Litany Reviews: ohGr's Welt - by Corey Goldberg
The long awaited collaboration between Ogre and Mark Walk is finally being released under the name of ohGr. The album, Welt, is full of surprises that are sure to shock fans of Ogre and Skinny Puppy. Some will delight in these astonishing turns. Others will surely be turned off. I guarantee, however, that Welt will defy all preconceptions.
The listener may enter into Welt with the assumption that it will remain in the vein of recent industrial-rock cliches. Ogre and Walk have something different in mind, however, offering up a brilliantly clever set of well-developed songs that will surprise all listeners. They not only revive the dying corpse of industrial-rock by injecting it with a heart, soul, and groove, but also create an entirely new and superior style in the process. Welt is likely to offend the sensibilities of those seeking industrial purity by mixing industrial-rock idioms with other less obvious musical influences. Ranging from Glam to funk to early electronic pop, the elements that they combine to create Welt are both eclectic and unexpected. Constant surprise sinisterly pervades every song, as each track offers up a new brew of familiar yet somewhat distant ingredients. The amalgamation of disparate elements is at the heart of the album, but each track is unique, well defined, and contributes to the album as a whole. The wide range of influences gives Welt a mature and adult sound beyond the aggro-angst obsessions that have constrained the rest of the genre. The song writing on this album is, quite frankly, ingenious. Welt's true success lays in the fact that, somehow, Ogre and Walk have found a way to make these contrasting stylistic elements work together in these songs. The collision of genre does not lead to a fractured sound. Rather, through inventive composition, the various styles coalesce into a new, stable fusion of elements. In this respect, Welt is reminiscent of the work of other great musical integrators (and some of my favorite artists) such as David Bowie, Miles Davis, and Frank Zappa.
It would have been easy for Ogre to fall into self-parody with this record. However, those who have referred to him as a one trick pony will eat their words when they hear Welt. After over 15 years of vocals, it would seem unlikely that Ogre could develop new styles, but he has and here he uses them to great effect. He has matured and evolved a great deal since we've last heard him. Welt is loaded with authentic on-key singing, with real melody and real harmonies. With these new tools at his disposal, Ogre's voice, along with the clever compositions, becomes the star of the album. His evil sound on "Devil" is without a doubt the most chilling that he has ever been. The mocking satire of both the vocal and music of "Cracker" is an entirely new element to his work. Many, again, will find the track too humorous to for their fix of 'serious industrial artistry', but others will revel in the sneer behind his words. "Lusid" illustrates Ogre's unique and imaginative phrasing as his words worm themselves around the cracks in the almost Puppy-like jumping rhythm. Ogre has dabbled in a cut-up style vocal before, but he has perfected it with "Pore". The rapid-fire lyrics are disorienting, but edited in such a way as to be intelligible and offer insight upon further listening. His emotionally evocative singing on "Solow" wraps itself through the chord changes as the gorgeous melody is punctuated with subtle vibrato and, again, extraordinary phrasing. The pained refrain of "Minus" is simultaneously anthemic and anguished. Throughout the album he uses his new abilities as a 'real' singer to great purpose. However, longtime Ogre fans need not fear that he has abandoned his older style. He has merely evolved to the next level. Welt retains all of the power and texture of his Skinny Puppy work. The use of effects is carefully balanced, never allowing them to dominate the vocal. Ogre's lyrics are also excellent on this album. As opposed to his previous improvised direct emissions onto tape, Welt demonstrates a more careful sculpture and craft. The interplay between the words and music is stronger here, as well. Quite obviously I am a huge fan of Ogre's work with Skinny Puppy, yet I speak with no hesitation when I say that Welt is some of Ogre's best work.
Mark Walk is unfortunately destined for the inevitable comparison to Ogre's musical foils from Skinny Puppy. In the area of production, ohGr may be the weaker of the two organizations. While the composition of the songs is varied and imaginative the production is somewhat homogenous. Many tracks utilize a very loud, overdriven mix which unfortunately doesn't always offer Ogre's voice the subtle and lush backing it needs. The programming and sound design is not groundbreaking and relies too much on a preexisting sound palette. However, the mix is sprinkled with odd, quirky sounding synths. Too 'cheesy' sounding for most current bands, they recall an earlier era of electronic music and add to the album's mature and eclectic sound.
This new record is quite plainly one of the best new albums I've heard in years. My enthusiasm cannot be overstated. It comes with my highest recommendation, not only to fans of Ogre's work in Skinny Puppy but to all who seek smart music. The unusual combinations and pop elements will no doubt outrage those seeking by-the-numbers industrial/EBM. However, rather than producing something that appeals to or entertains our expectations, Ogre and Walk challenge them instead, which in my opinion is something all good music must do. Welt is anything but predictable and surpasses all predictions. I simply cannot wait to hear this material live, not to mention whatever Ogre does next. But for now, I eagerly await the release date, when this record will shock, amaze, and delight listeners new and old alike.