[6 February 2014]
Skinny Puppy began the 2000’s by reuniting, putting the original lineup back together after being effectively disconnected since 1992. The Greater Wrong of the Right was the 2004 product of that reunion, and while it doesn’t quite break new ground or stand out like some of their past work, this reissue is a fine reminder of the skill Ogre and Key possess.
The album was recorded with both Ogre/Key and a wide host of collaborators. This turns it into a record that is still Skinny Puppy, but the influence of these pieces of other bands can be very handily felt. Opening “I’mmortal” is a catchy, guitar-flecked blend of many of the members on hand. The guitar is dotted with distortions reminiscent of Tool. The vocals, while they may not be sung by Wayne, clearly have a bit of Skinny Puppy meets Static-X vibe going for them. The listener might be tempted to ask why a band as established as Skinny Puppy needs the help of any of those involved, given their skill. Such a thought would be short sighted, as this help mixes in fresh elements alongside tried and true Skinny Puppy sonics. This mix is instrumental in helping them sound fresh, and not coming across as simply retreading old glories in song. “Pro-test” continues to ride this deft blend of classic in-house sound with outside elements. It comes across as a more rock-oriented Juno Reactor track, with tongue firmly planted in Trent Reznor’s cheek, but still all the while sounding unmistakably like Skinny Puppy ought to.
Occasionally this blending of outside sounds approach can back them into a corner. Witness “EmpTe” which sounds like a leftover from Prodigy’s recording sessions for The Fat of the Land that Skinny Puppy decided to pick up and make their own. Not a terrible track to be sure, but it’s a prime example of when the line between sound blending and sounding far too much like another band can be crossed. The same can be said for “Neuwerld”, a song that lyrically can come across like they were using a VNV Nation/Assemblage 23 Mad Libs sheet when writing it. Not that either of the other two bands mentioned are bad, certainly not. It is worthy of mention here coming as it does from a band that is one of the forefathers of industrial electro. That minor misstep aside, it is also easy to forgive them somewhat for sticking within their comfort zone.
The blended approach this album traffics in takes things to a far more interesting direction than most would expect with “Useless”. Tracks like this are the closet Skinny Puppy ever come to a ballad. The opening minute, while still unmistakably them, conjures wisps of an in-their-prime Alice in Chains track. It’s like the track Alice In Chains never recorded in the early ‘90s, coated with the industrial gloss that is germane to bands like Skinny Puppy. What results is a welcome celebration of all they are good at, simultaneously spurring hopes that they keep stretching their template out into more as yet unknown territories.
Skinny Puppy haven’t delivered their magnum opus here. What they have done is staked a claim for vitality within the genre, and paved the way for the rest of the 2000’s that followed. To wit, there is really nothing wrong with an accomplished band delivering a well crafted “showing you how it’s done” album.