Gary 'Rockulus' Clarke
Canada has a leading light within the electronically-minded Skinny Puppy and their endeavours to bring industrial experimentation to the masses. It seems somewhat futile making comparisons to their different eras, as they delve whole heartedly in one direction bringing out specific elements of their sound, and then releasing something very different on their next release.
The real trick to loving this band comes in the form of embracing each album as a separate entity; despite the common thread flowing throughout their back catalogue being their manipulation of programmed beats, layers of electronica and those wonderful rough vocals.
'Weapon' lyrically addresses the idea of just such a concept; weapons and all that comes with them. Musically, it brings all manner of early-inspired industrial carnage, stripping back the layers to give the listener the bare mechanical bones of what each track is about. For a band that have been releasing albums since 1984, you'd obviously expect some firm understanding of the genre from them and an expert grasp on delivery. They do not disappoint.
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With wornin' starting the rampage of analogue sounding blips and bloops, you know your ears are in safe hands. Pulsating and driving rhythms push forth until you suddenly realise that four minutes and fifty seconds have passed you by already. Rolling forwards like a retro robot with spikes and spanners intent on harming the ears, illisiT with the refrain "This is the criminal age" and saLvo with the all encompassing narrative at the tail end, maintain a solid continuity.
gLowbeL offers up some melody to the proceedings without losing the plot, whilst solvent completes the first half of 'Weapon' with a touch of mechanical precision. If only I could get my kitchen appliances and console games to work together in a perfect industrial harmony like this!
The second half of 'Weapon' begins with paragUn which is full of regimented groove and once it fizzles out, survivalist brings about a plodding and lumbering disappointment. Clocking in at just over the six minute mark, tsudanama is the longest track. "Hey destruction!" is a great opening to a line of lyrics, and that is the case in point with this. Musically, it's a busy beast and switches from industrial fireworks to a more restrained backdrop as the vocals flow in time one moment and become a narrative the next.
The last two numbers on this album retain their own personalities, as plastiCage carries the vibe of being a cool addition to a Gothic nightclub playlist, complimenting flashing strobes and seducing the many black-clothed clubbers who twist and turn in time to the beat. On the other hand, terminal begins with a slow menacing opening, gradually growing into itself as beats creep in and amongst the shadows that loom overhead. This is more about atmosphere than its predecessors.
With Nine Inch Nails due to release 'Hesitation Marks' before the end of this year, one can only speculate on what the best industrial album will be in 2013. But whatever you do, don't rule out the Puppies!
Dwayne R. Goettel
Skinny Puppy: 'Weapon' Tracklist: