Rabies is a solid, sordid album from Skinny Puppy, even if it isn't always the sound of the band operating at their peak. All of the trademark Skinny Puppy elements are in place: Nivek Ogre's snarling vocals, snippets of dialogue from sci-fi and horror movies, and symphonic, chugging synth sounds. At least four of the album's 11 tracks are perfect examples of Skinny Puppy's sonic attack. "Rodent" is monumentally menacing, with Ogre's vocals giving the impression that they've been growled through a megaphone that's been recorded from a microphone at least a half-mile away. Stop-start keyboards effects, phase-shifted grunts and groans, warped handclaps, and screeching sound fragments all give the impression that some mad army of musical warlocks are approaching and encroaching upon the listener. "Hexonxonx" mixes equal doses of twisted humor and Throbbing Gristle-like experimentation, working like a kind of post-Dario Argento film chillout. "Worlock" and "Tin Omen" both display genius implementation of movie dialogue samples; very few artists employ the kind of impeccable timing and craftsmanship at work on these two tracks. Though Too Dark Park would display the height of the band's cut-and-paste artistry, this blueprint or slow-birth on Rabies is compelling in its own right. The album's weaker songs aren't by any means throwaways; "Rivers," for example, is an interesting collision of Skinny Puppy and film director Stanley Kubrick, as samples from A Clockwork Orange and 2001: A Space Odyssey weave and intertwine; and "Sphan Dirge" is a kind of middle ground between industrial rage and the dark fury of John Cale's existential punk stage. Still, the Achilles heel of Rabies is the production and contributions of Ministry's Alain Jourgensen. What comes across as masterful on Ministry's The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste just doesn't seem appropriate for Skinny Puppy. Jourgensen's influence causes the band to rock out in places where they'd usually be weeping, wailing, and flailing in ecstasy and torment. Rabies is required listening for Skinny Puppy fans, but it's too uneven to recommend to casual listeners, and it's not a good starting point for newcomers.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Tim DiGravina