This is the 11th complete album by the preeminent electro-industrial group Skinny Puppy, and it comes across as an unfortunate mellowing of the style of this usually boisterous, eccentric band. Skinny Puppy has a tradition of naming their songs with puns and neologisms. Thus we find tracks with names like “Ovirt” and “Cullorblind,” but I wouldn’t suggest you try to find the hidden meanings.
Overall the album is a languid collection of plodding, mournful tracks with reduced rhythm complexity, slowed cadences and toned-down lyrics when compared with the established Skinny Puppy oeuvre. There is conspicuous absence of the delightful and puzzling sound-samples from movies and TV that used to add an element of uniqueness and artistry to their prior albums.
Most of the songs tend to trip along, never approaching a climax. Tracks three and four would actually make great tunes for trying to fall asleep. Occasionally the rhythm breaks into a light gallop or even a rapid-fire pace. Beats in “Point” take the form of recurring electronica derived from video game or Star Wars weaponry, the effect of which is sadly cheesy.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s much in HanDover that has Skinny Puppy’s signature sound. “Vyrisus,” by far the best track on the album, revives a familiar Skinny Puppy musical device, starting with an eerie, high-pitched note that hangs drone-like, suspended over a complex and hypnotic rhythm. It is then laced with Nivek Ogre’s vocals, which alternate between a growl and a harsh whisper. But the next track, “Village,” morphs into a clone of something by My Life With the Thrill Kill Cult with its driving, drum-machine beat. HanDover concludes with “NoiseX” over seven tedious minutes of chaotic sounds with neither rhythm nor a melody. Many of Skinny Puppy’s better albums traditionally include just such a wastebasket track with leftover noise.
The formula for the album seems to have been to put Ogre’s solo work into a blender with 2007’s Mythmaker. This album unfortunately has no breakout special hit single, no powerful or explosive track. There is no delicious melody worked into an industrial soundscape as can to be heard in bygone masterpieces such as “Warlock,” “Addiction” or “Killing Game.” But it is good, serviceable if somewhat mediocre industrial music still bearing the Skinny Puppy flavor, and it is, at the very least, acceptable to the fan base. I have no idea, however, why they would go to the trouble of producing HanDover.
In A Word: Uninspired