Review Summary: A ballsy evolution in sound brings their finest work to date.
Just how damaging can lyrics be to a piece of music? Lets be honest, it's a small piece to the puzzle; if the music is solid and the vocal work is varied and blends in well with the instruments, it must surely be given the green pass, right? Welcome to Combichrist's latest offering: This Is Where Death Begins
. Formed in 2003, Combichrist started off their career as an industrial, EBM (Electronic Body Music) band; a collage of hard-hitting industrial beats and techno electronics being thrown into the listeners face, with an abrasive punk attitude to boot. However, since the band's experience with the DMC OST, they seem to have a taste for the heavies. Their last effort, We Love You
was a lot less EBM and more commercially appealing than their previous works; it was a fusion of their old sounds, with a bigger influence on heavy metal and really hooky melodies, which we can only summize came from working on the Devil May Cry soundtrack. This Is Where Death Begins
is outright dominated by a heavy metal sound this time around -- a bold move to make when there is a chance long-time fans could despise the band's seventh LP, but the music is far from the problem here.
No, the music on here is fantastic: it's heavy, infectious and out to tear eardrums. This is helped by a great production, which manages to crush walls and craft an album with a lot of decent layers; getting a really decent handling on what remains of the electronics, as the band opt for the more guitar heavy soundscape. Due to the band's rather sudden U-turn in sound, the biggest question you should be asking yourself is: "do I like DMC: No Redemption?", simply because the template of this record is based around that. If you hated it, you might struggle to enjoy a lot of what's on here. The album's mainstay is heavy metal; the album showcases decent guitar chops, a punchy rhythm section that holds in tight to bring a really effective power to the music, while Andy contributes an impressive array of vocal ranges: harsh screams, monologue-style talking and clean vocal work weaving in and out of this 15 track beast. Songs like "Slakt" indulges in Rammstein's treble set-to-kill guitar tones, and, indeed, uses Rammstein heavily for ideas on the song. While "We Are Plague" is almost bordering on Avenged Sevenfold like riffing. Industrial is still an integral part of the band's sound, but it's more industrial-metal
than the EBM industrial sound -- think NIN, Skinny Puppy or Ministry -- especially in the latter half of the LP when it drives the record into the electronic side more; the Skinny Puppy "Don't Care How You Feel About It", the Rob Zombie stomp of "Time Again" and the NIN influence of "Glitch Teeth", you can see where they're drawing inspiration.
Despite a lot of concern fans had from the single, "Skull Crusher", the album is far from a one trick pony. This Is Where Death Begins
might not have a lot of the band's original hallmarks, but it still has a vast amount of electronic influence -- especially towards the end -- and the tone of the album changes quite significantly as it goes on. The start of the album is all very heavy metal
, nothing particularly earth shattering -- albeit enjoyable none-the-less -- but then tracks like the glitchy "Exit Eternity" begin to creep into the album and prove they haven't quite give up on their old sound just yet. This was a great move, as it breaks up any preconceptions you have for the rest of the album this far into it, and is a high indicator there will be a few surprises to be had on this ride. When you get to "Tired of Hating You" things begin to get more intense. Things get darker and more acute: "Blackened Heart"'s screaming synths and -- my favourite tracks on here -- "Black Tar Dove" parts 1 and 2 are so eerily disturbing and interesting to hear it's hard to believe you were listening to the same album when you compare it to the earlier tracks.
So, if you're a fan of the DMC soundtrack you're in for a complete winner. No two ways about it. If you're a fan of industrial music, this is some of the best I've heard in awhile. The different tones and genre shifts make for such an interesting listen. The negatives to this album? As the opening to this review suggests, This Is Where Death Begins
suffers from some truly terrible lyrics; they read like a 13 year old angst teen wrote them. And due to Andy's Lou Reed style vocals from time-to-time, they really stand out from the music. Most songs are decently written, and the lyrics in the closing track hold up a little cryptic, but you can see Andy's shortcomings fall on his poetry. "Skull Crusher" contains some of the worst lyrics I've come across for some time:
"You son of a bitch, you must be kidding. Serving this pile of crap, I'm not forgiving you. Goddamn it, you're only holding me back. Get out of my way.
Yes, it sounds as awkward as it reads. And you'll occasionally come across certain phrases or word placements that makes you go "eh?" It can really make a couple of the songs stutter, with songs like "Skull Crusher" and "My Life My Rules", they take big hits from these things and it's a real shame when everything else is running at such a high calibre. For me, this is an easy thing to look past when every other aspect of the LP is done so well. Will this album appeal to old fans of the band? Judging from the backlash of "Skull Crusher" it's not looking good. But I'm sure even the most elitist of fans will find something redeemable in the latter half of the record. As for anyone into heavy music, you can reap the rewards here.
Editions: MP3, C̶D̶, 2̶C̶D̶, 3̶C̶D̶/̶D̶V̶D̶, V̶I̶N̶Y̶L̶
Special Edition: 2-CD-Digipak-version contains a bonus disc “History Of Madness: Old School And Rarities Live At Complex, LA” (a selection of the group's early industrial classics.) The album is also released as a strictly limited fan set in a deluxe A5-Digipak containing the double-CD plus the complete recording of the group's energetic live show at Summer Breeze Festival 2015 on CD and DVD.