It’s really easy to make fun of industrial music. From the “Is this Korn?” comparisons and living-in-a-perpetual-haunted-house jokes, industrial music and its next of kin –goth, experimental, EBM, electronic, and noise pop – have a lot to prove sometimes. ohGr rolled through Bottom of the Hill to support new album unDeveloped to affirm that it’s not a dying breed just yet.
The outfit, currently a fourpiece which includes Jeff Smith on keyboards, William Morrison on guitar/bass, and Justin Bennett on drums, kicked off the first date of the unDeveloped tour in San Francisco on Thursday, complete with weird helmets, thick black eye makeup, and megaphones on the stage alone, while attendees moshed around with fake blood smeared on their faces. Much of ohGr’s theatrics and antics are led by ringleader Nivek Ogre, who started the band as a side project after he quit his much-acclaimed previous group Skinny Puppy in 1995 (and who have since reformed with additional support of new members).
Although it may be easy to declare ohGr as a project trying to fill the void of Skinny Puppy’s catalogue during their hiatus through the late 90s, it must be noted that ohGr does enough weird stuff on their own to merit individuality from its creator’s first project. On the group’s fourth full-length unDeveloped, which came out earlier this year, listeners are gifted such treats as odd song titles (such as “pissage”), a sample of the 911 call made reporting pop star Michael Jackson’s death (on track “crash”), and an obnoxious use of capitalization.
Live, though, is where ohGr really owns the element that makes them stand out, and where musically they can be most appreciated. At the Bottom show, Ogre is expressive, passionate, and very into eye contact while singing, even playing goth peek-a-boo with the front row and smiling through his stage makeup. Though a man of few words in between songs – “San Francisco: where the gays are straight, and the straights are fucking gay. How I ended up in L.A. I don’t know” – it’s his and producer/composer Mark Walk’s composition of catchy and danceable industrial rockpop that takes centerstage. unDeveloped employs more of the duo’s knack of crafting more electro-pop songs – some of which even contain tinges of hip-hop and rock – and “hollow” and “screwMe” from the new record popped out well live with classics like “wateR” and the infamous “craCKer.” The latter tune has been under discussion for may or may not being dedicated to Trent Reznor, after Reznor confessed in an interview that he ripped off Skinny Puppy’s sound when he started Nine Inch Nails (“You think you're evil but you're not/Still sucking life from the mainstream/It's so deluded, give it up/What's that you hide behind your pile of shit?”). Ten years later, and “craCKer” is still as loud, urgent, and brilliant as when it was first conceived, and that grandeur is still evident throughout their catalogue and live show.
ohGr is only taking unDeveloped on the road for a nine-dates-in-11-days tour this month. Catch the gents before they hibernate for the winter.
12/1 – San Francisco – Bottom of the Hill
12/2 – Portland – Hawthorne Theatre
12/3 – Seattle – El Corazon
12/4 – Vancouver, BC – Rickshaw Theatre
12/6 – Salt Lake City – The Complex
12/7 – Denver – Bluebird Theatre
12/9 – Phoenix – Nile Theatre
12/10 – Santa Ana, CA – Constellation Room
12/11 – Los Angeles – El Rey Theatre