Not content with their role as intrepid sonic polymaths, Melbourne, Australians Twelve Foot Ninja have been inventive to reach hitherto unknown levels of creative mania as they prepare to release their third album, Revenge. Kicking off the three-part Vengeance Project, they’re set to release a high-level comic book, video game, and fantasy novel to boot. The wyvern and the wolf, a collaboration with author Nicholas Snelling, expands the concept of the group into a full-fledged world of relentless savagery and sinisterness where an orphan samurai boy is adopted by the ruthless leader of a ninja clan.
So who better to give a glimpse of the best concept albums this world, and many more, has to offer? Turns out frontman Kin Etik has decided to take a scenic route around albums that … take the scenic route, bypassing the usual prog odyssey for an appropriate genre spanning the weird, the wonderful, the deceptively down-to-earth. -terre et le dystopique, since Kit unveils the 10 opuses that will recalibrate your expectations of the conceptual album.
1. Frank Sinatra – In the wee hours (Capitol, 1995)
It’s my favorite, and they say it’s the first âconceptâ album, being an album with a consistent theme. The tone of this outing is a dark type affair, to be watched out of a train window on a rainy day. It’s two-tone blue and gray, but serves as a tonic for a lonely heart. The songs on this album swoon, sway and flow, led by the seriousness of Sinatra’s velvety baritone. Some of the greatest writers and lyricists contributed to this album, to name a few: Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, Bob Hilliard, Hoagy Carmichael, Harold ‘Somewhere above the rainbow ‘ Arlen. All arranged and linked by formidable Sinatra collaborator, and possibly Sinatra’s greatest collaborator, Nelson Riddle. With themes of depression, loss, loneliness and broken relationships, realistically this is probably the first black metal album. And I mean, what is black metal? Just heavy jazz.
2. Meshuggah – Catch Thirtythree (Nuclear Explosion, 2005)
Although this is not a “concept” album, the themes of this album are consistent. And although it was panned by many critics, it remains one of my favorite albums of all time. A “Catch 22” is defined as “A problematic situation for which the only solution is refused by a circumstance inherent in the problem or by a rule”. cannot be removed from office unless found to be insane by a psychologist. But if you ask a psychologist for a review, that one action makes you rational and therefore sane. by Meshuggah Catch thirty-three seems to push this concept further, in the enlightening and disentangling journey towards the comprehension of the “self” or “me”, and the inevitable death of this one, which one must endure to free oneself from the constraints or the limitations of your own perception and creation.
It’s a heavy, dark, polymetric, spiraling journey in three acts, with recurring musical themes and a main motif that ripples throughout the 47 minutes. It is an album to be consumed as a whole. I listen to this cycle regularly, since its release in 2005.
3. Frank Zappa – Joe’s Garage (Zappa, 1979)
I only discovered this after I turned 30, diving deep into Frank Zappa’s catalog. It was originally released as two albums and reissued as a three-album set. It is a three-act rock opera, based on a musical protagonist “Joe”, narrated by a character known as “The Central Scanner”. It’s a huge and sprawling story, spanning a wide variety of topics ranging from censorship, totalitarian governance and the stupidity and malice of Scientology, to homogenized sexuality, groupies and sexually transmitted diseases.
This rock opera with varied styles has it all and delivers it with sardonic humor and breathtaking musicality. This is one of my favorite Zappa albums, and I think that, too, should be consumed as a whole. I could go on for hours on end on the ins and outs of this album, but I will just recommend finding it and listening to it.
4. Ween – The Mollusc (Elektra, 1977)
The spiritual sequel to their greatest album in my opinion, Chocolate And Cheese, The Mollusc is a concept album based on nautical themes, filled with songs of sailors and stories of pink-eye and pirates. There’s a real wobbly, psych-prog vibe throughout. My strengths: the seminal Mutilated lips, Waving my cock in the wind, Ocean man, Blarney’s Stone, and ELO-esque prog from Buckingham Green. Ween is one of the greatest bands that ever was and always will be, in my humble opinion. Smoke a stick and stick this awesome album in your ears. Greet all the Boognish!
5. Queens of the Stone Age – Songs for the Deaf (Interscope, 2002)
Taking place on a drive from LA, through the desert to Joshua Tree, and listening to local radio stations on the way, QOTSA’s Songs for the deaf is an album beast, and deserves to be one of the greatest of all time. I mean, where to start? Josh Homme, Dave Grohl, Alain Johannes, Natasha Sneider (RIP), Mark Lanegan and Nick Olivieri. Shit. Boom! It’s one of those rare gems that fartes a force of nature from start to finish – unbridled, but disciplined. There is a real attention to detail on this album which I really admire. It has an âeveryone on deckâ quality for the recordings, with every staff member being used to the fullest. It has aged like a single malt whiskey and is an excellent traveling companion. âDave Catching here, don’t say goodnight, just say. “
6. King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity (Heavenly Recordings, 2016)
Infinite nonagon, from fellow Australians King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard, is the album that won “Best Hard Rock / Heavy Metal” at the 2016 ARIA Awards, beating us and other “heavy” bands. It’s really a hard-psyche album, which has led ARIA to be accused of misclassifying their album, and a little bit of vitriol towards the band itself. The band didn’t even show up to accept the prize, which I always thought was a cool bet.
