Review Summary: tl;dr - the albums good
When Making Monsters
was revealed and said to be “...the most personal album” yet I was happy, another Combichrist album to add to my collection! Being quite a fan of the majority of Andy LaPlegua's work I was eager to hear what this album would bring to the table. Without hearing anything more of the album (I didn't even listen to the singles) I went out and popped it into my computer. I imagine my face told how disappointed I was, Making Monsters
was by no means another Everybody Hates You
, and I still go back and forth on whether it is equal to Today We Are All Demons
. After playing it a few times I left Making Monsters
for its predecessors, only by chance would I return to the album and actually enjoy it for what it is; a darker, sporadic look into LaPlegua's creative genius.
starts off with “Declamation,” leading the listener to believe that this will be another Combichrist album filled with lyrical sarcasm, sadism, and those driving beats that make previous albums kings of the dance floor. When the words “who the *** do you think you are?” were spit out I found myself grinning, when “jesus ain't got *** on us!” followed two seconds later I was practically jumping for joy. This was it, Combichrist was back on their A
game, a return to the style that made them hits in the first place. Sadly this was not the case, I was soon to find out how different the album truly was.
As the album progressed I found myself searching for anything the might be familiar, for something like Today We Are All Demons
, as I had largely given up hope for anything comparable to the older albums. “Follow The Trail Of Blood” might have a guest vocalist of some esteem, but that didn't keep the track from being a major let down compared to “Enjoy The Abuse,” “What The *** Is Wrong With You,” and “All Pain Is Gone.” The guest vocals brought nothing noticeable to the track or album, though the opening segment have been a return to style.“Follow The Trail Of Blood” ultimately failed to bring any new hope at the start of the album, making the next tracks all the more enjoyable.
The next two tracks were pleasant surprises, “Never Surrender” brought a beat that's rather dance-able to the table, and a chorus filled with anger. With the line “enslave my soul but I'll never surrender” One of the more upbeat tracks on the album it provides a welcome reprise from “Follow The Trail Of Blood.” I started to get the feeling that this tour must have been a time of personal revelation and anger, I started to see where Andy was coming from when he said “It was soul cleansing doing this record."
If you're a fan of Combichrist on Facebook then you've heard of all the hype surrounding the “Throat Full Of Glass” music video. For those not familiar with it the video is being made to look like a movie, the teaser trailer states “Don't miss this sleaze-filled saga!”
Even though music videos have been over-hyped since time immeasurable, I wanted to see was so special about the track; I soon came to the conclusion that this was a contender for the best song on the album. With a strong, pulsating beat in the background and a synth line that compliments them perfectly, Andy proceeds to lay down vocals spoken word style. With the occasional repeated (though quieter) lines following his the lyrics are a real highlight, “hard to define, it always is, it's hard to scream with your throat full of glass.” When the chorus hits the volume of the vocal delivery rises slightly with “can't stay awake, burning alive, I cannot breathe this poison air filled with lies” and then dies back down to the previous level with a whispered “can't stay awake.” This is something new, even softer than “Today We Are All Demons” it's somehow just as catchy while showing of a softer/slower side of Combichrist. Graciously the next track picks up in full Combichrist style, sadism an all.
“***machine” resides in a special place in my heart, this track made me re-evaluate the album in its entirety. I was at the local club when I heard LaPlegua's distinct voice blasting through the speakers, and from the lyrics I could recognise that it was Combichrist but I was unfamiliar with the song. Once I found that it was from the new album I decided to give it another chance, and I'm glad I did. “***machine” begs to be played; the resentment in the line “you are a ***ing toy, you get what you deserve” combines perfectly with a beat that's comparable to a faster version of “Enjoy The Abuse,” providing the first full back to form track on the entire album. As Andy says, “it's ***ing beautiful.”
Sometimes ambience is a good thing, and “Forgotten” brings it complete with Combichrists's own flair. “Forgotten” is (essentially) a pure electronic track, starting off eerily like the introduction to an old horror flick before the beat slowly builds and the synths come in. The vocals are whispered, and distorted so that it makes them incomprehensible. Around the 2:35 mark the listener is treated with “reach out, stand clear, reveal yourself, I'm ready now” followed by maniacal laughing in the background as a young girl screams. The speed of the album doesn't really require a break, but “Forgotten” shows that Combichrist can still be entertaining without relying on vocals.
