June 3, 2019 Combichrist – One Fire (Album Review)
If you think variety is the spice of life, well, Industrial Metal titans Combichrist have you covered with their truly eclectic new offering, One Fire. Out of Line Music delivers the aggressive disc on Friday, June 7th, 2019, and here’s a four-word summary: cinematic, chaotic, frustrated lobotomies.
The Atlanta, Georgia-based Combichrist is synonymous with its Frontman Andy LaPlegua, as they are one and the same. The Norwegian-born vocalist and multi-instrumentalist founded both Icon of Coil and Panzer AG, as well as partaking in a veritable host of other musical adventures (including current projects Scandy and Scandinavian Cock) throughout the years. However, in 2003, he shifted his gears to explore a darker, more aggressive sound with Combichrist. Releasing eight albums over the past sixteen years with the project, from 2003’s epic The Joy of Gunz to 2016’s killer This Is Where Death Begins, he has consistently topped the Dance and Alternative charts worldwide and even shared stages with the very diverse likes of Rammstein, Aesthetic Perfection, and New Years Day.
Throughout the years, the band has featured a bevy of talented musicians, including LaPlegua’s most frequent compatriot, Drummer Joe Letz, who opted to leave the fold in January. Though, as fans already know, LaPlegua handles all that studio stuff for the band. In this regard, his ninth full-length studio release, the 13-song One Fire is no different and unaffected by any lineup changes. Considered to be both a glance back at the band’s history and a nod toward its future, the album goes sinister, sonically, and artfully merciless thanks to its incendiary cover design by Artist Deka Sepdian.
One Fire opens to an intro that, at just over one minute, builds intensity and an ominous atmosphere of chaos. This segues without pause into “Hate Like Me,” which boldly opens to LaPlegua announcing, “I’m here to tell you something you won’t like.” A delicious dance beat anchored by synths serves as the backbone for the heavy rocker that explores the idea of a crew of brothers growing apart. Perhaps aimed at a former bandmate, perhaps not, here LaPlegua laments the loss of someone who used to share in his loathing.
Frustrated howls open “Broken United,” an anthemic call for the broken to raise their fists and stand together. The song is a perfect example of the band’s delicious melding of Industrial Metal with Punk attitude, which continues and explodes within the confines of “Guns At Last Dawn,” a frenetic cacophony of rage that features Fear Factory’s Burton C. Bell on guest vocals.
If you “don’t want to hurt tonight,” if you simply want to go numb and dance, “Lobotomy” has you covered with ASMR-inducing silky beats that caress the flesh seductively. Meanwhile, returning to the anthemic feel of “Broken United,” the titular “One Fire” is a languid rocker crafted from an impressive wall of sound. Here, LaPlegua invites those that suffer through the day to unite as one flame to embrace the night. Cinematics sweep across the landscape of “Bottle of Pain,” a ballad-esque presentation that shows an entirely new facet of LaPlegua and Combichrist. Part Johnny Cash, part Hans Zimmer, all Combichrist, the track explores a vast soundscape of mania and pain, murderous intentions, and the will of a man hellbent on survival.
With the present soaked in whiskey and murder on the agenda, what does the future hold? Blending soundbites with LaPlegua’s gritty growls, “2045” laments the fact that we are living in a future prediction, poisoning our soil and taking until there is nothing left. Will there be a future beyond today? At just over a minute, “Interlude” is a delicate vocal and guitar-guided moment of reflection, one that easily harkens back to “Bottle of Pain,” while cleansing the palate from the harshness of its predecessor. It segues into the steady beat of “Understand,” a lifetime without hope or answers—don’t ask why.
Sung from the perspective of Jerry Brown, governor of California from 1975-1983 and 2011-2019, “California Uber Alles” goes totally Punk Rock to shine a light on the political climate in the Golden State, as well as across the U.S. The desire to close our eyes and pretend that everything will be sunshine and roses, the misguided belief that nothing bad can possible happen where we live is what allows the corrupt to rule.
The danceable beats of “Last Days Under the Sun” ironically lament the good and the bad of humanity, rejoicing in our sinfulness while maligning our inability to follow reason. This leads to the album’s conclusion, the intense moment that is “The Other.” A personal plea, a wish to turn back the clock on past words spoken and deeds done, the track pulses heavily across the senses, giving further weight to LaPlegua’s raw intimacy.
For those that wish, the album is available for purchase in a multitude of formats with bonus goodies, including two additional bonus discs—one of these being the 8-track Hellblade OST, selections from the video game soundtrack authored by LaPlegua. Meanwhile, the second 8-song disc is composed of One Fire remixes by the likes of Burton C. Bell of Fear Factory, Solar Fake, Gigantor, and more.
Overall, One Fire is bleak in its insights and worldview, but that is somewhat to be expected from Combichrist. It certainly does not stop LaPlegua from offering some truly scrumptious dance beats alongside pulverizing riffs, gritty growls, and a veritable plethora of eclecticism throughout the collection. A dark, dirty lobotomy of Industrial Metal, Punk attitude, and whatever else gets LaPlegua off, One Fire is a stern promise that even after sixteen years Combichrist have not gone soft. For this, Cryptic Rock gives One Fire 4.5 of 5 stars.