Skinny Puppy: Weapon

The record is pretty downright accessible and a gateway entry point for anyone remotely interested in the band, dialing down the experimental edges that Skinny Puppy was sometimes known for.

Skinny Puppy


Label: Metropolis
US Release Date: 2013-05-28
UK Release Date: 2013-06-03

Weapon, the twelfth studio album from Skinny Puppy, is not your older brother’s Skinny Puppy. Well, it is and it isn’t. Those of us of a certain age in Canada certainly remember the originally Vancouver-based Skinny Puppy as a glitchy industrial and electronic band, and early songs such as “Dig It” and “Deep Down Trauma Hounds” were certainly tuneful to a degree, but the band had an abrasive side. While 1992’s Last Rights had an effective ballad in “Killing Game” (which was a first for the band), my dim high school memories were of a record that was sheer white noise: wall-to-wall with the sounds of drills and saws, anti-Novocaine for the soul. The sort of thing that, if my parents heard me listening to it, would probably wonder what kind of evil Satan music I was getting myself into. So to hear Weapon is like hearing a side of the band you might not have heard before beyond the 12-inch singles of their heyday: The record is pretty downright accessible and a gateway entry point for anyone remotely interested in the band, dialing down the experimental edges that Skinny Puppy was sometimes known for. And you should be interested in Skinny Puppy, especially if you dig Nine Inch Nails: “Down In It” from Pretty Hate Machine is an inspired rewrite of “Dig It”, according to Trent Reznor. The group’s influence might not be entirely mainstream, but it is there – in an entire sub-genre of gothic keyboard rock. Weapon is really a harkening back to the early stuff from the ‘80s, with a touch of 21st century modernity thrown in.

Weapon is about a particular theme, that of society ailing to a point where weapons are more or less commonplace in culture – the cover art even references this with its image of a spider constructed out of blades and guns. However, as usual (some things never change), singer Nivek Ogre’s vocals are guttural and hard to parse, and when you can make out what he’s saying, much of it comes off as being very stream-of-consciousness. That’s of little concern, though, because Weapon is such a tuneful beast, one that isn’t afraid to go all Falling Down on you. Still, there’s a sense of the world growing weary for the band: Opening salvo “wornin’” sees Ogre sighing, “I’ve been out, so out of it / I’ve been hiding out”. It’s that song that leads off an extremely compelling opening trifecta: “wornin’” is clearly the sound of a band playing some old 8-bit video games, and provides a soundtrack to manning the controls of your vintage Nintendo in much the same way friends of mine used to play video games back in the day with the sound off and Ministry’s “Flashback” playing on repeat on the stereo. But it gets even better with the robotic “illisiT”, which is the sound of Armageddon going off while Ogre sings of the “criminal age” of terror. And “saLvo” has a panoramic, widescreen feel to it – a ghostly song that soars deep into the darkest of nights.

The rest of the album is more or less variations on the same. “tsudanama” is the kind of song that again references the sounds of video games, but imagine Super Mario Bros. running completely amok. “solvent” is complete glitch-rock, and achieves a bombastic lift-off not thought possible in keyboard-based music. “paragUn” winds up harkening back to the group’s ‘80s sound with a little added crunch and gloss in equal measure. Meanwhile, “survivalisto” is full of new wave keyboard squiggle, and I have to wonder if the group had dusted off their old Gary Numan albums in bringing this conception to life. At album’s end, “terminal” is full on Goth ballad full of operatic voices. It’s not quite a “Killing Game”, but it successfully brings the album down to a slow simmer.

Weapon does what it does so satisfyingly well, that it makes you rethink the concept of industrial music. While NIN’s Pretty Hate Machine was a keyboard based album, you think of the more metallic “Head Like a Hole” and what followed in that band’s catalogue as what the definition of modern industrial should be like, hammered home by Ministry’s following of the same path in the early ‘90s. But Skinny Puppy here make keyboards sound just as devious and menacing without going too far over the top: this is certainly death disco that you can dance to. And, speaking of “over the top”, this reminds me of something. I used to think that Ministry’s The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste was a completely dark and evil album in my teen years, until I revisited it again a few years later in university and was struck as to how tongue-in-cheek the whole thing was. It was almost like listening to music that would have easily underpinned anime. And so the same can be said for Weapon, which ultimately winds up being a fun album in that same “I can’t believe what funhouse of horrors Skinny Puppy is about to unleash now!” kind of way. There’s none of the Brillo pad shrillness of a record like Last Rights, and the band has honed its sound to a point where it is remarkably commercial in ambition to an extent. While Weapon probably won’t sell a million units, and will be likely consigned to the group’s cult-like fan base, there’s still the possibility of introduction to the band that the album offers to those who weren’t old enough to appreciate Skinny Puppy at their late ‘80s/early ‘90s peak. While it’s true that Weapon doesn’t reinvent the wheel, and it sounds like a mish-mash of ‘80s ideas in song structure with 2013 technology, but I’d be damned if you don’t want to pump your fist and yell to this. In other words, “Dig It”. Well, I certainly do at least.







Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.


The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.


Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.


King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.


Jim O'Rourke's Experimental 'Shutting Down Here' Is Big on Technique

Jim O'Rourke's Shutting Down Here is a fine piece of experimental music with a sure hand leading the way. But it's not pushing this music forward with the same propensity as Luc Ferrari or Derek Bailey.


Laraaji Returns to His First Instrument for 'Sun Piano'

The ability to help the listener achieve a certain elevation is something Laraaji can do, at least to some degree, no matter the instrument.


Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.


The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.


Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.


The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.


'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.


Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.


Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.


South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.


Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.


'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.


A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.


The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.