Artist: Skinny Puppy
Genre: Industrial/ Experimental
Release Date: 28th May 2013
Label: Metropolis Records
SKINNY PUPPY is back! And the first thing that attracts attention is the awesome cover artwork by Steven R. Gilmore which depicts some kind of giant android spider on the front sleeve. Is this the weapon SKINNY PUPPY are pointing at us? And how do SKINNY PUPPY sound in 2013?
There's no debate that the Canadian group is one of the most influential and most important bands of the last few decades. Formed in Vancouver, Canada, in 1982 by founding members cEvin Key (synths, programming) and Nivek Ogre (vocals), the experimental approach of SKINNY PUPPY helped to shape the Industrial scene as we know it today. But for SKINNY PUPPY the limitations of a single genre have always been too narrow. So while a myriad of epigones tried to copy the earlier SKINNY PUPPY sounds (check the albums ‘Remission’ from 1984 or the 1989 album ‘Rabies’, for example) Nivek Ogre and cEvin Key continued to break down musical barriers to explore new artistic territory. The career of SKINNY PUPPY came to an halt when third member Dwayne R. Goettel, who joined the band in 1986, died in August 1995. SKINNY PUPPY simply ceased to exist, also because Ogre and Key had been at odds for quite a while when Goettel died.
The year 2000 saw a triumphant return of SKINNY PUPPY to the concert stages with a headlining gig at a festival in Dresden, Germany. But it took another four years until the band released brand new material with the album ‘The Greater Wrong of the Right’. The release of ‘Weapon’ is the fourth studio album of the new incarnation of SKINNY PUPPY, which today also features programmer and producer Mark Walsh in the line-up. The quality of SKINNY PUPPY's releases in the new millennium have been undeniable and commonly granted them high critical appraisal. However, the reactions from the fan base were at times a bit mixed. Especially the last album ‘hanDover’, released in 2011, swamped the listener with weird noises, complex song structures and unexpected new elements. Well, that's what SKINNY PUPPY have been doing since forever but perhaps this time they were asking a bit too much from their audience. Not that they would care!
‘Weapon’ goes in this sense back to a more accessible sound, which is of course pretty relative in a SKINNY PUPPY context. Experts will see a lot of parallels to the various side projects of the band members, especially Nivek Ogre's and Mark Walsh's OHGR project. But in the end it's a typical SKINNY PUPPY record. Also in terms of lyrical content. As usual, ‘Weapon’ follows a theme and is a socially and politically very aware album. And yet there is still a lot of ambiguity. The title may refer plain and simply to society's obsession with guns, especially with current discussions about gun control in the USA in mind. But it also sees the human being itself as some form of weapon. Nivek Ogre recently explained in an interview that “everything we do has the potential to either harm or cause good. This is a choice we all make with every action. But I view the human being primarily as a weapon, and a lot of the things that we've created have had disastrous effects on us as a species”.
Musically the album starts with the upbeat and melodic ‘wornin'’ and the banging ‘illisiT’ - SKINNY PUPPY stick to their tradition of obscure song titles – and the two opening songs make clear that SKINNY PUPPY opted this time for a more straightforward and simpler song writing. There's a certain warmth and immaculacy to ‘Weapon’ that the gloomy, noisy and schizo SKINNY PUPPY of the old days rarely had. You have to go back to the very early days of the band to find stuff of a similar musical approach, when mere technical limitations meant a simpler and more direct sound. Seeing it this way it certainly makes sense that ‘Solvent’, a song from the 1984 album ‘Remission’, is also featured on the new album in a re-worked version. At first listen it was quite a surprise to hear this classic in a new shape on ‘Weapon’! Some of the new songs, like ‘saLvo’ or the danceable ‘plasiCage’, also have an almost New Wave-ish undertone while the oppressive and abstruse ‘tsudanama’ is reminiscent of the last album ‘hanDover’.
With ‘Weapon’ SKINNY PUPPY released another quality album which proves that this band still plays in a league of its own. Unfortunately the lack of commercial success of ‘hanDover’ has made sure that SKINNY PUPPY did not (yet) find a European distributor for ‘Weapon’, though the album should be available worldwide via mail-order. In a world of constantly decreasing record sales figures things get tougher for bands of a more experimental nature. Even when they musical legends. Like SKINNY PUPPY.
Nivek Ogre - vocals, lyrics, guitars, synthesizers
cEvin Key - drums, guitars, bass guitars, synthesizers
Mark Walk - guitar, bass guitar, synthesizers
Total: 9.8 / 10