I warned you a few weeks ago that these guys were coming… and now Combichrist has returned to crush your skull again with their latest release. Gird your loins in riveted pleather (just be sure the spiky bits are on the outside, unless you're into that sort of thing) and settle in for a tale of electronic mayhem.
The seed of this cybernetic devil-spawn first began to gestate back in 2003, when Norwegian musician/producer Andy LaPlegua sought to take his homeland’s well-known affinity for extreme metal and channel the same energy and themes into a more synth-based dynamic. The first incarnation of this idea became the legendary group Icon of Coil, but the desire to move into harsher musical territory led to the creation of Combichrist, which has since risen to become a juggernaut in the world of evil dance music, scoring big stateside with a phenomenally successful tour in support of their 2005 album Everybody Hates You, their first US release on Metropolis Records.Their popularity continued to climb with the release of single “Get Your Body Beat” the following year, which held fast for six weeks on Billboard’s Top 10 Dance Singles list, and escalated further with their hit 2007 album What the F**k Is Wrong With You People? The success of that release was tied to the band’s biggest global tour ever, after which LaPlegua immediately turned to his next project, the single “Sent to Destroy” – yet another chart-topping club hit – which brings us more or less to the present day, with the release of their latest full-length project Today We Are All Demons, slated for release on January 20th through Metropolis.Definitely the band’s most ambitious project to date, Demons is every bit as evil as its title implies – a tour-de-force of diabolical electro sorcery. “It’s by far my most personal album to date,” Andy states in the album’s press release. “I finally feel I have captured the spirit of Combichrist.”To this end, Andy set out to take all the core elements of their sound – which he describes as “a journey through hell and high water, through the eyes of a serial killer, sex, violence and plenty of Jack Daniels on ice” – and crank them up to 11. In more straightforward terms, it meant ramping up distortion into the stratosphere, deepening the already gut-busting sub-bass, and expanding their once tightly-compressed synth environments to create a broader, more epic sound.After the hilariously pathetic voicemail message of “No Afterparty,” the album kicks off with the meaty synth line of “All Pain Is Gone,” introducing Andy's gruff and aggressively overdriven vocal, creating a decidedly hardcore vibe, perhaps diminished slightly by a tepid chorus synth lead, but otherwise a decent starting gun. “Kickstart the Fight” ups the ante with some oily, buzzing slides, tight analog snare beats and interweaving rap-rock male/female vocals, and “I Want Your Blood” drapes its harsh stabs and robotic vocals with surprisingly complimentary smooth synth washes, much in the vein of early Wumpscut. And while I'm drawing comparisons, I'd declare the rapid-fire sequence that opens “Can't Change the Beat” (which opens up to a full-bore bass line that will pop the fillings out of your teeth), combined with Andy's rallying martial vocals (recorded clean except for some delay), is pure Nitzer Ebb, and the hilariously filthy samples and down-and-dirty sawtooth riffs of instrumental “Spit” is a wink and a nod to Lords of Acid.Hit single “Sent to Destroy” is here again – and most welcome, as it contains some of the band's darkest, most haunting rhythm lines and Andy's strongest vocals, but I would also put in my vote for “Scarred” as their next club anthem in the making – rebellious, wicked and fist-pumpingly irresistible, with a great march-style bridge. The minimalist structure of “Get Out of My Head” hides a fairly complex network of FX patches and chopped vocals that eventually bubbles angrily to the surface.The down-tempo title track – which isn't the album's closer, but really should be – departs from the EBM pattern for a more intimate, piano-based melody driven by rolling snares, with Andy's cleanest and most expressive vocal work. It's also a more direct presentation of his songwriting skill, which I'd overlooked in the crush of thunderous beats. Unfortunately, for me it renders the return to form with final track “At the End of it All” a bit anticlimactic, despite the soaring, echoing synths. (But be sure to hang around till the end of the 20-minute blank space which follows it for more voicemail hilarity.)Overall, Today We Are All Demons is mean-spirited, coarse, loud, raunchy and totally evil. In other words, I liked it. If LaPlegua and crew set out to top the audacity of their previous effort – and the bar was set pretty high, frankly – then I'd say they managed that pretty well. This is not “polite” dance music, but it's everything that hard techno/EBM should be.“I wanted more of everything,” LaPlegua states, “and everything seemed to just fall into place without making any compromises.” I’m inclined to agree. If you already love Combichrist, or aggro-tech in general, your darkest dreams will come true. If you’re still testing the waters of extreme electronic dance music, just face your fears, crap yer pants and dive in. Demons is a wild experience that will crank up your pulse-rate and rattle your brain… and if you think that’s a negative situation, then you probably don’t like horror movies either, so what the hell are you doing here?