Release Date: 02.27.96
Record label: sony / columbia
What a Cute Little Dog
by: david vandermeuse
After the release of Skinny Puppys 1992 album, Last Rights, there was much speculation that the band that defined industrial music as we know it today would soon break up. Tensions between charismatic front man Nivek Ogre and multi-instrumentalists cEvin Key and Dwayne Rudolph Goettel were high, and when they left their Vancouver based label, Nettwork Records, to sign with L.A. based American recordings, there were more than a few cries of "sell-out" from the industrial community. Further doubts were raised when the band decided not to use long-time producer and friend, Dave "Rave" Ogilvie, but instead to sign on Ogres friend Martin Aktins (Pigface) as producer.
Then, in 1995, after a fight with his bandmates, Dwayne died of a heroin overdose, and Skinny Puppy died with him. It was only after lengthy legal battles and extensive re-production by Key and Rave that The Process ever even saw the light of day.
The Process marked yet another turning point in the evolution of Puppys sound. Sadly, it was the final re-invention for a band that had been able to successfully re-invent its sound with each new release. Taking a dramatic turn from the Too Dark Park-Last Rights era of the early 90s, the Process sounds much more sparse and thin. The sonic soup of Skinny Puppys sound had been strained, leaving only the bare bones behind. Gone are the heavily distorted, tortured vocals, replaced by a much more reserved, somber Nivek Ogre. Also, there is extensive guitar work on The Process, much more than in any of their previous work. Unquestionably it is their most radio-friendly and approachable record they made in their 13 year existence.
My favorite track is "Candle," which was intended to be the first single off of the record until American lost interest and dropped the band from its label. Ogres soft, spoken vocals moving along with a sad, nostalgic sounding guitar line are the perfect counterpoint to the scraping, distorted guitar chords and driving beat that come along later in the track. It is probably one of my favorite songs of all time. "Hardset Head" and the title track "Process" are some of my other favorites.
So, did they sell out on this, their final album? No way. Underneath the crunching guitars are the complex rhythms and beats that make it distinctly Puppy, and there are Ogres cryptic, meandering lyrics that show that he is still the best vocalist in industrial. The Process shows that sometimes less is more, and that level of maturity in scaling back ones sound is something the industrial community needs more of, I say. There are no weak tracks, and there is no reason for Puppyphiles everywhere not to have and enjoy this album. Though it is by no means their best album, it is still a very good listen and a worthwhile buy. And for new fans, well, although I always think it is better to start with a bands early material, The Process is probably a good introduction that is more approachable than their earlier work.