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Skinny Puppy: VIVIsectVI

November 5, 2010

Today’s roll: 3 – 6 – 16.
Result:
VIVIsectVI by Skinny Puppy.

One of Skinny Puppy’s most celebrated albums, VIVIsectVI (1988) always flew a little under my radar being sandwiched between two of my favourites (Cleanse, Fold and Manipulate and Rabies). As a nihilistic teen, it was rarely the one I’d select from my cassette rack before heading downstairs to spend my Saturday working in my father’s machine shop.

Come to think of it, Skinny Puppy was actually the only group he banned me from playing on the shop’s ghettoblaster. That’s beating out the likes of Slayer.

It might have had something to do with the Puppies apparent ability to play five separate songs at at the same time, layered on top of each other like a steaming hot pile of audio nachos with the works.

This was enabled by their early adoption of samplers and tape decks as part of their gear in an entirely diabolical way. Unlike other bands who pioneered the use of samplers in the 1980s, Skinny Puppy didn’t splice together coherent grooves from segments of existing songs or use samples as complementary embellishments.

They used the sampler as a tactical weapon, strafing the listener’s brain with a rapid fire of aural information sourced from television, movies, radio and, by the sounds of it, hell itself.

Mind you, this is all on top of a bed relatively benign synth and drum-machine rhythms. Strip away the bedlam of samples, and Nivek Ogre‘s demonic vocalizations, and what you’d be left with wouldn’t be that far removed from Depeche Mode.

Revisiting VIVIsectVI, I admit I’ve been neglecting a jewel in their catalogue. Though it lacks the “catchy” numbers (can you ever use the word “catchy” with SP?) found on other albums, it still boasts a bevy of strong tracks. “Testure“, “Harsh Stone White” and “Who’s Laughing Now” are all classic Puppy, blending horrific imagery with strong electro-beats and warped keyboard flourishes.

There are a few mis-steps. “VX Gas Attack“, a cheerful ditty about Iraq’s use of chemical weapons against Iran, contains a laughably cheesy monologue which might actually have been partially responsible for my original lukewarm feelings towards the album. Also, the CD edition has a slight case of b-side-itis. The bonus tracks frankly drag down the quality of the final third of an otherwise strong program.

There’s always been something unfathomable and impenetrable about Skinny Puppy’s music, but for those looking for a door to knock on, VIVIsecVI is as safe a bet as any. But be warned: it’s the rusted, pock-marked steel door of an abandoned abattoir.

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