rears its head again throughout “Brother Man,” with super-catchy verses and hardcore choruses combined with a great little keyboard-accented riff. Three songs in and I’m hooked, to be honest. Even “Dead Duck Dock,” with its jazzy lounge band opening, holds my attention.

Unfortunately, the brothers can’t maintain the momentum created by the first four songs for an entire album. I’m assuming that the middle trio of songs “Become Nothing,” “What!!,” and “Jump Ya Bones” are amongst their oldest, because they’re definitely weak spots on Spüken. The first is chaotic hardcore that just doesn’t hold up, the second has the worst chorus of the year (“Undecided people say what, whatwhatwhatwhat”), and the latter is uninspiring reggae-infused metal. Revamping those songs — or writing new ones — would have been wise. Luckily Ninjaspy redeem themselves with a couple of strong closers — “Azaria” is similar to opener “Speak” and “Slave Vehemence” ends the album on a strong hardcore note.

Co-conspirators Richardson and Ben Kaplan have produced a great-sounding album, with plenty of oomph and power throughout. Mastering is loud but not annoying, making Spüken an easy album to crank up. Ninjaspy show a lot of promise on Spüken, but by drawing on songs written over a ten year span, they ultimately undo themselves, giving us a handful of sharply executed songs that will see rotation in my playlists, but a handful of duds that keep me from enjoying the entire record. I’m looking forward to their next effort: hopefully the trio continues to evolve in the right direction.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-Released
Websites: ninjaspy.bandcamp.comninjaspy.net | facebook.com/ninjaspy
Releases Worldwide: April 14th, 2017

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  • Grymm

    When you list so many disparate influences… Hold on, WHAT THE HELL IS COMING OUT OF THAT WOMAN’S MOUTH?!

    • It’s the elk from The Mantle.

      • Grymm

        So THAT’S where it went!

      • A Feed From Cloud Mountain

        RIP Agalloch.

    • Huck N’ Roll

      It’s obviously spüken.

    • Ta2dlam

      H.R. Geiger as seen “…from reggae to ska to jazz to prog metal, to overall craziness…”. How the Ninjaspy Kill.

    • I thought it was an uncooked lobster.

  • Zach Ward

    That album cover makes me uncomfortable..

    • aaron bergman

      Can’t tell if it’s going out or going in. Heinous either way.

      • Reese Burns

        I like to think it’s going in. Well, I don’t “like” to think that, but I feel it makes it that much more creepy.

        • aaron bergman

          That is what people kind of look like after eating at the Golden Corral buffet.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        The album is titled “Spüken”. If you pronounce it as “is puking” then you know it’s going out. Not sure if that helped or just made it worse.

        • Zach Ward

          “Is puking” is a terrible name for an album though.

          • Drew Music

            I think, with the right band name, proper title placement and album art, it could be the best album name.
            Looking at you, Stitches.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            I’ve seen worse…

          • Zach Ward

            True.. I’m sure you could name any pornogrind album and it’d probably be worse. But let’s not talk about that shall we.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Agreed!

      • What worries me most is this thought: Just what the hell has this girl been eating? http://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/650037784bdaf1991bb884f62280f074f6311c93bfc237f11f8bb04bc06287ce.jpg

        • Tofu muncher

          Yea. Is that black-thingy something solid? My first thought was it was some catfish till I see them branches(?). Pretty bland music btw.

          • Branches, glass, chainsaw chain and what I initially perceived as a rodent or something. Is it a massive amount of hair?

    • To me, the cover art is the only thing remotely intriguing about this.

      EDIT: On a sidenote, “spy” means “puke” in Norwegian, making me initially read the band name as Ninja-puke, which is all the more appropriate.

  • Shrümpelstiltskin

    Kinda forgot this band existed a little. I’ll check out the new album despite the mixed impressions. They were a weird fun part of my juvenile high school days.

  • Drew Music

    Kih-MARE-uh, dim-you bor-JEER, winter FILL-eth
    Some of my own pronounciation fails of the past, while we’re being honest.

    • Huck N’ Roll

      Welcome to the club. Or is it kloob?

      • Î тнïñК ïт’s Çłúß

        • Drew Music

          Oh 1990’s fun with Word characters, I missed you and your simple, dial-up, Papyrus font and AIM ways. Seriously, all this computering and interwebz bullshit was amazing and full of promise when it was new, now we have Facespace and Cattube… what went wrong?

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      I recently mentioned is this very comment section how I pronounced Mgla as “Mogla” and got a hearty laugh from a Polish fellow. I still don’t know how to pronounce it…

      • I’ve been struggling with that too, but according to Wikipedia, Ł should be pronounced like W in will or wall.
        Mgwa, Mgwa, Mgwa… Darned, now I got associations to mogwais..

