Review Summary: Rough and ready.
Andy LaPlegua has caused quite a stir with his fans in recent years. There was a time when Andy, and one of the several line-ups, were delivering a harsh aggrotech and EBM sound that not only captivated its fans, but created a sound that was cutting-edge and a little ahead of the curve at that point. However, the last 10 years or so has seen a gradual evolution – or devolution depending on who you ask – with Combichrist’s music; trading in the aggrotech for an abrasive industrial-metal blare. I’m in the minority of fans that thoroughly enjoyed 2016’s This Is Where Death Begins
, but to many long-time fans it was a step too far, with many seeing the band lose what made them so appealing in the first place. Whatever your preference though, look at the band’s history contextually and you’ll not only see a pretty impressive back-catalogue, but a musician pushing his own personal boundaries. Andy – the brainchild of this whole project – has come a long way since starting out; in terms of song-writing, but more over in his singing ability and ear for melody. What was once a conceptual project, following Andy’s fictional comic book hero “Combichrist” through all manner of debauchery and perversion, eventually led to a theme of fervent party-themed music; while now Andy touches on life’s problems and death. It’s the sign of a band maturing, and you can really see and hear the changes as the years move on.
So with all that said, where does this album sit? Without holding back, put simply, this 2003 offering is primitive and contains its fair share of problems, but even if you take these drawbacks out of the equation it still presents itself as a menacing debut; one that holds up pretty well, even by today’s standards. This moody, atmospheric slab of electro-industrial is caked in dank atmosphere, and has an excellent nose for great build-ups and texture painting; tracks start off with a simple beat, before adding samples and synth into the mix, eventually leading to a crescendo of booty-shaking groove and energy. “You Will Be the Bitch Now” and “The Line to the Dead” are prefect examples of how Combichrist blend an aggressive spark with simple, repetitive structures. The depressive tone and production, work in constructing songs which can be crushing at times: the earth-shaking hammers from the bass on “Vater Unser” or the ferocious fast-tempo of “Bulletfu*k” show that Andy is really catching on to something. The album’s best track, “God Wrapped in Plastic”, tells best what the future holds for the band: opening with a sound sample of Pete from Twin Peaks repeating “wrapped in plastic”, before kicking in with a great drumbeat and incorporating the catchiest pieces of melody you’ll get on the whole LP, it’s a joy to sit through.
There are two glaring problems with The Joy of Gunz
: the first is the whopping 15-track run-time, which damages the quality here significantly, and secondly for the absent vocal work. These two things also go hand-in-hand in creating the same reoccurring problem throughout, and had one of these things been reined in, it could have benefited the LP greatly. Even though songs do a great job of handling the repetitive nature of their compositions, it just doesn’t work well enough to stop boredom settling in after a while. “Shrunken Heads for All Occasions” is a really nice, gentle piece which gives you a little rest from the music heard thus far, but its 7 minute length spends way too much time shuffling around the same idea to make it a hearty recommendation. And unfortunately, by the time you’ve finished listening to the album, it doesn’t warrant a great deal of replay value after it. Bar a couple of the tracks, Andy rarely pops up with a vocal performance, relying a little too heavily on samples that repeat over and over. Had a more conscious effort gone into implementing vocals to tracks, I think the monotony would be less severe.
It’s still a good album though. It has the obvious problems, but the bodywork is clearly there for future releases. If you’re into this type of electro music, it’s well worth dipping into. It has an excellent atmosphere, and some really good moments throughout, just expect a couple of hiccups along the way.
SPECIAL EDITION: N/A