A somewhat enjoyable fire, though
It’s interesting to think of a marriage between dance music and metal. To many, it probably doesn’t even sound possible and in a way, it’s not. We’re not talking the typical, rave-type EDM or drum and bass style stuff here—instead, think more of the hard-hitting whirrs and screeches that coincide with electronic and industrial. For Combichrist, this “aggrotech” approach is the basis for their entire discography, and they stay in suit with their latest One Fire. Industrial metal may not be for everyone, but One Fire shows that even within aurally offensive tracks there are still some components that command attention and appreciation individually, even if they’re not pleasant as a whole.
The album’s intro—titled “Intro,” appropriately—is under a minute worth of clamored conversation and muddled sounds that does more to produce anxiety than provide clarification of what’s coming next. “Hate Like Me” somewhat makes up for that though, blending new-wavy and post-punk styles into the somewhat abrasive nature of the song. They take another turn with “Guns at Last Dawn,” which features Fear Factory’s Burton C. Bell. It ends up leaning more towards heavy and death metal for the majority of the song, with little bits of industrial breakdown interspersed throughout. It’s a pretty stark contrast to “Bottle of Pain,” which is a pretty much folk-metal done by Nine Inch Nails. For folk-metal, it works but seems displaced amidst the chaos of the rest of the record.
One of the highlights though comes from a song they covered. Combichrist’s take on “California über alles” by the Dead Kennedy’s is a true homage to the punk rock classic. It’s done with all the theatrics and drama of frontman Andy LaPlegua, while also incorporating a stronger drum presence and slightly more refined sound.
If there’s one thing Combichrist is, it’s “showy,” but that exaggeration actually works at certain points on One Fire. There’s something to be valued in their integration different stylistic elements without lessening their forte, in a way that even a folk lover could appreciate.