With Repo! The Genetic Opera splattering its way into theaters, I already knew the stars were perfectly aligned for me to have a listen on the new release from one of the film's supporting players, Skinny Puppy frontman Nivek Ogre (aka Kevin Ogilvie)... but imagine my ghoulish glee at discovering Ogre's Repo co-star (and one of the coolest guys ever to walk the earth) Bill “Chop-Top” Moseley lending his own demented charm to the very same album. For a purveyor of the dark arts like myself, it's like Halloween and my birthday all rolled into one evil package. But there's more to this CD than genre novelty, to be sure.
Salvaged from the creative wreckage that was the mid-'90s breakup of electronic music icons Skinny Puppy, the band ohGr (originally named W.E.L.T.) represented an interesting attempt by Ogre to channel his eccentric lyrical sensibilities into something new and relevant – and joined with multi-instrumentalist Mark Walk (and briefly with Ministry's Al Jourgensen) to create a twisted new brand of metal-infused electro-pop. Some Skinny Puppy fans considered it a refreshing return to that band's roots, while others were just puzzled by this seemingly light and fluffy side of Ogre's flamboyant, schizoid persona.After two ohGr releases, Welt and SunnyPsyOp, Ogre and former bandmate cEvin Key decided to bring Skinny Puppy to life once more. Walk joined the band in the studio as well, leading many to assume that most of the core group's attention would now be focused on Puppy material – especially since there was a certain sense of leftover OhGr detectable in the band's 2004 album The Greater Wrong of the Right. But Ogre still had an itch to scratch, and after follow-up SP album Mythmaker, he and Walk began plotting out the next ohGr incarnation, Devils in My Details.Conceived out of a single marathon recording session, Devils was originally designed as one massive unbroken track before finally becoming essentially that session's greatest moments, divided into eleven cuts. The connected feeling remains, though, since the songs are seamlessly interwoven to become a sort of postmodern take on the great prog-rock concept albums of the '70s (Ogre has cited Genesis masterpiece The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway as a strong influence). Now I'm not quite sure what that concept is... although I'm sure it exists somewhere, fully formed, in the razor-covered labyrinth of Ogre's imagination.
To make sure they've got your undivided attention, the band grabs you by the boo-boo with the thundering martial drums of the ironically-titled “Shhh,” which at first sounds for all the world like Ministry's “Jesus Built My Hotrod,” with Ogre taking on the Gibby Haynes role, until the first of many spoken-word diatribes by Moseley leads us into the disturbing rhythm pattern and spookhouse vocal effects of “Eyecandy.” But it's Moseley's opening rant on “Feelin' Chicken” that signals the whole thing is about to take a hard left turn into crazy town, thanks to a bouncy 5/4-time polka-march featuring tubas and sampled chicken clucks. (I'm pretty sure this song will feature prominently in my most Freudian nightmares.) “Whitevan” is another surreal oddity, with Ogre affecting puffy-shirt pomposity for a speed-poetry intro before shifting into remarkably hooky, melodic lyrics, and a seriously kinky read from Moseley to close.Occasionally the straight manic energy kicks in, as with Walk's memorable looped guitar riff in “Psychoreal,” which merges with the digitally chopped-up Speak-N-Spell vocals Ogre employed in Skinny Puppy's recent work (the same vibe is also recalled in closing track “Witness,” which reminds me a lot of “Haze” from Mythmaker), and the peppy bounce-beats and piano strains of “Timebomb” flip the whole thing closer to Sgt. Pepper territory than I ever thought possible... a prospect too terrifying for my mind to comprehend.As you can probably tell, those who thought ohGr would continue to dance on the edge of the mainstream are in for a bit of a shock here... this is one of the most unhinged musical projects I've heard in years. Yes, admittedly there's a very whimsical side to it... but these dudes wear it like a garish clown mask on a hulking, toothy creature whose intentions are far from making you laugh. I'm not saying that's a bad thing at all... actually, it fits them perfectly. Just be sure you're aware of it before inviting this music into your headphones – which, by the way, is the ideal way to experience this album.But if you end up having nightmares involving tuba-playing chickens, don't say I didn't warn you.