Skinny Puppy reunited some years ago thanks to lucrative German industrial festival cash. Well, it turns out that Germany’s love of industrial wasn’t enough to keep the band fat and paid. And, hey, when a band release uninspired messes like The Greater Wrong of the Right and the less-than-absolutely-fucking-terrible Mythmaker, they should expect their already-limited audience to get even smaller. The band found themselves signed to a bankrupt label and forced by the German courts to deliver an album—thus HanDover. Their intention was to deliver a mess of noisy bleeps and distortion—not such a departure from their usual compositions—but the point is that it was supposed to be bad! It turns out poverty and desperation gave the band something to say.
It should be no surprise the band’s greatest achievements, Rabies and Too Dark Park, were manifestations of their personal torments and their anti-authoritarian, anti-corporate, pro-animal-rights worldview. Ministry’s Al Jourgensen produced Rabies and got lead singer Nivek Ogre hooked on heroin. The album gave birth to two of the band’s best singles: “Warlock,” a hilling rant through the eyes of a Charles Manson follower, featuring a spine tingling sample of Manson delivering the line from the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” (“You may be a love but you ain’t no dancer!”) and “Tin Omen,” a storming political rallying cry that compares Kent State to Tiananmen Square. The music, all squiggling synth plunks, movie samples, broken beats that feel like Gary Numan’s “Down in the Park” just had its way with you. On Too Dark Park, Ogre tried to kick the habit and delivered a masterpiece of horror and numbness. But as the band members continued through their drug haze into the ’90s, shitty albums and a band-member death followed. It must have been hard to watch their music and image raped and pillaged by Marilyn Manson and NIN. Of course, the band’s music is not that different than the stuff Skrillex turns out these days. Maybe Skinny Puppy can find a home with the dubstep crowd, or, more likely, HanDover will please old-school fans who understand the band’s allure and leave outsiders scratching their heads and holding their ears. At the very least, HanDover makes me want to break out my old Puppy records and reminisce.