November 18, 2008

Devils In My Details.

Kevin Ogilvie (alias Nivek Ogre), legendary industrial music vocalist, artist, surviving heroin addict, and now actor, has concocted a third album under the OHGR moniker with long-time collaborator Mark Walk. It’s a whimsy result of a prolonged jam-session, cut up in the manner of contemporary video game soundtracks, littered with references to psychedelia past and present. It spans from highly evocative melodic to harsh sound collage, stylistically moving between industrial rock (complete with some of the more pretentious symphonic trappings of the seventies glam rock that inspired it) to cabaret chansons. Essentially one (two on the vinyl edition), continuous invocation of the title's devils burrowing among Ogre's various guises.

The origins of the many masks Ogre's donned over the decades can perhaps be found under the stairs of the Ogilvie household in Calgary, where young Kevin holed up in the company of Syd Barrett, Alice Cooper, and Les Chants de Maldoror. In fact, the album's artwork appears to allude this. On one hand, close-up images of a refinery's bowels juxtaposed with snow-capped peaks could simply be read as opposites, the murky innards of man contrasted with his soaring ambition. One the other hand, they could be read as geographical markers of a youth spent in Alberta, where the Rockies are the sole redeeming feature of a province dominated by oil production.

My voice sounds like shit, Ogre declares in the flamboyant opening track. Not only explaining why he's obscured his voice for a quarter of a century, but also the title of an early demo by Skinny Puppy – the pioneering act he co-founded. From the very start Ogre didn't perceive himself as a vocalist proper. Ironically, now that his vocal style has become de rigueur for the majority of industrial rock vocalists, Ogre finally seems comfortable with – or has perhaps simply accepted – the sound of his own voice, relying somewhat less on gadgets and effects than in the past. Hence, this comment on his vocal abilities is no longer an indictment but an incantation, a first step in the exorcism that follows.

Yes, Ogre's a pretty average vocal talent, but so's Bob Dylan. Sometimes what you're singing is more important than how it sounds. And this is a very lyrical aural sculpture, buttressed by quotes from Oscar Wilde and William Burroughs – leaning somewhat more heavily on the Beat than the Victorian. Cult horror flick actor Bill Moseley, with whom Ogre appears in the recently released rock opera-musical Repo! The Genetic Opera (which hopefully will be screened near us before its January DVD release), adds spoken word passages in between the tracks making the connection between Ogre's chopped up poetry and that of the Beats perfectly explicit:

We've only just begun (Moseley drones,) and me left-handed/you fresh off the farm/smelling of buttercups/and ancient lace/Let's bop 'til we drop/then drag ourselves to Denny's/for the midnite menue/We've only just begun/this vegetarian pact/this life without cigarettes/maybe tonite we'll smoke the bacon/for old times sake/and maybe tomorrow/I'll get a job.

The finale combines a line from an early Marvin Gaye hit, Can I Get A Witness, with portions of Haze, one of the more poignant tracks on the most recent Skinny Puppy album, providing a dynamic backdrop for Ogre denouncing his detractors and, perhaps, embracing those devils. Details are important, and one should always endeavour to do what one does thoroughly. As is the case with this album, down to the last devil.

DIMD is available as a download, CD, and vinyl LP.

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