Personnel: Andy LaPlegua (vocals, guitar, synthesizer, programming); Eric Sanchez (vocals, guitar); Oumi Kapila (guitar, synthesizer, programming, background vocals); Joe Letz, Nick Rossi , Chris Reeve (drums); Brent Ashley, Ariel Levitan (background vocals).
Audio Mixer: Oumi Kapila.
Recording information: Loud and Wasted Studios, Marietta Georgia; Studio 11:11, Malibu, Los Angels.
Photographer: Oliver Rath.
On Combichrist's eighth studio offering, This Is Where Death Begins, main man Andy LaPlegua veers off the band's established electronic-industrial path in favor of a more muscular approach. Bringing in each bandmember's background in metal and punk (see "Tired of Hating You" for proof), TIWDB rocks harder than past Combichrist albums and remains as depraved and vicious as ever. The glimmers of glam stomp that were found on What the Fuck Is Wrong with You People? and We Love You reappear on the battering "My Life My Rules," which recalls late-era Nine Inch Nails and the catchiest of Marilyn Manson's singles. More "NIN-fluence" can be heard throughout: some Year Zero apocalyptic menace collides with Gravity Kills on "Glitchteeth"; a martial blast reminiscent of "Just Like You Imagined" provides a fanfare over the gritty Filter-esque delivery of the epic "Time Again"; and Broken-era riffs tear open the dark "Blackened Heart" and "Slakt." Further fueling the newly beefed-up sound, Combichrist take cues from former tourmates Rammstein, injecting fury into aptly titled gems like "Skullcrusher" and "Destroy Everything." Elsewhere on the brutality spectrum, Chris Motionless joins forces with LaPlegua on the maniacal duet "Pay to Play," which combines Motionless' own "Devil's Night" with a surprising new wave undercurrent. Fans of the band's earlier EBM material may be disappointed by the lack of hard ravers, but with a bevy of elastic basslines and propulsive drumming, TIWDB is still as physical as anything. The best bet for old-school Combichrist is on highlight "Exit Eternity," which features MXMS vocalist Ariel Levitan. Four songs in, it's the bright dose of digital depravity that hardcore fans will relish. Likewise, LaPlegua's lyrical content remains consistent, bleeding overwrought rage and contempt into every violent word. Sadism, misogyny, brutality -- these aren't firsts on a Combichrist record -- and neither is pain. Twisted, tormented wails open the two-part "Black Tar Dove" -- truly disturbing recordings that are quite jarring -- which piles on the drama with lines like "Take a bath in your pain... I shower in your hate!" The song pummels like NIN's "Eraser," and also echoes Reznor's clunky lyrics to boot. In a rare moment of vulnerability, LaPlegua closes with "Homeward," a haunting dirge that brings back Levitan for some ethereal harmony. Overall, this is Combichrist's most stylistically adventurous offering, pounding new layers of force onto an already powerful palette. ~ Neil Z. Yeung