Review Summary: Despite what you might have heard, this is not the great Skinny Puppy release that you must listen to if you like Industrial music.
I’m a huge fan of Skinny Puppy, but that doesn’t mean that I’m blind to a band’s low points. A lot of people look at this album as a pinnacle in Skinny Puppy’s career, as it saw them expanding their sound, in part due to them taking on Al Jorgensen of Ministry
as the producer of this album, but I just don’t see it. Sure, it could be seen as a pinnacle of their career if you’re just referring to their increased drug use (heroin in particular… thanks to Al for that one), but musically it’s nothing more then a transitional album where they seem to be attempting to find a new sound, and achieving mediocre results.
Skinny Puppy albums prior to this were firmly entrenched in the 80’s Industrial sound but with enough unique elements such as Ogre’s vocals and Cevin’s multi-instrumental abilities to set them apart. The beats were mostly simple, but the music was full of harsh synths, distorted vocals, and yet it was somehow catchy too. The beats on this album are still simple and there are plenty of distorted vocals and synths, but it’s just not catchy or even interesting for the most part. The first three tracks start with basic beats that are unchanging for over five minutes each and have barely any musical accompaniment at all. In addition, the samples don’t add anything to the meaning or atmosphere of the songs. The final complaint would be the vocals of Ogre. He is known to scream and rant his way through a song or two in his time, but the music was always good enough to allow him to do that, but not this time.
The first moment of interest comes on the fourth track called, “Fascist Jock Itch” which shows off some of Al Jorgensen’s influence. It is fast paced and features distorted guitar riffs, a pulsating underlying synth line, and some very angry vocals from Ogre. The combined effect is a song that actually seems to have some life to it and actually remains memorable by the time it ends. The following song “Worlock” is Skinny Puppy’s defining moment as far as I am concerned. This song found them increasing the darkness of older songs, adding more subtle melody and combining it with many more layers of synths and sounds. This song also features one of the best choruses of any song I’ve ever heard when Ogre’s vocals take on a sad and computerized effect, and it is memorable as hell without being poppy in the least. It is these elements that they would take even farther on their next and best album, Too Dark Park
After a brief transitional song, they go back to the Metal influence found on “Fascist Jock Itch”, and show off Al Jorgensen’s sway during a high speed noisy freak-out about half way through. Sadly, after this song, things are just terrible, as the songs lose any kind of focus or even the remotely listenable aspects of the first three tracks. This is no more apparent then in the final track which is sixteen minutes of mostly formless noise, and ends the album on a very low note.
If you’re looking to get into Industrial or Skinny Puppy and heard that this was a good album to start with, you were sadly misinformed. Although this album contains the best song to bear the Skinny Puppy name (Worlock), the rest of the album consists of two good Industrial Metal songs, three average songs, and five songs that aren’t worth wasting your time on. If you’re looking for some driving and aggressive Industrial then look for The Process
, if you want dark multi-layered flawlessness then look for Too Dark Park
, and if you want Skinny Puppy at their most challenging and eccentric then look for Last Rights
; only after seeking out these three albums might I suggest that you spend any time on this one.