Let’s get the comparisons out of the way first, shall we? This sounds very much like a Skinny Puppy creation. Not the post-millenium incarnation, but the prime-80s/90s version, where layer upon layer of sound is added to the mix, with unsettling samples, barely coherant vocals and a grimy, darkened feel to proceedings. Add to the mix a touch of the rage and paranoia of Velvet Acid Christ, and the distorted, chaotic feel of Numb circa Critical Mass, and you have a band that sounds very, very different to their new labelmates Cyanotic.
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In addition to that, I understand that this band have been around for a number of years (about 12 years or so), but this is their first album. And judging on the programming prowess, this has not been a wasted time.
Opener Don’t Fall Back is astounding: it spends the opening two or three minutes building layer by layer like a gathering storm before a jagged guitar riff tears across the sound. Vocals are buried deep within the mix, and those that are distinguishable are delivered in a breathless, cut-up style not unlike ohGr. No Man makes the comparison even more stark, with vocals even closer to him. It simply explodes later into the track, though, into scattershot beats and effects to impressive effect.
Lies is slower, and more expansive, with an almost cinematic scope to go with it’s sprawling length, while Shutdown had a far more urgent, piledriving beat, riddled with samples, electronics and topped off by more jagged guitars and lyrics of self-loathing and pure hatred. You And I is an unexpected glint of sunlight in such a dark place: glimmering electronics, with gentle female vocals overlaying a very, very ohGr-like vocal. It doesn’t last long, though, as Cuts The Skin drags things back under with a languid beat that oddly sounds more intense that it perhaps should, and certainly raises the spectre of Numb more than anywhere else on the album.
Soul And Substance is a welcome injection of a higher tempo, with a great groove to the track that sounds dirty and grimy. Perhaps the moment that shows their formative influences more than anything, though, is Skinloader, in it’s “Brap Mix” form. I’ll leave it to the reader to decide how that might just sound… Retribution takes a while to get going, but it’s chugging guitars, and twisted and distorted vocals soon take a back seat to various guitars and effects that strike from the sidelines with no warning, before mutating into a different track entirely about half way through without any loss of momentum.
Whore takes us fully into metal territory, with barely any electronic effects masking the guitar and drums assault, and it makes for a striking, raw departure from the processed precision of the rest of the album. Closing track You Belong To Me hauls things back in the opposite direction entirely, a dreamy, spaced out marathon of a track that multi-tracks the vocals into entire choirs to spectacular effect.
Despite the obvious influences, this is a mightily impressive album, that should quite happily be able to stand on it’s own two feet. There’s a fire here, a power that many bands simply don’t have, and their sheer technical mastery is pretty damned impressive. And even if you don’t agree, this is the album that Skinny Puppy should have made instead of the desperately drab Mythmaker.