Enhanced CD-R, self-released, 2004
I know it’s not just me — a lot of Skinny Puppy fans were disappointed with their weak comeback offering last year. So I was immediately taken with how much the opening track on this French five-tracker, “The Fall”, brings to mind the best bits of “Too Dark Park” and “Vivisect VI”. In fact I’d go so far as to say it sounds far more like Skinny Puppy than the teen-rock posturing that cEvin and ‘Ohgr’ (ahem) seem so fond of these days. Don’t get me wrong, there’s no plagiarism going on, but a clear influence makes itself felt.
Thankfully these guys are not a one-trick pony. Although the influence remains apparent in their techniques of song construction and evolution — surprise jump-cuts and thick layering of textures and samples and the like, along with some creative vocal processing — Rauwolfia are definitely looking forward rather than simply trying to rip off those that have gone before. “Naked Blood Restruct” and “The Tense” have more of a noisebeat edge, although still aggressively vocal, and place the band in the same sort of bracket as their countrymen Chrysalide. But unlike a lot of purer rhythmic noise efforts, they’re actually quite catchy; there’s something akin to a chorus on “The Tense” that will get stuck in your head.
There’s definitely a niche for that kind of thing. Industrial doesn’t have to be repetitive to the point of boredom, even if it is harsh and intimidating, and being memorable doesn’t equal selling out. The industrial heroes of the eighties and nineties knew this but I worry that it’s been forgotten by all but the most commercial crossover bands nowadays. The only thing letting this release down, though, apart from its all-too-short length, is the production; somehow everything seems a little flat and lifeless in a way that’s hard to define specifically. It just doesn’t leap out at you in quite the right way. “Press Your IQ” and the very groovy “Dirt” have a fair bit of sonic colour but even they sound a little bit restricted, like the dynamics, stereo spectrum and frequency range have been boxed in. A bit surprising for a band that’s on it’s third CD, maybe, but not insurmountable problems — and I bet it sounds fantastic in clubs.
— Andrew Clegg