A Trip to the Dark Side: Skinny Puppy's Greatest Hits

Aug 25, 2002

The Bottom Line Skinny Puppy is truly one of the greatest electronic bands of our time, and these are the darkest, most perfect gems of their career.

O all my black-haired, black fingernailed, collared brothers and sisters, do gather 'round. It's time for us to celebrate the music of perhaps the greatest melders of aggressive electronics, harsh noise and lush melodies ever to stimulate the ears of humankind: Skinny Puppy. Skinny Puppy got their start in 1984 with a self-produced set called Back and Forth, released in an edition of 100 copies on cassette. Most of the songs on that cassette were rereleased on the Back and Forth Volume 2 CD, but none of the songs on that first tape came close to achieving the heights that Skinny Puppy would eventually reach with their music. Thus, none of the songs on Back and Forth make the list.

Ah, did I forget to tell you about the list? This, friends, is the list of the twenty greatest Skinny Puppy songs of all time.

#20) Dead Lines
From Bites, "Dead Lines" is a song that I've always had a soft spot for. It holds no significant importance in the Skinny Puppy canon, it wasn't a single, and I've never seen it mentioned as one of the great Skinny Puppy moments. As an example of early Skinny Puppy, though, it's nearly unparalleled. Even at the early stages in Skinny Puppy's career, cEvin Key was showing a mastery of melody extremely uncommon in music of the genre. It's just a great song to listen to, and one that should be paid more attention to.

#19) LaHuman8
The only B-Side on the list, this originally appeared on the Inquisition single. Generally, Skinny Puppy B-Sides aren't anything to write home about, but "LaHuman8" is an insanely impressive extension of the controlled chaos that appeared on Last Rights. The pain and anguish in the lyrics is brought to the forefront, as this is just about as close to a breakup song as Skinny Puppy got. The delivery of lines like As she says once again/Turning me alone/So I left it alone/Leave me alone is simply chilling. It's certainly something to be sought out if you haven't yet heard it.

#18) Far Too Frail
A great old school Skinny Puppy tune from the Remission album. You can almost dance to it. There's not much more to say than that.

#17) Deep Down Trauma Hounds
This was sort of a single, from Cleanse, Fold, and Manipulate. I say "sort of" a single because it seems to appear on the singles compilations, but I don't know that an official single was ever released for it. Whatever it is, the rhythmic delivery of the vocals and stacatto synth chords combine to make a classic. Oh, and the Bugs Bunny samples don't hurt, either.

#16) Hardset Head
An awful lot of people seem to hate The Process, citing the overuse of guitars and the un-distortion of Nivek Ogre's vocals as major reasons. Personally, I really like The Process, and this song is one of the shining moments. It's four minutes of sheer agression, with screaming guitars, an incredibly fast beat, and lots of screaming from Mr. Ogre. Perhaps most brilliantly, it's punctuated by stabs of silence.

#15) The Centre Bullet
The only true example of the atmospheric side of Skinny Puppy on this list, it's also the only song in the Skinny Puppy discography on which main programmer cEvin Key contributes vocals. It's pleasantly melodic while still building feelings of claustrophobia and longing. It's another of Bites' shining moments.

#14) Killing Game
One of the most overtly melodic (almost sing-songy, even) pieces in the Skinny Puppy catalogue, the single-note piano motif is the height of drama and tension. Ogre's lyrics making reference to his own drug addiction don't hurt, either.

#13) Nature's Revenge
As long as we're on the subject of melody, this extremely creepy track is one of the greatest moments of the best Skinny Puppy album out there, Too Dark Park. Employing some fantastic slide bass, and big, creepy chords, it invokes the feeling of being trapped in the forest at some ungodly hour of the night, complete with a sampled dialogue that says:

"Are you scared of where we are?"
"I'm not scared."
"Hm--then what are you?"

Trust me, it's better when you hear it.

#12) Rodent
Sure, Rabies wasn't their best album, but it did contain some hidden gems. "Rodent" is a guitar-tinged, hard-driving beast of a song. You should hear it.

#11) Amnesia
This tune, full of piano and subtle chord changes, is a perfect example of the reason Dwayne Goettel (who died during the recording of The Process) will be missed. Ogre's vocals take on a degree of subtlety that was to this point unheard in Skinny Puppy's history, and Key's electronics lend just a hint of the chaotic. It provides the perfect final song-proper to The Process and the band's career to this point.

#10) Jahya
Yes, the first song in the top 10 is another song from The Process. If I were to make a Skinny Puppy mix-tape, this song would probably kick it off--it makes a very effective intro to that album, and the tremendous guitars and strange vocal effects lend enough melodrama to put a soap-opera star to shame.

#9) Dig It
Ooo, single digits, are you excited yet? That's right folks, this is the song that Trent Reznor actually admits to ripping off when he recorded "Down In It". Granted, the only real similarity is the heavily distorted guitar bits (and maybe a little bit of the percussion), but both songs turned out great, so who cares? "Dig It" is one of the defining moments of Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse, and that's saying something.

