Music Review - Combichrist 'We Love You'
For the uninitiated, Combichrist is a wet dream for anyone who likes their dance music angry and evil. Blood. Guns. Sex. Death. It’s all here. Shoot it up with a healthy dose of horror and sci-fi samples, add some song titles like "Jack Torrence," and you've got enough here to bring a grin to the faces of many genre fans. The group's strong connection to cinema began in 2007 when their infectious single “Get Your Body Beat” was featured in the bio-punk sci-fi film, The Gene Generation. The movie? Decent. Discovering Combichrist? Worth the price of admission.
Founded in Norway in 2003 by frontman Andy LaPlegua, the group has since relocated to Atlanta. Call it aggrotech, EBM, or "hellektro," these guys are at the forefront of today's techno-industrial vanguard. Take equal parts Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, Frontline Assembly, and Skinny Puppy, sprinkle in some Chemical Brothers and Fear Factory, and boil them all together into a churning hellbroth and you’ve got Combichrist. It’s designed to go off on the dance-floor like a pipe-bomb. Don’t dance? This stuff is perfect for a punishing workout or the soundtrack to a brass-knuckle beatdown.
As with their previous efforts, What the Fuck Is Wrong With You People? and Today We Are All Demons, the production on the group's sixth release, We Love You, is stunning in its precision and leaves you wondering just how the hell they were able to squeeze so much clarity into their mix. Screeching glitch samples combine with layers of sinister synth arpeggios that churn and throb over a hyper-compressed snare / bass drum combination that hits you like a repeated kick in the head. Underneath it all, the roiling pulse of dirty synth-bass rhythms just dare you to fuck up your subwoofers. To say Andy LaPlegua’s lyrics deal with themes of alienation doesn’t do them justice. This isn’t some brat whining about his lot in life. These are the aural fantasies of someone who genuinely hates the world... and is determined to do something about it. It’s a sonic riot of danceable chaos that often hovers at the very edge of stability and threatens to come apart at any minute.
The tone of We Love You is set early with the ironically named “We Were Made To Love You”. A digitized mecha-voice from another world informs us that humanity is now a threat to itself and must be exterminated. “Remember, we were made to love you,” it assures us before the track blasts into a thundering wall of sound shot-through by LaPlegua's scorching vocals. From the outset, it becomes obvious that the inclusion of traditional electric guitars - present on previous albums usually as samples manipulated past the point of recognition - are now going to figure prominently in the Combichrist sound.
With the next track, "Everyday Is War," we find ourselves back in familiar territory as the aggressive synths kick in over a propulsive dance beat reminiscent of earlier hits like "Get Your Body Beat" and "Sent to Destroy". This is the Combichrist that we know doing what they are very, very good at.
Next up, the predominantly instrumental tracks “Can’t Control” and “Satan’s Propaganda” speed along like a rave that broke out in the middle of a cyborg death-match. While the latter isn't their strongest offering, it still manages to work.
Things aren't all gloom and doom on We Love You. As with previous releases, LaPlegua's lyrics often feature an almost juvenile celebration of our baser instincts and all things obscene. Perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than on songs like “Maggots at the Party," a guitar-driven track that rocks like a bro party-anthem... if your bros are tattooed paramilitary anarchists.
The momentum slows down somewhat with "Denial" and despite its strong start, the album now starts to get into some low points. The slow, acoustic dirge “The Evil In Me” feels out of place amid all the break-neck fury. They’ve tried similar songs on albums like Today We Are All Demons and Making Monsters. It didn’t work then and it doesn’t work now. Similarly, while “Fuck Unicorns” is a candidate for the band’s most endearing song title (previous contenders include “Shut Up and Swallow” and “Give Head If You Got It,” the track plays out more like a noisy mess that smacks of album-filler.
Thankfully, We Love You quickly returns to form with the blistering “Love Is a Razorblade.” The guitars are back and all pretense of techno is gone on this balls-out metal rocker. The next track, the single "From My Cold Dead Hands," stands up as one of the album's highlights - an explosive declaration of defiance that is sure to get your blood pumping. Likewise with “We Rule the World, Motherfuckers," a track that provides the perfect soundscape to a planet dominated by Combichrist and their twisted followers: a desolate place where pain thrives and only the strong survive.
Rounding out the album is the two-part “Retreat Hell”. It begins strong enough, but the second part features an unfortunate return of the acoustic and an almost spoken-word performance bemoaning the current state of the world. As a song, it’s a failure but it does offer us some choice lyrical gems like “Fuck this world in the ass / If we’re going to hell, we’re flying first class”. It ain’t Shakespeare, but it’s a perfect summation of the Combichrist philosophy: The world is screwed, these are the end times, and we might as well have a good time while we light the fuse and wait for it to go up in flames.
With We Love You, Combichrist shows no signs of taking the foot off the pedal on their high-octane spree of destruction. If you like your music dark, angry, and violent, then be sure to check it out. Turn it up and enjoy the earhole trauma.
- Michael Penning
"Michael Penning is an award-winning author and screenwriter whose film credits include Long Gone Day (2013) and the acclaimed slasher throwback Pinup Dolls On Ice (2013). He is an avid fan of Halloween, haunted houses, and things that go bump in the night. When he’s not coming up with creative ways to frighten people, he enjoys hoppy beer and climbing really high mountains. He is currently marketing his debut novel, All Hallows' Eve."