on 31 May 2013
With every new Skinny Puppy album, there are predictable back and forth (Pardon the pun) arguments between fans, usually consisting of people not happy that the album doesn't sound like Too Dark Park or Rabies, and that it's "too modern" or "Too melodic" and "Not experimental enough"
I've always had a problem with this argument, because to me, the reason I have followed and loved every Skinny Puppy release is partly *because* it is different. Skinny Puppy are a consistently evolving and brilliant force in the world of music, an old dog that always has new tricks, if you will. That has never changed in my opinion.
And with Weapon, there can surely be no naysayers at all. It is an album that should delight every single Puppy fan, no matter what 'era' you prefer.
The previous album, Handover, demonstrated Skinny Puppy's modern electronical prowess, with little plucks and hints at nostalgia throughout. A perfect sound, if you ask me, and one I believed should have united all Puppy fans from their bickering. Alas, it didn't convince everyone, though I still fail to understand why.
If Handover had subtle nostalgic subtones, then Weapon is a nostalgia overload, with in your face sounds, synths and Ogre's vocalising straight from the likes of Bites or Remission.
With modern day lyrical inspiration, and a deliberate effort to use their old equipment, no matter your disposition this is a fascinating and involving album.
Analog feeling throughout, this is a much more stripped down and raw SP than we have heard in recent years, in fact in about 20 years. Rolling, pounding drums, raw organic synths and rasping vocals, occasionally vocoded and edited - This is familiar Puppy indeed.
The re-working of the song 'Solvent' perfectly demonstrates the approach - SP are harkening back to older works, but their feet and inspiration are firmly in the present.
The tracks 'illisiT', 'paragUn' and 'tsudanama' are classic analog heavy hitters, and tracks like 'saLvo' and 'wornin'' take me straight back to Remisson or Bites. The only real exception to the raw, analog feeling is the final track 'terminal' - Almost like the album taking a final breath, it is a beautiful and powerful ending, feeling reminiscent of The Process or the more reflective moments of The Greater Wrong Of The Right. As the album description says: "Or are the mournful tones of 'terminal' a funeral dirge for our society? - Nails it on the head.
For those looking for a definitive, all encompassing album, I wouldn't quite say this is it. I would still hold the view that Handover is perhaps the most self-descriptive album to date. What I would say though is that Weapon is still a well rounded experience non-the-less. The difference is, though, that this is a much more raw, stripped down Skinny Puppy experience. The sound isn't as 'Full' as we have heard in recent years.
There's always the possibility by going this route, some people may be put off. It is the most substantially 'different' sounding album for over 20 years. Its a strange position to be in, that by going back to their roots, they might actually alienate those who are only familiar with recent works. A very specific, rare problem for musicians that have been around for so long.
However, I remain faithful that still (unfortunately) being the 'cult' band they are, Skinny Puppy fans tend to be fans for all the right reasons, so hopefully those who aren't fully aware of anything post The Process, or maybe don't like anything before that time won't simply judge the album by it's texture and see the familiar brilliance that lies within.
"What goes around, comes back stronger"
It might not be an album rich in layered drums, effects, guitars and atmosphere, but it succeeds brilliantly in saying much more with less.
This is an important point to note too, because this album acts as a reflective commentary, lyrically, on what defines 'a weapon' in todays society. "Could the weapon be the gun, or the one who wields it?"
With something to say, and a brilliant approach to saying it - This is yet another compelling album in the incredible repertoire of Puppy. But did you really expect any less?
My hope is that this album will please everyone, as i said. And logically, it should.
Those who seek a more classic Puppy album, here it is. And for those, like me, who are content with hearing another album, expertly crafted and intelligently approached, no matter what it 'sounds like' - Here it is.
So, for a summary: Weapon is another brilliant album from Skinny Puppy, different texturally from recent efforts but nostalgic to older albums and familiar all the same.
Compelling, powerful in it's simplicity and exiting in its execution. It does not disappoint, but then again, Skinny Puppy never do.
Every Skinny Puppy fan should, and will, find joy in this album.
A solid five stars from me, and a hearty recommendation to all.