Skinny Puppy has been making music for a long time. Since the early 1980’s actually. For a band to continue to make music after so long is not something that happens a lot. For a band to continue to evolve their music, shift around and still kick out new and GOOD tunes is even more unheard of. Skinny Puppy has managed to achieve both these things and hopefully there is no end anytime soon. hanDover is not what some might consider a “typical” Skinny Puppy album compared to previous ones. As they have done several times with past albums (Last Rights, The Greater Wrong of the Right), Skinny Puppy shifts musical gears a bit with hanDover.
I’ve heard from several people about hanDover. Some are loving it and others are hating it. Some referred to it as a Skinny Puppy “experiment” gone bad. Too be honest, initially it was not what I was expecting. There are some tracks on ohGr‘s latest album, Undeveloped, that sound more Skinny Puppy like. After listening to hanDover several times, I disagree with the haters and those quick to judge it as “too different”.
Skinny Puppy has always been about pushing and shifting their sound. Most fans know cEvin Key and Nivek Ogre are involved in many side projects; Key is part of the band Download and Ogre’s main project has been ohGr. None of their non-Skinny Puppy projects really veer too far from the core music style that is Skinny Puppy. With hanDover, even though there has been a shift, if you listen you can hear a mixing of their projects coming together to create hanDover.
“Ovirt” has subtle elements of older Skinny Puppy around the Remission era with it’s skittish noises and mild melodic tones. Ogre’s vocals take on a slightly distorted treatment while mixing with the melody and noise, becoming part of it. “Icktums” also has some of the more foundational Skinny Puppy feel with it’s aggressive pace. It’s full of slightly grungy vocals and dada like lyrics interlaced with the noise and rhythms. You can hear hints of Download in the track as well. “Cullorblind” feels a bit like Skinny Puppy circa 1996’s The Process. For Skinny Puppy, the track starts with clean vocals and sluggish beats. Tension continues to grow and escalate into heavy beats and Ogre’s signature distorted vocals, but the track nnever gets aggressive.
Shifting gears, “Gambatte” and “Ashas” lean a bit towards the ohGr side of things, especially “Gambatte“. It’s full of melodic and bouncy beats, synth vocals and strange repetitive digital noise. It has almost an upbeat feel. “Village” and “Vyrisus” are probably my two favorite tracks. No surprise there since they are probably the heaviest tracks on the album. Both have pounding beats, heavily distorted vocals and are the most aggressive tracks of the group.
“Noisex” is the odd track out. It’s a seven minute journey that sounds like a Download track that has gone to Hell and back. It’s full of nothing but chaotic digital noise and strange sweeping, digitized vocals. A hard track for me to listen to for seven minutes.
I understand the people who have been trying to tell me hanDover is not a Skinny Puppy album. There are some key Skinny Puppy elements from their past that don’t appear on hanDover. One of which is creep factor. Older Skinny Puppy tracks like “Chainsaw” or “Nature’s Revenge” are downright creepy. There aren’t any truly creepy tracks on hanDover. The second Skinny Puppy element missing is the chaotic lyric structure. Lyrics that seem to go together like a dada inspired term paper. Both these things are part of Skinny Puppy, but they are also things they seem to be moving away from (wether intentional or not). A final missing element is aggression. hanDover, compared to most Skinny Puppy works, is fairly low key. A few tracks get slightly heavy, but the Skinny Puppy aggression heard on other albums is just not found on hanDover.
I will admit that it took me a few listens to really hear what is going on with hanDover. I think some fans may dislike hanDover much like some disliked Last Rights when it first came out. Give it three or four listens. I think you’ll come to hear a solid Industrial album that Skinny Puppy has managed to keep unique.
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