( Capitol Press Release )
"Last Rights", Skinny Puppy's eighth album, is the shudder of total collapse. The sound is dark, unmanageable horrors and one man's breakdown on all levels. "It's a document of delusion," says Ogre, the malignant growl behind Skinny Puppy's crush of relentless techno-core rhythms and unforgiving synth snarls. "Basically, it's a version of Rimbaud's 'Season In Hell.' The end of a certain period in my life seen smack dab in the middle of a lot of pain and confusion."
Produced by longtime Puppy co-hort David Ogilvie and percussionist cEVIN KEY, Last Rights is a seething, enigmatic work. The most harrowing "audio sculpture" the Vancouver, BC-based group has wrought to date and a pivotal release in Skinny Puppy's nine years of audio-exorcisms and exercises in severe discomfort. Word has it that it may be the Puppy's last wretched gasp. A eulogy to their years of lurking beyond the shadows of dreams and nightmare. Is it the last Skinny Puppy album? At this juncture, that's a question even Ogre himself would find impossible to answer.
As one listen to the dense, claustrophobic noise-scape that is Last Rights will tell, this isn't some collection of "songs" where the answers are clean cut. This is a living, breathing entity. "There's always a new beginning after something dies," declares Ogre. "It's too early to tell yet what shape things will take. If this is the last record and the beginning of a new direction for all three members, I can't yet say." In calling the album Last Rights, it's not the burial of the band that the horror-wracked frontman is getting at. This is something a lot more personal. "It's the product of being near death, of being read those 'last rights'. This way my reality," declares Ogre. "In retrospect, it wasn't so much reality as it was partial delusion with bits and pieces of reality thrown in. That reality I can't really even talk about. It's just too 'out there.'"
Precisely the territory Skinny Puppy's been mining since 1983 when Ogre and cEVIN KEY, discovering a mutual taste for the sonically distasteful, joined forces and recorded the infamous Back and Forth cassette. This won the attention of Nettwerk, a local indie label that signed the band a year later and released the band's debut mini-album, Remission, a crushing combination of percussive keyboards, rhythms and cryptic vocals that pushed Skinny Puppy out of the dungeon shadows and into enigmatic notoriety. Their vision, further fleshed out by their 1985 album Bites, was one of alarming perspective: viewing mankind through the eyes of a mongrel dog.
"It all goes back to the image that cEVIN and Ogre created of Skinny Puppy being this little, scrawny, abused animal that didn't say very much," says keyboardist Dwayne Goettel, who joined the band in 1986, coming from the band Psyche.
"Every once in a while the dog would have to scream out or somebody would step on its tail. When it did make noise, it was something you could understand or feel too."
In 1986, Nettwerk signed a licensing agreement for Skinny Puppy with Capitol Records which issued Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse. The first single, "Dig It", reached the top of the Rolling Stone/Rockpool charts while the band embarked on its first successful tour of North America. The band's first trek across Europe followed a year later upon the release of Cleanse, Fold and Manipulate, the album that spawned a 12" single remix of the tracks "Addiction" and "deep down Trauma Hounds" by Adrian Sherwood.
In 1988, VIVIsectVI brought Skinny Puppy's views on sociopolitical matters (anti-vivisection, etc.) more to the forefront than ever before as the band's sound grew bigger, filled with thumping, robotic baselines and effective sampling. When they returned to Europe that year, they were greeted with rave acclaim and even won a full feature and cover in Melody Maker. Their shows weren't merely typical "band" performance but, rather, choreographed ballets of madness, macabre movements of performance art that utilized video screens and elaborate onstage grand guignol-esque makeup extravaganzas to shock social consciences into their audience.
The Puppies were joined on 1989's Rabies by Ministry's Al Jourgenson who co-produced while adding some blood-and-guts quasi-metal guitar to the band's throbbing bleakness.
In 1990, Too Dark Park continued in that direction, taking their sound to ends of pure claustrophobia offering frightful lyrical visions of a diseased, decaying planet.
Since then, the band's three members have all gotten up their taste for blood by working with other bands and side projects, including cEVIN and Dwayne's rockier Hilt, the film score outfit Doubting Thomas and the collaboration with The Legendary Pink Dots called The Tear Garden; Ogre's stints with Ministry, the Revolting Cocks and Pigface, plus an upcoming project with ex-Killing Joke bassist Raven, called Welt.
"Doing other projects has put me in contact with a lot of people that are pretty cool and have been helpful to me in various ways," says Ogre. "It's created an atmosphere where I can do things that I've always wanted to do. In a lot of ways, it gives me a lot more focus in Skinny Puppy."
Now, with Last Rights, Skinny Puppy's intense, mutant dirge of dark moods has only grown more powerful, more undeniable. Their brand of electronic body music remains miles removed from the standard dance-floor techno-fare, surpassing and redefining what the ignorant still call "Industrial". "It's just as unforgiving and not really too interested in giving people the hits they want," insists Dwayne. "I'm pretty proud of how uncompromising it really is".
Skinny Puppy remains as rabidly tenacious in all respects of their art. Their high-speed montage of violent imagery. They've even been banned and, on one occasion in Cincinnati, arrested for their onstage extremities. Still, this is no gore-for-gore's-sake affair. Skinny Puppy is bent on attacking the chinks in your mental armor not merely to shock, but to challenge and provoke. Why the use of such violent imagery? Such painful shock-theatre? "Because nothing else really drives itself home," Ogre believes. "The sick thing is that violence really is a big part of our lives, and all we do is suppress it, not deal with it. It completely motivates our behavior, yet we never seem to admit that to ourselves. You know the world's a violent world. It's not a safe place. You know the water's not good to drink but you keep drinking it anyway. I'm not at all a violent person, but I think it's important to confront people and shock them into dealing with the truths they're too afraid to deal with".
Lyrically, a track like "Love In Vein" speaks for itself while "Inquisition", Last Rights' first single, deals in themes of persecution, delusion and intense paranoia. The lost tenth track, "Left Hand Shake" confronts the war inside-and as mysterious as its absence from the record, it does exist with text from Timothy Leary. "Killing Game", the album's first planned video, Ogre describes as "a Cocteau fantasy gone bad. It delves into people's fantasies vs. their realities and the demons that we can all summon up that are very, very real". The video culminates into two alien characters-whose veins are on the outside of their bodies and whose eyes are sewn shut-ripping each other's eyes open.
"There's a lot of emphasis of themes of voyeurism and sadism," waxes Ogre on the sociopolitical theme that will also be the crux of the band's upcoming visceral live show. "It's got a lot to do with the way control is subtly used over people to make them seem more admirable to themselves-the cancers that creep in us our whole lives".
Last Rights is the punctuation on Skinny Puppy's nine-year legacy in exhilarating pain. It's the end of one ugly chapter and a leap into a new chamber of horrors. Says Ogre on his current frame of mind: "I'm like a child staring at the monster at the end of a book. Who knows what the next chapter will bring?"
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