What we share is love and dark
The very first time that I heard Skinny Puppy, I was 17 years old, a die-hard metalhead. I was in my girlfriend's bedroom, listening to music and making out. She put in a tape that a friend had given her and once it started, we abruptly stopped our fooling around. Neither of us had ever heard anything like it. The sound was dense and confusing, with layers of sonic textures instead of tones, and sounds that seemed to move throughout the room. The vocals were distorted almost beyond recognition, like a demon screaming in hell. It was dark, twitchy and wicked-sounding music, an aesthetic that appealed to me at a time when I'd rather listen to "Reign in Blood" than the repetitive, droning techno sounds that I'd come to associate with electronic music. I knew I was listening to something important. The tape was "Too Dark Park," Skinny Puppy's 1990 opus. For me, that album constituted a bridge between aesthetics: metal (growling and dark) on the one hand, and electronic music (with its infinite vocabulary and digital precision) on the other.
Seized upon by the '90s goth scene for their dark, industrial sound and their daring, visceral stage performances, Skinny Puppy became a band that many people had heard, but for whom popular acclaim remained elusive. From 1984 to 1992, they released eight full-lengths on Nettwerk. After the release of their incredibly influential "Last Rites" album in 1992, and the subsequent North American tour, they parted ways with the label, seeking greener pastures. Eventually landing with Rick Rubin's American Recordings, they started work on "The Process," an album that took more than two years to finish, and cost Skinny Puppy its vocalist, Kevin "Ogre" Ogilvie (to a solo project) and its synthesist, Dwayne Goettel (to a heroin overdose). Creative differences abounded and legal problems kept the album in limbo. In 1996, founder cEvin Key and David "Rave" Ogilvie reunited to finish the record, marketed at the time as Skinny Puppy's final album.
After "The Process," a multitude of side projects sprang up from Skinny Puppy's compost and from Key's Subconscious label. Download, Key's main project, released six albums with collaborators such as Genesis P-Orridge, Mark Spyby (of Dead Voices on Air) and Anthony Valcic. Ogre released and toured behind an album under the moniker Ohgr. Then, in 2000, Ogre and Key reunited for a live show in Dresden, releasing the performance on the album "Back & Forth Vol. 5." Rumors of a new release started, and before long, Ogre and Key were back in the studio.
So now, eight years after their "final" album, Skinny Puppy is set to release a full-length disc of new material, "The Greater Wrong of the Right," on the German label SPV. This album also represents a kind of an aesthetic bridge, taking the best elements of contemporary metal, glitch and post-'90s industrial, and combining them in a way that will appeal to dyed-in-the-wool Puppy fans, while still welcoming a generation of listeners who have cut their musical teeth on Korn and Linkin Park to consider broader musical horizons. It constitutes a continuation of the creative vector evident in "The Process," while also bearing testament to the lessons learned from countless side projects and collaborators.
Indeed, the album has an excellent lineup of such collaborators, including Miami glitch master Otto Von Shirach, Danny Carey of Tool and Omar Torres. Reflecting on his work on those myriad side projects, Key says, "It's given us a golden opportunity to experiment in all these different areas ... to have had six or seven years to develop all these other things has given me a certain clarity about what I have to bring to the table with Skinny Puppy."
With this album, there were none of the label-related stumbling blocks they had found with American. Key remarks, "Meeting SPV and coming to terms with them is what we really should have done 10 years ago." Songs like "L'mmortal" and "Pro-test" are reminiscent of the guitar-driven work on 1989's Al Jourgenson-produced Rabies and will appeal to those who prefer standard song structures and heavy licks, while "Ghostman" is the track most representative of the abstract, surgically electronic sound of "Last Rights"-era Puppy, and will please those most comfortable with that kind of abstruse composition. A multiplicity of genres are represented, and this makes the album a gateway -- it can be used to introduce electronic flavors to those that enjoy heavy rock, and it can remind fans of electronic music that there is still a place in the world for those distorted guitar riffs.
With a U.S. tour this summer (the stop closest to Orlando will be Atlanta on June 25), a video project based on the tour and another tour in the fall, Key is hopeful that this album portends a new era for one of the most respected industrial bands in the world. "With Dwayne passing away, we had to pay our respects to that version of Skinny Puppy more or less dying, but then it was appropriate for Ogre and I to step up and try to rescue our original intention again," he says. There is still more ground for Skinny Puppy to cover and they still have more love to share. Love and, of course, dark.