Skinny Puppy’s ‘Last Rights’ both abrasive, intriguing

When you start listening to Skinny Puppy’s 1992 album Last Rights, I would advise the following:

  1. Don’t expects songs you can sing, hum or whistle along with.
  2. Don’t expect catchy choruses or memorable hooks.
  3. Don’t expect to get it on the first listen.

Now that you’re prepared, let me tell you why I recommend this album while at the same time it’s a little difficult for me to review.

Last Rights is abrasive. It challenges you, throwing all sorts of obstacles in your way. Whether it be harsh sounds, odd beats or sudden twists, it keeps your ears on their feet … if they had feet anyway.

Skinny Puppy often doesn’t make albums of music, instead they create listening experiences. That’s the best way I can describe it.

It’s also hard to describe the individuals songs because they use so many sounds, you’re not sure what they should be labeled labeled. Sure, much of it is done by synth, but what is the sound the synth is using called?

So, that’s my conundrum. It could be that I’m a little rusty on my album listening. It may be that I don’t have a copy of the linear notes to consult, it may be that I’m still relatively new to this reviewing of industrial albums. But whatever my hurdle is, I’m going to try to give you the best description of the album I can with some links to show you what I’m talking about.

And now to Last Rights.

The album

The lineup of Skinny Puppy on Last Rights is vocalist Nivek Ogre, keyboardist Dwayne Goettel and multi-instrumentalist cEvin Key who plays guitar, bass, drums and keyboard. All the songs are credited as a collaborative effort of the band, and it does sound like the work of several individuals adding their own spin to a greater whole.

Love in Vein” kicks things off with sort of a scary vibe of slowed-voices and organs, before it picks up in a thrusting industrial beat. Ogre shows off his range in this song, going from his electronic rasp to a clean whisper. This spooky vibe is also present in “Mirror Saw” with it’s haunting use of female vocal samples.

There are a couple of slower tracks as well. Most obvious is “Killing Game” which is almost a ballad and stripped down for industrial song. “Killing Game” doesn’t drown you with a wall of sound, but instead relies on one or two melodies from the synths at a time, the drums and Ogre’s voice. “Riverz End” is another slow tune that relies on its melody contrasted to harsh foreground sounds to give it its feel. “Circustance” is another slow-paced song, relying on heavily on sampled sounds, more so than the other two.

Scrapyard” is a unique track. It’s both abrasive and relentless in its beats, only parted by moments of a single sound before the barrage begins again. It’s probably for this reason that it’s my favorite.

The album closes with an 11-minute plus instrumental in “Download.” “Download” lacks the in your face sound of the drums and other instruments, instead, it establishes a surreal feel as the sounds seem to drift like clouds, hiding the occasional monster.

The verdict

I recommend you check this album, or at least the songs I highlighted, out on Youtube first, mainly to see if it’s your thing. If you enjoy it right off the bat or like a musical challenge, then I’d recommend forking over the money for it. For those who want something they can sing along to in the shower, I’ll say Last Rights is definitely not for you … unless you like to color your shower water red.

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