        • Drew Music

          And thusly you should be that much closer to liking them. I’d encourage adding water to see where that went if it helped, but all anyone gets there is sadness and a wet mess of unusable music.
          And you aren’t allowed to say that’s what they already are, before we bolt through that open door.

          • I love Mgwa. Sorry, Mgła, but I fail to see a resemblance to Dead Limbs (as discussed under Craven Idol). Unlike any shoegazers, Mgła has eaten a meal worthy of a king after midnight.

          • Drew Music

            Aaah, now I see, I had thought you just didn’t like them. To that end, I’d say it’s more the effective use of atmosphere and I guess dissonance (you know, all of black gaze) for more a catch-all reference point as opposed to a ‘we’re trying to be those guys 2.0’ type of thing. Then again, my point was never that they sounded like Mgla at all, but were pretty well brined in the Ghost Bathtub, and I maintain this watery sentiment.
            Rabble.

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          So, Mgla is pronounced Mgwa… still don’t know how to pronounce it. What am I supposed to do with that “M” without a vowel? Mmm-gwa? Mmm-wah?

      • Thanks for bringing it back, now I’m chuckling again;)

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          You’re chuckling again, I still don’t know how to pronounce it…

          • My reply with recorded pronunciation is still waiting for moderator’s approval…

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Hopefully they approve it soon. I don’t want to ever embarrass myself at a Mgla show by yelling “Mogla!, Mogla!” at the top of my lungs.

  • Thatguy

    ‘Oomph’ I wish SD would ban this word. I saw an old bastard on the news from somewhere in England last night lamenting that a politician lacked ‘oomph’ and I thought WTF does that mean you stupid OB.

    Sorry for ranting, Huck. Great review otherwise.

    • Drew Music

      What it means is that we are doomed as a species. Admittedly I am probably more cynical than most people would feel is warranted, but when I hear about things like that, when I see what we do with the internet (well obviously not all of it, I’d go blind,) and how we’ve butchered our great triumph of language into bite-sized acronyms, vapid buzz-words and fucking emojis, all I can do is pray for rain, tidal waves, and a front-seat view of so many failed swimming lessons.
      Good morning everybody!

      • Drew Music

        Oh, and, uh, good review ole Huckster.

      • Thatguy

        We probably are doomed as a species, so we should go down screaming.

        • Drew Music

          But can we not at least scream eloquently? Is it too much to ask that our dying words be some of the greatest we could ever compose, and maybe not LOL?

          • Thatguy

            The scream I meant was screaming metal music!

          • Drew Music

            Makes more sense, I think I just wanted to stay on the Doom ‘n Gloom Express I had running at that point.

          • Tofu muncher

            Roald Dahl’s famous last​ words are: “Oh, fuck.” Cmiiw. *Oops. 🤘

        • Drew Music

          I’m now picturing a panicking mass of terrified survivors all screaming Shakespeare at the top of their lungs, and everything is that much better.

      • spoon dog

        Doom yourself mate, i am eternally victorious.

        • Drew Music

          Then I meant ‘We are doomed as a species, except for the ever glorious Spoon Dog, whose eternal victory shall transcend humanity and time itself.’

    • Huck N’ Roll

      *makes note to never use that word again. ;)

      • Thatguy

        Thanks, Huck. I don’t mean to be a total jerk – well, not this time anyway.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    There’s no way reggae can be mixed with Metal and have a succesful result, is it? Has Metal ever been mixed with reggae with results other than dreadful?

    • 2 words for you: Bad Brains

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Good thing I know that’s a band so I know you’re not telling me I have problems with my cranium contents. I’ll have to check them out.

        • herrschobel

          how the hell can ye wonder this realm and have not heard of ze mighty fine Bad Brains yet ??? i am glad that Monseigneur Druhm does not only worship the Altar of Power Metal Madness but seems to know a thing or two about essential Hardcore listening …. PMA !!!

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Oh, I’ve heard of them… just haven’t heard much of them. I am not really a fan of Hardcore and not for lack of trying.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Any particular songs you would recommend? Just checked some of their songs on YouTube and… well, I am now asking for particular songs.

        • Try Soulcraft first. Then maybe Sailin On and Banned in D.C.

          • toxic_hat

            It appears the best way to combine reggae and metal is not to have any actual reggae in the song… and wear a rasta hat. To which I agree.

  • h_f_m

    Embed isn’t bad.

    Those are definitely shorts.

  • herrschobel

    i must say i like this …but i also like dubwar,early dog eat dog and other cross over atrocities from the 90s…i have been a chipper little hardcore kid aeons ago… great cover as well…

  • Sean Sky

    Sounds interesting enough to give it a spin, at least.

    • Tofu muncher

      Yes, it’s a nice little crossover music that I quite like. The review is spot on, though: It’s kind of uneven in some places. Shuriken Dance is my current guilty pleasure.