Skinny Puppy's second life has meant an exchange in profile from vanguard of industrial-music-as-such to cult appreciation, but what the band lacks in terms of immediacy and notice it seems to have gained in a kind of cryptic comfort level. On the third album since cEvin Key and Ogre restarted the group, there's a kind of pleasant frisson to be found between the contrast of Ogre's ever present distorted rasp and Key's fluid grasp of sampling and sonic structure. If anything, the kind of layered explosiveness that used to define the band completely is one approach of several, so hearing songs like "Ovirt," bubbling tones leading the way, shows both what has changed and remained the same in equal measure. While Ogre's lyrics are no less anti-sunshine than ever, the pulsing and nervous rage that defined the group's first years is constantly supplemented by the more tempered turn of recent years, though there's a notable exception in the cackling accent put on "Brownstone." Meanwhile, a few songs like the rabble-rousing "Vyrisus" and the mostly four-to-the-floor punch of "Point" and "Village" fully relaunch the demi-EBM/dance approach of earlier times in turn, while the smooth buildup and flow of "Cullorblind" make for one of the flat-out catchier songs they've done. The regular presence of acoustic guitars on many tracks, while hardly surprising at this point in the band's career, does demonstrate how far the band has come over time in terms of what the partnership would mean, but perhaps even more telling is how the basic combination of vocal stress and slippery, queasy textures remains paramount. Even a song like "Wavy," perhaps one of the gentlest they've ever done, drums as skittering pace and pulse, wouldn't be as strong without the melancholic touches of piano and other more unidentifiable sources swirling around the arrangement. In contrast, songs like "Gambatte" sometimes feel a touch forced with the quicker pace and higher energy, though as a nod to pop hyperactivity in its own right there's something to them, a wicked wink that works.
by Ned Raggett