Obscure Gems: Ninjaspy – Pi Nature


Hey guys! I just wanted to say that normally this column is Nayon’s pride and joy and he was kind enough to let me take the reigns this time around.

Today, I sit here with the daunting task of making this album appeal to you and unfortunately, I doubt I will be able to sway every one of you. The very thought of this record requires an open mind because most of you will cringe when I utter the term ‘ska-metal’, but I won’t lie to you – this album is very strange. Nevertheless, I challenge you to love this record the way I do.

My discovery of Ninjaspy was timely as it came hand in hand with my discovery of Between the Buried and Me‘s Colors. For most of us, Colors changed the way we see music. After Colors I left my elitism at the door; I started to look at the intention of music. No longer did I try and think about what music should be; I instead started to enjoy it for what it is. This allowed me to recognising Pi Nature as a masterpiece instead of dismissing it for what I would have thought to be a gimmick – and I couldn’t be more grateful. To this day, the first couple of times I listened to Pi Nature remain my most enjoyable musical experience. It was ethereal.

The first song of Pi Nature I had listened to, ‘Evolution of the Skid‘ is the epitome of Ninjaspy’s sound, but hardly a display of what they are capable; the song starts off with a funky guitar riff laying down the main theme of the song, and then out of nowhere we are lead  into a plethora of style culminating into a strange mixture of ska and hardcore. A brass section enters and rides on the coattails of the prominent bass lines and schizophrenic guitar riffing. On a whim, the guitars go from light-heated ska upstrokes and palm muting to melodic distorted riffs. Then the vocals kick in and by this point, I couldn’t figure out how to keep track of everything. Personally, a lot of the pacing and song structure reminds me of System of a Down, but I can also attribute the same kind of chaos to the Red Hot Chili Peppers circa 1991.

The contrast in their music is so vast that it doesn’t even seem logical. Despite this, I am baffled at how coherent it remains. To put it into perspective, we have three Canadian brothers, who have shared a home with each other for the better part of their lives, dabbling in drums, vocals, guitar and bass and sharing their influences among each other. After mastering their instruments, they wrote a bunch of songs that were to become Pi Nature and collaborated with the acclaimed engineer and producer, Garth Richardson (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Motley Crüe, Rage Against The Machine, Mudvayne, The Melvins). Unsurprisingly given Garth’s back catalogue, you can hear his influence really shine through on this record and at the very least, we can credit him to the bass being so eclectic and confident in the mix (i.e. Mudvayne, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against The Machince etc.) Though, beyond influence, Ninjaspy’s genius comes in their aesthetic. So to get a feel for what they’re all about, I provide you with your first taste; go ahead and give it a listen:

Now that you’ve listened to the song and have a better idea of what I am talking about, I’d like to point out Joel Parent’s excellent voice. I could go on about his unique screams and Serj-esque cleans, but it’s so much more then just vocals; it’s the way he blends it together; transitioning from insanely fast verses to screams in the same phrase. It’s like he doesn’t need to breathe. Joel exploits the musicality of his voice in such expertise fashion that the message of the lyrics aren’t only tandem with the music, but are distinguishable and complimentary to the songs. It’s an impressive feat considering the technical aspect, diversity and intent of his vocal performance. The lyrics cover many political and moral topics like the debate over abortion in ‘Defecating on What is Left of Our Child’ and the revolutionary vision of ‘Evolution of the Skid’. There are songs like those and then we have poetic genius of songs like ‘Out of Tampons’.

“Gender bend her over and
Fuck the Earth till she builds and spills
Magma making amends
For how we spend inside the sockets of our own eyes
Sowing seeds
We sew them shut
Fist into her gaping cut
Planting poison impregnation
Drowning in her menstruation
We see through empty sockets
Gone, gone we’re out of tampons!
Fucking her face just to fill our pockets
Gone, gone we’re out of tampons!”

Every line is superb! Is there any better way to raise concern for global warming then to create imagery of humans desecrating the earth like a rapist desecrates a woman? Even if it’s inappropriate, it’s potent and reflective. The wordplay here is very noteworthy.

Even at their worst Ninjaspy still manage to convey emotion and power in their songs. I’m not as fond about the mellower tracks ‘Pure Sketch‘ and ‘Submission‘, but despite the fact that these songs lack the punch I’ve fallen in love with, it’s still comparable to some of the Tool’s best commercial work. That’s right. At their worst Ninjaspy are as good as Tool. They are hard to peg down to any one comparison though. Their songs are so concentrated with nuance and influence that it can only be judged on it’s own merits. Every song carries its own attitude and no song acts as the centerpiece or climax. Instead, it’s engaging throughout. You could pick any song off the album and it wouldn’t do Pi Nature justice in with its representation because the scope is so vast and the quality is so consistent.

What baffles me even further is that I haven’t even scratched the surface. I haven’t talked about the insane contrasting of pace in ‘Hit by a Cement Mixer‘ or the ridiculous bass solo in ‘Hated‘. The list goes on. This article is the closest thing I have to expressing the love I have for this album. The truth is though, you won’t find a more cohesive blend of ska and metal – let alone one that not only makes sense, but couldn’t exist in any other form. In my arrogant opinion, this is the greatest album of all time. I urge you to form your own opinions and listen to this record, but even if you regret it, there is no denying that there is not much else – if anything – like it.

– CD

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