The way Andy utilises young girls voices in his albums always adds an extra bit of flair to the tracks, “Just Like Me” is no exception. The song seems aimed at religion as a little girl sings “jesus loves me this I know, for the bible tells me so, yes jesus loves me, the bible tells me so.” This helps set the scene for the angry lines to come, with screamed lines such as “you're just like me!” This builds up to one of the better choruses found on the album, showing the cynicism inherent to the band when “ 'cause deep inside you're just like me, and it's killing you. We're making monsters, we created you; feed you with hope, and abandon you” comes through the speakers. It carries the dark tone set by “Forgotten” and builds on it, showcasing some one of the major differences featured in Making Monsters
; the fact that it's an actual album, not a collection of club hits.
“Slave To Machine” could easily fit in with Today We Are All Demons
, with a faster beat yet similar vocal deliver “Slave To Machine” could sit between “New Form Of Silence” and “Scarred” and feel right at home. The lyrics remind me of Andy's side project Icon of Coil
, being very similar to those found on Machines Are Us
. With a distorted, computer sounding voice providing a few lines the main chorus of “slave to machine, extermination, I'll let this darkness last forever, destroy this world of dreams” is dark; the song speaking of turmoil, loss, and how things have come to be, “it was never supposed to be like this, an end, but not like this.” One of my favorite tracks from the album, everything comes together nicely on “Slave To Machine” and sets the stage for “Through These Eyes Of Pain.”
“Through These Eyes Of Pain” is the slowest Combichrist song in existence, but surprisingly this proves to not be a bad thing. Actual having an album with more than two songs on it is something an avid fan can hopefully appreciate, even if it is strange to hear Andy almost croon “the time is slowing down, the time is slowing down, what brings us to an end through these eyes of pain.” The same could be said of the entire song, the synths are present softly in the background, the drums are prominent yet dulled, creating an atmosphere never before heard on a Combichrist album. This shows progression for a band that used to have entire albums that were dance-able, curse filled, and hard hitting.
Most of Combichrist's past discography has at least one track per album that can be described as quirky; from the interesting intro of “Who's Your Daddy, Snakgirl,” the strangeness that is“Spit,” the wonderfully titled “Give Head If You Got it,” and culminating in my personal favorite “God Bless” these tracks tend to come near the end of the album. “MonsterMurderKill” follows in this vein, but does so quietly. Through a synthesised, sexless, voice the words “we're making monsters, inject adrenaline, fuel up with gasoline; murder kill, monster kill” roll out; the background featuring a synth line that sweeps high and low accompanied by a drum machine playing very swiftly and almost unceasingly.
Have you ever had anyone hounding you for something, be it an object or money? “They” seems directed at those moments, at those people who seemingly want everything you have. What starts of rather mildly with,“they wanna own you and their screams are like thunder,you are losing your mind” builds into contained aggression. The aggressive tones come into play around the 3:00 mark when the chorus repeats “they, they want it all; they, they got it all; they, a billion strong, will destroy us all, make us crawl.” The longest track on the album it clocks in at just under six an a half minutes long, “They” could have gotten boring if it wasn't for the high pitched squeal-like sounds placed towards the latter half of the song. These not only serve to catch the listeners attention, but are really quite catchy and provide much needed variety when compared to the repeated lines found herein.
The final track, “Reclamation” starts of slowly and only reaches moderate tempo. The song has an atmospheric quality that only adds to the words, “not always what we want to be, we turn it off, and pass it on; we have to die to feel alive.” Proving to be a rather good ending track, “Reclamation” recalls the minimalism of certain Nine Inch Nails
songs, fading into nothing with a final “I seek control, I came so close, I seek control.”
Like any album that takes things in a new direction (even if it is inside the bands comfort zone), there are many things to complain about. Nothing found on Making Monsters
is as dance-able as anything Combichrist has previously released, and the album comes as quite a shock if you happen to be a fan of the bands older material. It lacks the vulgarity, the in-your-face mentality that listeners have come to appreciate, replacing it instead with slower yet still cynical pieces. Some dark moments remain, but slower songs such as “Through These Eyes of Pain” and “Reclamation” clash with what fans have come to expect. The band has gone outside of the club hits that made them famous and created a more personal album, one that cannot be considered excellent but sits rather firmly in the “good” category. In interviews leading to Making Monsters
release Andy LaPlegua was quoted as saying “I took liberties to do exactly what I felt like without having any music styles in mind at all. I did exactly what I felt like doing." I tend to believe he did exactly that.
Throat Full Of Glass
Slave To Machine
Through These Eyes of Pain
A special thank you for those who took the time to read the review in its entirety, I too am one who reads the whole review no matter its length. Again thank you, and know that if you ever write an insanely long review I will be sitting there reading every word.
Interview quotes taken from http://www.noisecreep.com/2010/09/21/combichrist-making-monsters-new-album/