15 June 2016

Combichrist – ‘This is Where Death Begins’ album review

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Combichrist - This Is Where Death Begins (2500 x 2500)I like Combichrist a lot. I’ve often played them when DJing, people love it. They get butts gyrating like no other dark electronic band. They’re fun to dance to. They would shock your gramps too. I’ve remixed them and that was fun. New Combichrist album to review? Yes please and thank you!

So here goes, ears pinned back. Reverb heavy electronic kick drum, moody synths, cool. Ermmm, What’s going on? Check I’ve loaded the right album. Check the tags, check the release date. Yup this is ‘This is Where Death Begins’. So why am I listening to a rock album then? Is that a guitar solo? I check the decade again just in case Emmett Lathrop “Doc” Brown has been messing with my time line again. I think I’m in the 1990s.

Opening track ‘We Are The Plague’ quickly reveals a guitar riff that could be a Clawfinger riff, perhaps mid era Die Krupps. The vocals are the reminder of which band I am listening to. ‘My Life My Rules’ continues in the same way, rock riffs coming at me, mutted mid tempo riffs, shouted vocals, guitar solo, all packaged together to remind me somewhat of a Suicidal Tendancies song that slipped off one of their 90s albums.

I check the decade again just in case Emmett Lathrop “Doc” Brown has been messing with my time line again. I think I’m in the 1990s.

Change can be good right? Bands should evolve and not get stuck in a rut. We had ample warning of a possible change in musical direction when Combichrist supplied music to ‘Devil May Cry’ on ‘No Redemption’. I welcome evolution, I embrace it, I crave it! However, I’m not enjoying this album. So far it feels so done before.

‘Glitchteeth’ shows more character, a cool vocal line, some nice synth programming, respectable stomp factor, but the chorus is pure rock. Catchy enough but very generic rock. ‘Exit Eternity’ however is far more muscular, menacing, mean, sexy, rather Panzer AG in style. Massive drums, and the guitars work well to compliment the mix.

‘Skullcrusher’ skips straight back into the rock path trodden so thoroughly by the likes of Gravity Kills, Filter, Stabbing Westward and so on, with only a sharp vocal delivery saving it from mediocrity. Then at track number eight things get interesting again with ‘Tired of Hating You’. Great drum programming, fat production, this tracks stutters, staggers, swaggers and generally kicks arse in a similar way that ‘Broken’ era Nine Inch Nails did and even when it rocks out after two minutes it is still pretty cool. ‘Don’t Care How You Feel About It’ is recognisably Combichrist in style though with analogue sounding drums taking the place of the chest thumping electronica of old. It still has that vibe.

Then I need to stand in that wide stance suitable for playing air guitar once again as ‘Blackened Heart’ flails it’s hair. ‘Pay to Play’ is also essentially a straight up rock song though the structure keeps it interesting with the more electronic breather moments. ‘Black Tar Dove’ is presented in two parts, the first a moody sounding intro reminscent of times gone by second discs of previous Combichrist releases. Part 2 boasts huge percussion, tonnes of bleakness, a fine vocal shredding and jarring elements that make the track an album highlight.’Homeward’ is the closing track and begins with an almost VNV Nation ballad feel before strutting a little like a Funker Vogt track before thoroughly reminding you of which album you’re listening to by closing with another rock section.

Points do need to be awarded for being unafraid of trying something new and it does sound like Combichrist have made the album they wanted to as it is delivered with conviction. However, I’m afraid I largely don’t enjoy this album. The rock/electronic hybrid presented here doesn’t sound fresh to me. Quite the opposite, it sounds dated, or perhaps it is a tribute to the industrial rock/metal explosion of the 1990s. Either way, it has been done better by others (The latest Mortiis for example) and these aspects of the album leave me cold. There are enjoyable moments here with several tracks that would make a play list or two of mine, particularly ‘Exit Eternity’ and ‘Black Tar Dove’. However, I can’t help but miss those elements that made Combichrist so much fun with their trademark cheap thrills and aggressive electronica.

Rating 2/5