A good friend of mine suggested that I listen to this album, which after the victory of ARIA, I had not given the shot. I started my lawn mower one day and hit it in my ears. It immediately grabbed me, from the intro of Robot stop, and it continues to rumble like a road train, each song being connected to the next, the finale returning to the beginning, creating a seamless and endless album. I love every song on this album. It is very pleasant listening. Production values ââdate back to the 60s / 70s, and have a warm analog aesthetic throughout, and make the experience a true work of rock art.
KG & TLW are excellent fodder for deep diving. Infinite nonagon is their eighth studio album, out of 18. They are probably the most prolific band around. Fan for life here.
7. Eagles – Desperado (Asylum, 1973)
I have to start off by saying that I was never really an Eagles fan. I loved the track Life at high speed, but beyond that I think they were such a staple of 80s rock radio that I was saturated beyond my tolerance as a kid.
A few years ago, I was doing a shitty job of dispatchering, and the only thing that kept me through the day, besides the good humor of my coworkers, was the fact that I could play music all day long. . My co-manager and I had listened to the Eagles a bit and developed a healthy appreciation for their catalog. One morning, when I connected to my workstation, there was Desperado, in my YouTube suggested feed, so I put it. I was instantly stunned by the diversity of their beginnings, Eagles, and I remember thinking that was a really weird way to follow him.
It’s a rebel album. Songs about the Wild West, outlaws and thugs, with acoustic styles and rocky ramblings. They’re even disguised as an outlaw on the cover. The title song is a killer. Put it in the old ear canals, get on your horse, and make hay while the sun is still shining. Dizziness.
8. Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino (Domino Recording Company, 2018)
It’s an album treasure. It received mixed reviews, mainly due to its divergence from the immediacy of the previous version, and its runaway success. A M. This is an assortment of one version. Summoning the minds of Serge Gainsbourg, Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen, Alex Turner organizes the evening’s entertainment in a luxury hotel on the site of the 1969 moon landing, Tranquility Base. It is a meditation on the role of entertainment in the sphere of social change, consumerism, religion, technology and bureaucracy. I particularly like James Ford, Turner’s production techniques and the arrangements of this album. It wouldn’t be out of place as a soundtrack to a 60s movie. It’s black, gold, cocaine white, and black future crystal. Neat whiskeys and dry Martinis. A four-course buffet and a show. The lyrics are on a whole new level. Serious, frank and masterful. To listen.
9. The Mars Volta – Frances The Mute (Gold Standard Laboratories, 2005)
Probably my favorite Mars Volta album, next to The Bedlam in Goliath. It’s the journey of an outing, incorporating so many different musical styles, from samba and jazz, to furious fusion and progressive rock. It’s a satisfying listening. It was inspired by a diary that a former sound technician for the band, Jeremy Ward (RIP), found in the back seat of a car he was repossessing, working as a boarding man. He read the newspaper and found similarities between himself and the writer. Namely that the writer was adopted and was looking for his biological parents. He notes a range of characters he had met along the way, their names being the source of the album’s track titles. Omar RodrÃguez-LÃ³pez is on fire on this album, as is Cedric Bixler-Zavala. It’s sprawling and jagged, with ambient instrumentation and catchy, soaring melodies. There are even guests from Flea from Red Hot Chilli Peppers and John Frusciante. This album is the stuff of legend.
10. Deltron 3030 – Deltron 3030
This album had a strong rotation for quite a while in our early twenties. Deltron 3030 takes place in the dystopian year 3030 and details a battle against a new world order of the 31st century. Del The Funky Homosapien stars as Del, a futuristic soldier and computer genius, who fights in rap battles and becomes the champion of the Galactic Rhyme Federation. He is eventually kidnapped by the New World Order and his memory is erased, which pretty much kills the plot. There is dry humor in this album, but it also uses the dystopian theme to tackle modern social issues, such as economic disparities and civil liberty. Dan The Automator’s production on this album suits the narrative and dark setting perfectly. Damon Albarn, Sean Lennon and Prince Paul are some of the many guests on this album. He’s a corker.
Vengeance released via Volkanik Records on October 15th
The Wyvern And The Wolf is available for pre-order from the Twelve Foot Ninja website