Twelve Foot Ninja Reveal Details on Sophomore Album 'Outlier'

"You know what they say about pigeonholes...."

Hit up Wikipedia and it’ll assert that Twelve Foot Ninja are a “fusion metal band from Melbourne, Australia”. But then, that’s akin to describing Rage Against The Machine as a “rap rock quartet”. Neither label does either band any justice.

What you might not know is that Twelve Foot Ninja’s 2012 debut record Silent Machine saw them clock up over 5,000,000 YouTube views, win a prestigious Golden God Award in 2014 for ‘Best New Talent’, break the world record for crowdfunding a video clip, tour with some of the biggest bands in the world, and get billed on major US festivals. And all without the push of a major label.

The band has been embraced by the metal community but they certainly don’t see themselves as that. “If you had to pigeon hole us we’d be heavy fusion, but you know what they say about pigeonholes,” throws in guitarist Stevic Mackay. “They’re full of pigeon shit!”

Suffice to say it’s kinda apt for such a self-confessed anomaly to christen their brand new second album Outlier. But even that’s too simple an interpretation, says Etik. “An outlier to me is a fringe dweller, an independent thinker. A free radical. So, from our perspective, the title is really a tribute to those fans who truly support our work, who appreciate its value. They are the outliers. We cannot survive without them, so I see the title as a recognition of that symbiotic relationship.”

Guitarist Ro Hayes seconds the sentiment: “I also think ‘outlier’ is a pretty bloody good word to encapsulate our place in the industry. Supposedly too heavy for rock, we’re embraced by the metal community despite not really being ‘metal’. If anything, the purists think we’re a bit too ‘bing-bong’ to be true metal.”

By “bing-bong”, Hayes is being self-deprecating about Twelve Foot Ninja’s genre-bending approach to making music. While still very much a heavy rock band at heart, their sound is a mutant melting pot of djent, funk, Latin, jazz, salsa, reggae, acoustic, bossa nova and a whole suite of other styles. While it might cause the uninitiated to scratch their heads or prompt metal diehards to cry sacrilege, it hasn’t stopped a lot of people responding to the band’s unique sound. “It probably looks more confusing on paper than it sounds,” says Etik. “But these days we seem to get more congratulated than written off for having the fortitude to attempt to mix things up the way we do.”

It’s also why the band’s hopes for Outlier are as much about sating the appetites of said loyal fans as winning more ears over to their cause. “For this album, we really wanted to focus on writing songs that could translate to one acoustic guitar and vocal and still stand up,” explains Mackay. “So-called ‘progressive music’ often relies heavily on rhythm and complexity, and as a result, melody and lyric is almost retrofit and can sound superficially placed. This time, we didn’t want to make music exclusive to those who understand what we’re doing on a technical level. We wanted to elicit emotive responses as well as cognitive ones.”

One of the more intriguing aspects to the band is that while there is a lot of humour inherent in both the band’s video clips and genre-flipping style, thematically speaking, the lyrics and the fantasy mythology of The Twelve Foot Ninja storyline remain quite dark. Etik believes that contrast doesn’t have to be jarring. “Straddling humour and serious mythological allegory might be a weird combo to some, but there’s no reason why the two can’t be inextricably intertwined. It’s about balance. If anything, it reflects the dark and the light of being human.”

There’s little doubt Outlier is a record that’s going to elevate Twelve Foot Ninja to new heights.

Featuring a video clip that’s already clocked over half a million views on YouTube, lead track One Hand Killing is really the embodiment of everything the band do. Kicking off with a scrawl of dissonance, shimmering gong, gruff chant, hand-claps and guitar shots, it promptly drops into one of the most undeniably original and entertaining guitar riffs you’ll ever hear. Careening somewhere between swinging Southern blooze and sinewy djent, it literally sounds like two angry wasps engaged in rough sex. It’s clear Twelve Foot Ninja are no jacks o’ all trades; rather, they master them all and then some....

Conclusion: Utterly undeniable and in a class, phylum and species all of its own, Outlier is an album which is not only about to put Twelve Foot Ninja smack-bang on the map, it’s going to redraw the boundaries of what heavy music can be. Better yet, it’s gonna use an angry red texta to do it.