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Call the Ambulance (Before I Hurt Myself)

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Album Review

Hilt wisely never pretended to be a radical break from the material with which Skinny Puppy made its name — not only do all the core musicians and producers from that group appear here, but longtime art designer Steven R. Gilmore created the cover collages. Given that the music uses much the same heavy-duty percussion and structured, electronic approach, the major change lies with Nelson, a fine if not completely individual singer. On the one hand, he perhaps too openly uses some of Ogre's familiar vocal tracks — electronically slurred vocals, an air of threat — which inevitably just makes the listener think of Ogre himself and his own obsessive, focused musical approach. On the other hand, Nelson's lyrical material generally steers away from environmental horror show collapse and embraces a more personal and punked-up aesthetic. The musicians equally take numerous similar dives into the "loud fast rules" approach to create a reasonable impression of a hardcore band just coming to grips with technology, as songs like "Down on Mommy's Farm," "Back to Insanity," and "Septic" demonstrate. At their least interesting, such material sounds like the Ministry knockoffs that cluttered up Skinny Puppy's Rabies, but at other points the band lets the music breathe and even throws in reasonably kick-ass guitar jams, of all things. When Nelson takes a smoother but still direct approach, the results are among the album's best, with the rest of the band working to suit that delivery instead of overwhelming it. "Baby Fly Away" is a wonderfully catchy number, heavy on the drums but otherwise an inspired slice of dreamy new wave pop with a killer chorus, while the lounge/croon/feedback combination "Come Alive" shouldn't work but somehow does. Call the Ambulance is ultimately derivative, but it's still an enjoyable variation on a sound, much like related project the Tear Garden.

Biography

Formed: 1984

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '80s, '90s

Seen as a side project from industrial music gods Skinny Puppy, the short-lived Hilt actually had roots predating the start of that band. Vocalist Al Nelson and multi-instrumentalist cEVIN Key first worked together in Vancouver's early punk scene via the band Illegal Youth in the late '70s. After the group fragmented, Key's path ran through Images in Vogue and then eventually to Skinny Puppy itself. Nelson continued working in more punk-oriented efforts, but began working with Skinny Puppy as well...
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Call the Ambulance (Before I Hurt Myself), Hilt
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