HanDover is an immensely difficult album to appreciate. Even fans of the industrial metal genre will grow into the album slowly, because it just doesn’t feel like an industrial metal record. In fact, Skinny Puppy takes a primarily electronic approach to their already well-established sonic format, which may attract new listeners, but will surely disappoint some fans.
What HanDover ultimately fails to deliver is that sense of despair the Vancouver band has created over their 29 years of vile, cruel, and devilishly dark musical prowess. ohGr still sings in his pseudo-goth, Ian Curtis voice, the band still employs dark, vibrant synths, and the lyrics are still disturbing as all hell. But it’s not the musicianship that may deter listeners, it’s the overall lack of impact.
While harder songs like “Village” and “Brownstone” bear similarity to that scrumptious Skinny Puppy sound, the first half of the disc feels far too electronic. In fact, many of the first few songs are centered on synth arrangements that just don’t seem to fit. The severe lack of guitar, acoustic percussion, and overall sense of “metal” is jarring, and unfortunately, removes one from the listening experience.
HanDover is not a bad album. It is good in many ways, especially lyrically and technically, yet it is dull and empty compared to what we have come to expect from these industrial veterans. Skinny Puppy may only be adapting to the changing times, but their sound takes a noticeable impact; what could have been a fantastic tribute to the heydays of ‘90s industrial became a commendable, but disappointing, experimental release.