There's much to like about Skinny Puppy's first album. Right away, it's clear that Nivek Ogre, cEvin Key, and producer Dave Ogilvie are surfing through a sea of influences, demonic as their own take on these influences might be. Key member R. Dwayne Goettel wouldn't be joining the band until their next album, so his trademark demented keyboards and effects are absent, and in their place is a kind of film score minimalism. Indeed, many of the songs are reminiscent of the more mysterious cinematic moments of Popul Vuh and Jack Nitzsche. Hints of Depeche Mode and the Human League are all over "Assimilate," unmistakable Joy Division/New Order rhythm motifs crop up on "Dead Lines" and "Icebreaker," and fragmented and flanged Cabaret Voltaire experimentation is everywhere. But the band's sinister signature underbelly is already fully intact. Splattering sound effects, gurling gushing synths, piercing keyboards, and loads of spooky samples from The Legend of Hell House paint the songs in the traditional industrial horror fashion for which the band is known. "The Choke" is perhaps most indicative of the band's later sound, with its creepy samples from Roman Polanski's "The Tenant" (a source the band would return to on VIVISect VI) and Ogre's gruff vocals mingling under an abrasive chug of machine-gun guitar dynamics. "Social Deception," another standout, is an artsy collage that sees the band twiddling with distorted electronics. Wicked, deviant voices and a twitchy electro pulse make for a frightening experience. Most surprising about this early peek into the band's bag of tricks is how delicate and pristine they sound without the more elaborate layers of samples and effects that would become their bread and butter. Bites is a fascinating look at Skinny Puppy in embryonic form, full of beautiful keyboard sounds and brimming with youthful experimentation.
AllMusic Review by Tim DiGravina