Old Dog, Old Tricks
Industrial sound is often the background music for a tortured existence, and few artist manage to pull it off like veterans Skinny Puppy. However, there are plenty of observers who suggest the group’s sound and influence never fully recovered from the dawn of the 1990s, as the band approached an ill-fated contract with American Records. This being said, the following words about new album Weapon will either relieve you or further cheese you off.
Weapon merges a war/terrorism theme with sonics that hew close to the basics of the genre Skinny Puppy helped define. The results are both more relentless and more approachable than much of their 21st century work. Faint flames of the phoenix may have been heard on their 2004 album The Greater Wrong of the Right, but on Weapon we sense real effort towards a career resurrection. Simply put, your writer has listened to Weapon more during the review process than to Greater Wrong—or the band’s interceding releases—during the last five years.
There’s a good balance here between clarity and interference, with Cevin Key and Mark Walk’s angry dance on one hand and Nivek Ogre’s horror-show metaphors on the other. Look to “solvent” in particular as a sturdy bridge from old Skinny Puppy to new in this regard. In it, Ogre’s lyrical magma blends the medical and political; beats sound and feel like slaps to the face; melodies suggest all the world’s video games being played at once.
Most prominently, however, is the anthemic rage of the opening trio of songs—”wornin’,” “illisiT” and “saLvo,” which form one of the best sequences of music anywhere in their catalog. And really, Ogre’s the center of that rage as he has always been, spitting malevolent call-and-response refrains (“This is the criminal age”) alongside pained and purposeful raps (“A low-grade dose of a rabbit up the sleeve.”) Paired with Key and Walk’s production, songs get spun in a SAW-style centrifuge at orchestral (“terminal”), martial (“paragUn”) and dancefloor speed (“plasiCage”) before being launched into the dark.
Elsewhere, “overdose” and “gLowbeLl” are rare instances of a lack of direction, where the band try to sound difficult for difficulty’s sake. Aphex Twin-style electronics take up much of “survivalisto,” and fans would probably be willing to go to Kickstarter for some licensing fees if it meant more of the old-school thematic sampling the band used to favor. Otherwise, Skinny Puppy are starting to sound like their old selves again. We don’t know if there’s another “Dig It” or “Tin Omen” here, but almost everything on Weapon is solid enough to try.