A Token of My Extreme: Skinny Puppy- Last Rights (1992)

Nettwork; June 30, 1992

For a solid decade and a half, Canadian imports Skinny Puppy were at the forefront of a budding industrial scene. Compared to the art-damaged ugliness and depravity of Throbbing Gristle and SPK and the spine-rattling Germanic jackhammer stomp of Einsturzende Neubaten and Laibach, second-generation contributors Skinny Puppy may have sounded slightly lusher and more organized, but with tracks carefully stacked around collages of clever tape manipulation, disturbing samples, and angular, jagged beats over Nivek Ogre's heavily distorted serial killer vocal stylings, they were clearly not intended for the Top 40. Despite this, pretty much every good modern industrial act cites their music and their over-the-top, Grand Guignol live performances as an inspiration (especially Nine Inch Nails), and the poorer ones regularly rip off SP without acknowledging it.

They were the yin to Ministry's industrial metal yang, their rage inverted into attacks against the brutality of animal experimentation, the military-industrial complex, environmental destruction and drug addiction--not that Ogre, Cevin Key, and primary collaborator Dwayne Goettel were teetotalers by any means, all three had done more heroin and LSD in their lifetimes than a room full of Deadheads, and while their most fertile period of creative power occurred mostly while under *ahem* heavy influences, 1992's Last Rights was pretty much where they went completely off the deep end. To the point where by '96 and their last real album The Process (I refuse to count post-'96 Skuppy recordings) was released, they had spent four years as human chemistry sets, catatonic in the studio or on hiatus while constantly fighting with each other, and all this ended up claiming Goettel, who OD'd in 1995 two months after Ogre's short term departure.

As you can imagine from being born in an environment like that, this is one terminally fucked up album. Even by their previously high standards of fuckedupness.

Last Rights basically takes the already abrasive, darkly psychedelic and corrosive elements of the previous album Too Dark Park (a widely acknowledged classic) and abstracts them into walls of pulverizing, chaotic sound that bring industrial back to its noisy roots but still retain the beat wizardry that defined Skuppy's niche. Not many albums have achieved the balance between disturbing brutality, sonic experimentation, and sheer listenability that Last Rights has, and all without a single prominent guitar (unless you count the arresting acoustic chords that startlingly pop up in the intro of "Scrapyard" before the horror really starts).

The album is split into two general halves, front-loaded with the more concise tracks you could sort of call "songs," I guess, if free verse soundtracks to watching snuff films while having the worst acid trip of all time counts as such. The second half gets progressively more and more insane and less organized, culminating with the 11-minute opus "Download," which finally ditches the beats and any sense of rhythm or structure and launches into a totally unhinged collage of samples that will make you crawl under your furniture.

Only two tracks were slated to become underground singles--the smoldering creepiness of "Love In Vein," with its warped Victrola intro morphing into a crashing minimalist rhythm and a heavily reverbed wash of sinister strings and synths, and the most dance-oriented track and outcry against animal abuse "Inquisition," driven by the album's most propulsive beat (via torque wrench, natch). "Killing Game" is the most accessible after these (and in my opinion the finest song on the album)--backed by deceptively pretty minor-key piano juxtaposed with moody bass and synths becoming gradually louder and more fractured, Ogre rips into the most tortured, emotive vocal performance I've ever heard from him. It will make the hair on your arms stand up. Immediately following that is "Knowhere?," a determined, terrifying march of hallucinogenic noise--perhaps the most oppressive four minutes on any Skuppy LP.

Last Rights is the album Trent Reznor wished he could've made, once upon a time (instead he churned out the wildly overrated The Downward Spiral, which is barely harder than an average KMFDM album). To this day there is very little in the industrial genre that approaches this--a brainpan-scraping, horrifying tableau of 20th century ills in musical form, yet with a level of twisted beauty and sonic craftmanship that emanated straight out of Dwayne Goettel's scorched mind. It's a far cry from the fucking lame and regressive industrial dance pastiche of New SP, that's for damn sure.


Too Dark Park. Start there. If you can handle that, Last Rights is the next logical step.



  1. A) You're a machine, dude, you've been cranking these things out like crazy.

    B)Last Rights is my friend Aisha's favorite album and she reads this blog pretty regularly, so I imagine she'll be very pleased.