Skinny Puppy -- as gentle as dropping into a Satanist crypt
TOO DARK PARK
On Capitol Records.
By SANDE CHEN
HERE'S A BAND that dance fiends won't cling to. Even though they share the essential techno-beat wavelength as the likes of Nine Inch Nails, Bigod 20, or even Front 242, Skinny Puppy is nowhere near the typical. They haven't got the noticeable rhyming ability or shouting capacity of Nitzer Ebb; rather, they produce a more foreboding, sinister sound, as gentle as dropping into a Satanist crypt.
For the untried listener, Skinny Puppy is confusing, perhaps irrelevant. With song titles sounding like epileptic seizures or worse subjects -- like "Spasmolytic" or "Tormentor" -- reactions may be adverse. The music, for the most part, is a swirling concoction of sound bites, half-apparent vocals, and synthesizer notes. Indeed, Skinny Puppy claims to redefine the term "Industrial."
Despite this, "Tormentor," the first single off Too Dark Park -- Skinny Puppy's seventh album since 1983 -- is not so tormenting. It begins at a whisper and explodes to a "mental shock." The underlying melody is steady and more danceable than "Convulsion." "Convulsion," the preceding song, is an all-encompassing chant. "Downward, downward" is intermingled with "Hate disease, hate disease," among others, leading to a mass information glut, much like Times Square.
"Tormentor" leads straight into "Spasmolytic." Chimes add a surrealistic touch, and urgency is communicated with a fast-breaking beat. The abundant lyrics are largely indiscernible, something about "born in hate." Similarly, "Rash Reflection" churns to the same driving pulse, but first it starts off with a different tune for a few seconds, like the Dead Kennedys' "Moral Majority." Oboe-like sounds filter in, along with a multitude of echoes, creating a science fiction effect.
"Nature's Revenge" is a plaintive sigh. Vocals are hissed out against a background more usual of Camouflage. A woman asks, "Scared? You really are? What are you?" On a similar topic, in "Shorelined Poison" the listener is treated to an onslaught of whirring machinery, but unexpectedly, New Order slowly seems to take over like a spiritual possession. The mysticism is broken by a chaos of random screams, ringing alarms, and riot sirens.
"Grave Wisdom" describes a nightmarish tragedy in which Death goes berserk ("biting bits of flesh consume me"). An innocent chordal theme gets increasingly disfigured. "T.F.W.O." is upbeat, schizophrenic Ministry that purposely runs out of steam, then continues stronger and more crazed. Mutated notes converge to a climax and piddle out.
High-pitched "Morpheus Laughing" follows, enhanced by ominous howls. Finally, "Reclamation" clears out the album with a catastrophic wall of noise, at complete orchestral power.
Founding member Ogre describes Too Dark Park in this way: "Within the tiny space afforded by myself, Too Dark Park looms, as if beckoned, over a lost child madly scraping the earth all around it. Old Skin Beak prances through redneck zombie fields prying poppies from the eyelids of those to follow. Without the insight proven, before the earthly facts bore a hole straight through the living carcass shell, Too Dark Park was lush, green, a veritable toyland of smoggy highs. Old Skin Beak grows bigger only in size and now rules the park closed in by wicker brittle, dull, lifeless. Each season follows the next with the hope of rebellion. The nauseating masses churning to rehashed rhythmic metal weapons positioned with idiotic rock stances pointed in the past. Rest assured, there is plenty of room in Too Dark Park."
Anyway, for those interested parties, Skinny Puppy comes to the Somerville Theatre on Wednesday, Nov. 14 for an all ages show.