Thursday, May 19, 2016

Album Review: Combichrist - "This is Where Death Begins"

While industrial music enjoys a small renaissance as we barrel through this century’s teen years, there remain a number of bands who can stand with pride and say ‘I’ve been here for a minute already.’  From stocked European tours to flashy live shows to over the top energy and even videogame soundtracks, Combichrist is positively veteran in the ranks of the resurgence.  Striking while the iron is hot, they stand ready to drop a new full-length, “This is Where Death Begins” on the world and capitalize on their genre’s popularity.

Cutting to the highlight first, “Skullcrusher” is the reason to invest in this record (not a cover of Overkill’s “Skullkrusher, for those curious.)  Not only is it a prime example of Combichrist’s ability to put the pedal down and keep the tempo up, but it features one of the great, no-nonsense singalong choruses in recent memory, full of the appropriate piss and vinegar and profanity that makes for a great singalong.  For all that Combichrist does right on this record, and there’s a good bit of that, this is the shining jewel.

Critics of the band have long talked about the band being inconsistent, not being able to hold an accessible sound or channel their explosive energy into a consistently accessible and deliverable product.  With years come experience, and for this new record Combichrist has refined their production into a baseline model that fans of both pure metal and industrial will recognize.  “This is Where Death Begins” finds a groove and successfully maintains it, while still utilizing some of vocalist Andy LaPlegua’s versatility,

What likely comes as a surprise for many is that the artist who comes to mind most when discussing this album is actually Rob Zombie, surprisingly only because his name rarely comes up in these kind of discussions.  Nevertheless, Zombie’s particular brand of fun, groove-heavy metal that was so pervasive toward the end of the last millennium is the major hallmark that we’re reminded of here.  There is a solid thump to nearly every track, whether the charging run of “My Life My Rules” or the slow, chorus-based burn of “Glitchteeth”.  In any event, the end result remains much the same – an album full of cuts that reminds of the sinister smile-inducing atmosphere of when metal was fun.

The only disappointment with “This is Where Death Begins” is that it’s perfectly by the numbers in terms of industrial metal.  For a band that has spent their career making the grade by tearing off faces with aggressive, intense, super-produced live performances, this album fits nicely into an aggressive pocket but doesn’t overstep the bounds.  Combichrist seems content to live in the space between the craft of early Nine Inch Nails and the undisciplined fury of Marilyn Manson, and while there’s no question that a market exists there and the band can properly fill that niche, it just seems like this record could have been more a little more.

So what we come away with is a record that doesn’t break new ground, but nevertheless holds its own in contrast against the recent industrial styling of Emigrate or Surgical Meth Machine.  As ever, Combichrist remains their own band settled into their own idiom, and “This is Where Death Begins” does little to alter that.  This is a good record, and a pleasant throwback to a more raw time in the genre.

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