Long-lived bands in industrial music are nothing unusual – it sometimes feels like few of the big names in the genre have ever really gone away since the 80s – but to have a band still sounding as vital as Skinny Puppy frequently do is a rare thing indeed. This was the third time I’ve seen them live in the past six years – and while their appearance in Manchester in 2005 wasn’t all that special, the 2004 appearance at The Forum has passed into legend as one of the greatest shows I and many of my friends have ever seen.
So, six years on, almost to the day, they are back at that very venue. But before SP, we had a support act – who had no billing whatsoever, never appearing in any ad for the gig, there wasn’t even any information up for show times.
The unfortunate band in that situation was an Essex band by the name of Hounds, who I’ve not heard of – and no wonder seeing as they only recently have changed their name to this. Thing is, I’ve not heard of the band they were before either. They were friendly enough, and were clearly happy to be there, but were somewhat fish out of water. Musically it was obvious that they were on good terms with the back catalogue of Killing Joke, but with less of the edgy, dark feel. So fast-paced songs, lots of bass, the odd squelch of synthesisers, and a bellowing vocal. But honestly, I’m afraid I couldn’t recall a single song now. Maybe I’ll hear them again sometime.
As for Skinny Puppy, with still no sign of the new album other than various conflicting reports in the music press, there was no real pressure and nothing to promote. It might have been expected that the odd new song might have appeared despite this, but it didn’t happen – not that I think anyone was complaining.
If you’ve read any of the reports of the North American tour at the end of last year, pretty much this was a similar set to that, so a good mix of new(ish) and old, and some very, very old stuff that I certainly didn’t recognise at the time. But that’s the beauty of Skinny Puppy’s vast backcatalogue, and the band’s clear willingness to delve back into it to keep their tours interesting – you never quite know what’s going to appear. Like The Process-offcut Hatekill, which sounded fucking ace, and the very, very odd Deadlines, which sounded like something created on primitive eighties synths. As it probably was.
That’s not to say some of the classics weren’t here – there was a feast of those too. An unexpected peak was an extraordinary Dogshit, made all the more freaky and intense by the image of Nivek Ogre in a box, in a bright white ghost-like hood, facing into two cameras and projected on a big screen. Maybe you had to be there, but, woah.
Love In Vein
Shore Lined Poison
I’ve not been shy about my opinions on Mythmaker in the past, either, and I still maintain it’s not actually that good. It does have it’s good moments, though, and Justin Bennett’s thunderous drumming made Pedafly ascend into SP classic territory for me, and Politikil was pretty fantastic, too.
The other thing, that dawned on us late on, was the way the set was structured. Effectively split into two parts, the first six or so songs merged seamlessly into each other, and only then did the band pause for breath, before going flat out until the encore break, closing things with Assimilate that sent the crowd nuts. The encore was of note, by the way, for a glorious Worlock and the most unexpected closing track Shore Lined Poison – apparently introduced at a festival over the weekend with a tirade against the oil spill pollution in the Gulf of Mexico. The whole thing worked spectacularly, in fact, as a brutal assault on the senses that reminded just how extreme Skinny Puppy can get.
In fact, unlike “scene” peers KMFDM, who celebrated 25 years as a band recently, but have remained in one style, broadly, over much of their career, Skinny Puppy have made no real effort to celebrate the past and instead continually reinvent themselves with different sounds, approaches and themes, but somehow whatever they release always comes out recognisably as Skinny Puppy. Theirs is the sound of chaos, and darkness, and let’s be honest, they don’t sound like anyone else.
That is, anyone else. As in, not in the industrial scene or out of it. And long may it remain that way.