Combichrist are usually a band that’s one of the entry points into EBM, a music style that shares similarities with industrial but leans heavily towards synthesizers, keyboards, and samples with a notable absence of guitars. Broad minded metalheads wishing to try EBM usually stem from listening to Fear Factory and Ministry; wanting something harsher, acerbic, and bleak – but with the aggression, adrenaline and drive that extreme metal delivers. Wumpscut, Psyclon Nine, Skinny Puppy and Front Line assembly are starting points that people usually investigate. Andy LaPlegua has established one of the crowning jewels of the genre since 2003 with their debut album ‘The Joy of Guns‘, where they have gone from strength to strength and to critical acclaim; based loosely on another project of his called Icon of Coil – using this template to form a more aggressive and energetic sound, marrying the hardcore influences from Lash Out.
Which brings us to the present day with their newest release ‘This Is Where Death Begins‘ – out now on Out Of Line Music.
What becomes immediately apparent to established fans is a sea change in their original sonic blueprint. The crunchy, super aggressive techno stylings are almost absent – sticking to industrial fuelled guitars which will divide opinion. At their best they sound like they’d give Ministry a run for the money, but for the most part sounding somewhat generic; like a random grab bag of Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails which can be somewhat trying to listen to. Opening track “We Are The Plague” is a notable example, that digs upon the past stylings ot Lash Out with a seasoning of industrial influences baring little resemblance to the racing adrenaline packed aggrotech of old. Followed by “My Life My Rules”, that sounds as if it was raided from the Marilyn Manson parts bin – with a rousing chorus that will no doubt please people in a live setting that despite its shortcomings, is catchy in a fun but disposable manner.
However, not all is entirely lost with “Exit Eternity” and “Skullcrusher”, the former being a more moodier composition while the latter has the original synthethic drive of old material as the underpinnings, but heavily disguised with a layer of sharp guitar riffs. “Time Again” has wailed vocals that sound like a mix of Al Jourgensen with a flavour of John Lydon punk sneer, following on with the pleasing heavy guitar chug and Nailbomb flavour in “Destroy Everything”.
A particular stand out track is “Don’t Care How You Feel About It”; this evokes the spirit of their older stylings, with driving synths and skittish bleeps you’d normally expect with a metallic flavour and schizophrenic garbled ending. This is paired admirably with “Blackened Heart”, having a pleasing rock based drive with synths adding a decent backdrop – bringing a Rob Zombie / Marilyn Manson flavour to the mix, working far more effectively instead of being derivative and lacking imagination.
The closing tracks of the album continue to be a puzzle for fans of the old sound, concluding with industrial guitar riffage and discordant synth musings that isn’t immediately memorable. However it has to be understood that Andy LaPlegua has musical influences from both hardcore and synth based music, which in the press release suggests that the album is something he has wanted out of his system for a long time. This is perfectly fine for the musician, but for long term fans drastic changes can result in a band skating on thin ice for those with a set belief on how band should be, this can be their undoing irrespective of whether a band is established or new. Overall, ‘This Is Where Death Begins‘ could be a breath of fresh air, or an abrupt and baffling slap to the face. Recent fans to the band and industrial metal will adore this album – but long term fans that gravitate towards EBM styles will feel aggrieved.
‘This Is Where Death Begins‘ is out now via Out Of Line Music.
Andy LaPlegua – vocals
Joe Letz – drums
Eric 13 – guitar
Brent Ashley – bass
Nick Rossi – drums
- - 5/105/10