Album Review: Skinny Puppy – HanDover

Though Nine Inch Nails and Ministry reaped most of the returns – both commercial and critical – that came of industrial rock, another now-aged relic of the ’90s, Skinny Puppy, is among the very few still standing. This is an even more impressive feat when you recall that they formed way back in 1982, one of industrial music’s pioneering acts. Even though it’s been 25 years, you’re not likely to find a fan of the band who will let you forget that Trent Reznor (rather blatantly) ripped off Skinny Puppy’s “Dig It”, the group’s first-ever single, for NIN’s own debut single “Down In It”. While the majority of their industrial brethren have faded, are dying of natural causes (Nine Inch Nails), or have somehow managed to stick around way past their welcome (Gravity Kills), Skinny Puppy stay consistent and relevant, even overcoming the untimely passing of multi-instrumentalist Dwayne Goettel and a subsequent breakup for a resurgent comeback in 2004.

HanDover picks up where 2007’s Mythmaker left off, steeping Skinny Puppy’s signature dark tones in a fury that, while disarmingly melancholic and moody, is no less unrelenting. This move away from the abrasive grind and pound of their early work surfaces in a number of ways. “Point” and “ashAs” mirror Nivek Ogre’s excursions into industrial-pop/rock as ohGr, with big, distorted beats and anthemic synth lines that somehow work with the chaotic sputters of noise in the background. Closer “NoiseX” is seven minutes of sputters of chaos and the only track here that’s really forgettable.

For most of the record, though, the group stay locked into the aforementioned melancholy, reaching their peak in the relative calm of “Ovirt” and the surprisingly tame “Wavy”. Even this far into their career, Skinny Puppy shows no signs of slowing much more than the pacing of their songs. It’s a brave move though; few bands whose fanbases consist mostly of the sort of cult following Skinny Puppy inspires would continue to diverge stylistically this far into their careers. While HanDover won’t win over many new converts and – considering its disparity with their sizable back-catalog – is likely to dispel at least a few fans, it’s a brave and compelling addition to their legacy, and one that’ll likely prove to be among the group’s most enduring.

Essential Tracks: “Cullorblind”, “Village”, “Ovirt”


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