Artist: Skinny Puppy
Release date: Out Now in the US, 31st of October 2011 in the UK
Price: $9.99 / £11.99
Produced by: Skinny Puppy
Composed by: Skinny Puppy
Music and Vocals by: Nivek Ogre, cEvin Key, and Mark Walk.
Tags: Experimental, Electro-Industrial, Post-Industrial
After having their latest album delayed while their record company filed for bankruptcy, after having to reorganize a concert tour originally meant to support the new release, Skinny Puppy finally releases hanDover. However, is it worth the wait?
Fans of Canadian, post-industrial powerhouse, Skinny Puppy, have long had their ears to the ground awaiting the news of the seemingly infinitely postponed release of hanDover, the band’s eleventh studio album. While new releases sat on the shelf during the record company’s filing for insolvency (the reason behind the band’s 2008 tour, In Solvent See), many began to wonder if any new music would ever see the light of day. Now that day has come.
HanDover begins boldly with what seems like an odd choice. It’s neither a particularly rocking track nor anything that profound or haunting. Ovirt simply presents a minimal synth track much in the vain of Puppy’s earliest forays into dark electronic music. Completists will find similarities between this cool, sparse track to many of the stripped down songs SP produced while brapping in the basement. Brapping, for those unfamiliar with Skinny Puppy, is the process of getting high and creating music much like a jazz band, only with Moog synthesizers and a vocoder.
After this brief flashback in time, hanDover enters more modern territory. Cullorblind follows the trail set by Greater Wrong of the Right and Mythmaker. It combines the eerie electronics with more straightforward drum and guitar. Ogre’s vocals are in good form, blurring that line between mechanized and tragically human. It really soars during the bridge as an harpsichord like synth plays under Ogre’s strains of “Wanna wanna wake up.”
As if growing naturally from the previous track, Wavy keeps the the melancholic theme only adding a militaristic beat countered with otherworldly synth pads. Skillful guitar plays normally then in reverse, contributing to the eerie atmosphere. Overall the track gives off a sense of isolation much like the early space rock of David Bowie and Brian Eno.
For the headbangers and fist pumpers AshAs drops a heavy, almost doom metal beat. This track lurches and crashes like a behemoth, stomping all over your eardrums. Complementing the beat is a high pitched synth melody emulating a violin piece. Meanwhile, Ogre sings such emotionally dense lines as “Heart can’t contain the missing fragments of memories.”
Gambatte picks up the pace. Much like Ovirt this track reflects the minimalistic early days of the band. Yet there are hints of Key’s experimentalism in random blips and bleeps and Walk comes in late into the song with an assist on guitar. All the while Ogre explores the dimensions of song. This is unlikely to be a favorite with fans as the structure is rather odd, however it is by no means a track worth skipping.
Iktums marks the middle of the album, a place conventionally held by the anchor track. It is definitely a dance floor friendly track with a steady beat and heavy rhythm. Ogre’s lyrics are more angry here and the electronic elements support the more aggressive mood. I can imagine fan chanting “Money worship nothing worship money worship nothing” along while dancing.
A strange sort of monster, Point continues this angry shift in mood. Ogre seems at the verge of a tantrum as the music track plays in what comes close to a dubstep sort of fashion. The melody warps and pulses while more electronic blips add flavor to his odd, experimental piece. If Point wasn’t odd enough, Brownstone presents a track from the extreme left field. Ogre tells a peculiar Poe-esque story over intentionally irritating music. Brownstone reflects the band’s love of horror and dark science-fiction while also mirroring their longtime anti-commercial sensibilities. It’s one for the die hard fans.
Vyrisus grabs the listener with a catchy beat and strong vocal hook. One of the stronger pieces on the album, Vyrisus combines an accessible beat with lush synth work. Village strikes the balance, offering an addictive chorus aside Ogre’s patented shouting. The music, too, finds that delicate line between accessibility and experimentalism. This one is the most likely to stay with you once the headphones are off.
Traditionally, at least by 21st century standards, a Skinny Puppy album ends with a strictly experimental piece and this in no exception. NoiseX is one part breakcore and one part dark ambient. Ogre’s groans and moans blend with the synth pads while the rhythm track clips away at like a million beats per minute. Compared to the band’s other experimental pieces NoiseX seems less off-putting, though it’s unlikely to satisfy every fan.
Overall, hanDover offers a little of everything. From minimal synth to breakcore and from gothic doom to dubstep, Skinny Puppy explore various aspects of music and yet somehow claim them as their own. Equal parts haunting and angry, equal parts underground and accessible, there is at least something of interest for fans or anyone else who wishes to take a stab in the dark. It earns its place alongside Puppy’s back catalogue and, moreover, proves the long wait was not in vain.