SKINNY PUPPY - Belasco Theater DTLA December 12 2023

Industrial Music Pioneers Skinny Puppy Sell Out Four Shows in DTLA
By Dana Benson

In early December 2023, the influential industrial rock band Skinny Puppy completed their farewell tour with four shows at the Belasco Theater in Downtown Los Angeles.

Skinny Puppy was formed in the early 1980s in Vancouver when Kevin Crompton (stage name cEvin Key) collaborated with Kevin Ogilvie (stage name Nivek Ogre). Key had been working on tracks for an industrial music project called Skinny Puppy. Ogre, a poet, became the front man and singer. Dwayne Goettel joined in 1986 and was an essential musical contributor before his death.

The current lineup includes guitarist Matthew Setzer and drummer Justin Bennett.

Setzer's dramatic stage presence, powerful guitar licks, and Bennett's dynamic drumming added texture to the shows. Setzer is active in the ritual performance art community and has contributed to Skinny Puppy lead singer Ogre's solo band, as has Bennett.

Skinny Puppy played about twenty tracks from different phases of their long career. Highlights included the opening song "VX Nerve Gas," "Worlock," "Dig It," "God's Gift (Maggot)," "Rodent," "Tormentor," "Choke," "Inquisition," "Assimilate," "Dig It," and the beautiful instrumental track "Film." Singer Ogre performed most of the show in an alien mask, playing a character he calls "The Other", miming a linear story with the help of other actors, especially a dark figure wearing a shiny black opaque mask with a bull's horns played by Dustin Schultz.

I thought, at times, the live drums in the mix were a little big, and occasionally, the sound was muddy, but overall, the music was as powerful and disturbing as it was designed to be. Skinny Puppy emphasizes the darkness of the world we live in and darker worlds that might be coming from nuclear power, animal testing, genetic manipulation, and war.   One of their themes is that science and technology can amplify our power to inflict pain and torture upon each other and must be monitored.

Skinny Puppy took the mechanical beat of early 1980s industrial music and added more complex drum patterns (synth player and composer Key was originally a drummer), adding more textures (including samples), and bringing in more melody. They made the music more danceable. Also, by processing Ogre's voice through synthesizers, they gave it a robotic sound, which is one of their unique characteristics, along with his stream-of-consciousness lyrics.

Critic S. Alexander Reed suggests on page 180 of his book Assimilate: A Critical History of Industrial Music that : "Skinny Puppy took music that had been (ironically or otherwise) militaristic and impenetrable and recast it as permeable, ectoplasm-drenched, and borderless. Their music embodies non-rigidity, overflow, theatrical spectacularism, birth, and irrationality."

Paul Barker's band Lead into Gold opened.   Barker co-founded Ministry, one of the most important industrial bands. Barker's set was moody and atmospheric, featuring a distorted bass drone and complex synths orchestrated by partner Josh Holley. "Hard Won Decay" was one of the stronger tracks from their new album "The Eternal Present."

T he shows were a lot of fun. It's too bad that Skinny Puppy's life is over. The good news is that cEvin Key, Ogre, Paul Barker, Josh Holley, Matthew Setzer, and Justin Bennett are all working on new projects.

Posted By DH Magazine on March 13, 2024 06:16 pm | Permalink