Last time we caught up with Andy LaPlegua's industrial team Combichrist, they had turned out No Redemption, their complete original score to Capcom's recent reboot of the classic game Devil May Cry. This week they're back with their seventh full-length studio album We Love You – which, despite the deceptively warm and fuzzy title and cover artwork, is definitely the band's heaviest, hardest-hitting release to date.
Combichrist went through a career-defining stylistic shift with 2010's Making Monsters, transitioning from heavy aggro-tech/EBM mode into a much grittier, more organic approach, driven by crushing guitar riffs and huge cyber-tribal percussion. It was a welcome evolution in their sound, and thankfully Andy and company have not only adhered to that mode, but with We Love You they've injected even more high-octane metal into the mix, along with more of the experimental and darkly cinematic elements introduced in No Redemption. They've also brought much more variety to their game on this record, which spans multiple genres and a vast range of sonic textures and dynamics. But at the end of the day, it's raw, bloody aggression that truly marks a Combichrist track, and there's plenty of that on tap here.
The opening cut “We Were Made to Love You” pulls a shocking bait-and-switch, with a spoken-word intro delivered in a deceptively soothing robot voice before pulling the rug out with the chilling announcement “We will start the elimination process in 10 seconds,” then busting into a huge, skull-crushing cyber-metal anthem, with LaPlegua adopting the hardcore vocals that helped define the new Combi sound – though this time the entire package is cranked to 11, packing in harsh glitch, gang-chanted refrains and erratic, gut-punching rhythms. The album is punctuated throughout with thunderous, guitar-driven pieces like these – including “Maggots at the Party,” which sports one of the album's most badass riffs, and the mighty arena-rocker “Love is a Razorblade.”
Amid the metal holocaust, the classic electro-industrial elements of Making Monsters are still in plentiful supply as well, showcased on “Every Day is War,” the smoldering “Satan's Propaganda” and the truly awesome “Fuck Unicorns” – a bouncing, buzzing instrumental which not only shoots to the top of my list for best song title of the year (“We Rule the World, Motherfuckers” runs a close second), but is also one of the band's least conventional dance-floor tracks, with a spectacular coda that I'd love to hear expanded in a remix. Another strong repeater is “From My Cold, Dead Hands,” a soaring EBM anthem which also serves as the album's first single.
Tracks like the hypnotic “Can't Control” strike an effective balance between the album's guitar and synth-driven modes, while the cleaner, more melodic “Denial” and the moody acoustic guitar and piano interlude “The Evil in Me” change up the dynamics in just the right doses, with the latter showcasing a gloomy death-rock lyrical approach. The album closes with the massive two-parter “Retreat, Hell,” which runs the gamut from ominous bass-driven gothic rock to colossal stacked riffage and soaring, layered chorus vocals, wrapping in the second half with a bizarre, pensive talk-sung passage from LaPlegua set against acoustic guitar and dark ambient effects, with a chilling coda that loosely ties it to the opening of Making Monsters.
Going in, I honestly didn't know what to expect from We Love You, but to say I was pleasantly surprised would be the understatement of the year. This is without a doubt the band's heaviest, hookiest and most diverse album since their inception over a decade ago, and it had pretty much rocketed to the top of my Best of 2014 list before I'd even finished the first play-through. If you dig the direction Andy's taken the band lately, you'll be blown away by this one; the Monsters they unleashed in 2010 have now grown to Godzilla-sized proportions.