#8) Assimilate
One of the only industrial songs I've ever heard in a 6/8 time signature, "Assimilate" is seven minutes of synth-based bliss. The melodies contained in this song are soaring and unforgettable, Ogre's chant of Death! Death! Death! near the end is haunting, and you can dance to it. From Bites, this is the first truly classic song Skinny Puppy ever recorded.

#7) First Aid
"First Aid" is the shining moment of Cleanse, Fold, and Manipulate. I remember how blown away I was when I first heard it--expert orchestral stabs and some of Ogre's best vocals combine to create yet another Skinny Puppy Classic (tm).

#6) Dogsh*t (a.k.a. Censor)
This is the song that record stores wouldn't stock when it was released as a single because of the rather profane name. So, the Puppy changed the name. The nearly 10-minute version of this song on the Censor single is fun enough, but personally, I prefer the almost-four-minute version. The song progresses from ambient intro to harsh synths to heavy guitars so quickly that it's almost disconcerting. And when you're listening to Skinny Puppy, disconcerting is good. This song was originally on Vivisect VI, (find the hidden number!) and is one of the best songs on what very well may be Skinny Puppy's second greatest album (second only, of course, to the aforementioned Too Dark Park).

#5) Tormentor
Speaking of Too Dark Park, here's the best song on that album. "Tormentor" features rhythmic vocal delivery, great synth sounds, and some of the best Skinny Puppy lyrics out there. A sample for your viewing pleasure:

Mental shock
Disturbed thoughts rotting
Long lasting reaction
Make it stop
Stir up the pot
Taking away means nothing

Trust me folks, it's all in the delivery.

#4) One Time One Place
This is the first song the world ever heard with Mr. Dwayne Goettel on the keys. It would not go unnoticed. In this, the first track on Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse, the synth chords cut through the mix like the proverbial hot knife through butter. Ogre has more great vocals here, and the addition of guitars halfway through the song pushes it over the edge. Some days this is my favorite Skinny Puppy song--you really should hear it.

#3) Testure
Another of Mr. Goettel's babies, this is the first Skinny Puppy song I ever truly loved. The instantly identifiable chords and lyrics condemning animal testing strike a nerve in even the novice listener to Skinny Puppy. For anyone who's never heard them, "Testure" is the perfect place to start. It's the centerpiece of Vivisect VI, and a song that absolutely, positively should not be missed.

#2) Knowhere?
I know I'm going to get slammed by my brother for putting "Knowhere?" up this high, but I can't get enough of this song. For me, it defines the noisy side of Skinny Puppy. An almost painfully slow beat with more noise than you can shake a stick at defines the song--the stabs of guitar and the choral synth sounds fill it out and make it a truly epic, difficult, and ultimately satisfying piece of work. Plus, rumor has it that Ogre had a near-fatal drug overdose that's captured on the vocal track for this song. If that doesn't send chills down your spine while you're listening, I don't know what will.

#1) Worlock
keep your eyes open
soft spoken changes nothing
a view so cruel
dogs body comatose
torchlight roast
a view so cruel...

Worlock, from Rabies, attacks so many things that it's discombobulating. Skinny Puppy launched an attack on movie censorship with the X-rated video to this song, the lyrics deal with the ever popular topic of animal testing and cruelty, and some Charles Manson soundbites show up for good measure. And then there's the music. The song starts like a typical Puppy song, with strong synths and whispered vocals from Ogre. Ever so slowly over the course of its five-and-a-half minutes, it morphs into a string synth-dominated epic tune, where Ogre uses vocoders to add chords to his vocals, and there's this aural plethora of lush melodies and chord changes complementing the ugliness. Skinny Puppy's masterpiece, this is a song that no fan of electronic music should miss.

(Whew.) I haven't written that much since my high school thesis on Magnetohydrodynamic propulsion. I know I'm going to get panned for leaving out "Tin Omen," "Spasmolytic", "The Choke", "Harsh Stone White", "Love In Vein", "Candle", "Inquisition", "Download", "Chainsaw", "Addiction", and a number of other songs I'm sure are being neglected. That's OK. This is my list, and I know it's a good one. For me, these are truly Skinny Puppy's finest moments, that any fan of harsh electronics would be wise to seek out and at least hear once.

Thanks for listening. Now go, and spread the newfound knowledge you have gained.

This essay is part of the über-cool "Greatest Hits" writeoff, brought to us by the also über-cool TheUnknown285. Also check out the fine, fine entries by these great writers:

Cletta1201, Clum, Copernicus, Cripper, Deaser26, Dedemw, DrFaustus, Donnie013, DXBari, Ekidd911, Helga17, Jeff_wilder78, Jenb123, JennJoy, Jeremy1456, KCFoxy, Kristinafh, Kuuleimomi, Lambchops, LatteChick, Laura10801, Madtheory, MattA75, Mefreakboy, Mom2TyZick, Monssfisch, Netnut746, Paulyoungotti, Pt-Paratroopa, Speeddemon531, Tbthorn, The_fly, Vince006, Whitty, Yogore, and of course, TheUnknown285 himself.

Happy reading!

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