As I arrive at Nottingham’s Rock City to see industrial metallers Combichrist, I take a moment to soak up the atmosphere. Reflecting on the fans around me I am reminded of the inhabitants of William Gibson’s genre-defining, cyber-punk novel, Neuromancer. Black leather, neon hair and oversized military boots are the order of the day. Looking down at my Jesus sandals and beach thong I realise I may have miscalculated the evening’s dress code. Supporting Combichrist are Method Cell, Surgyn and Jayce Lewis, all of whom are an ideal appetiser for the main act. Once Jayce Lewis finish their high-octane set the crowd are pumped and ready for Combichrist to take to the stage.
With five acclaimed albums to their name, hundreds of headlining shows and a successful tour supporting Rammstein, Combichrist’s brand of industrial, dance-metal will undoubtedly satisfy fans of bands such as Nine Inch Nails, Ministry and the aforementioned Rammstein. Prior to the gig I discovered that the name Combichrist is derived from a fictional, fanzine character who has a fondness for drug- and alcohol-fuelled rampages during which he beats people to a pulp. Surely the strongest contender so far for this year’s “Do It Yourself Facial Reconstruction Practitioner” award.
Once on stage, the band’s frontman, Andy LaPlegua, reminds me somewhat of a man who has spent the last thousand years in cryogenic storage, only to be thawed out five minutes before the start of the show. Sporting blood-red eyes and a ghostly, white complexion, LaPlegua looks like a 50’s rockabilly ghoul with a score to settle.
The set starts in a somewhat minimalistic fashion with just two of the band’s five members making an appearance, namely LaPlegua and the band’s keyboard player. As was indicated by LaPlegua in our pre-gig interview, this arrangement reflects the line-up during the band’s inception and as the set progresses further band members are introduced reflecting the band’s increasing line-up since 2003. The last member of the band to appear onstage is current guitarist Abby Nex, an androgynous, unwholesome-looking, stick-thin creature who lithely minces across the stage as his guitar beefs up the already ear-shattering sound. Providing the perfect accompaniment to his musical offerings are his saliva projectiles which he deftly aims at unsuspecting members of the audience from his puckered, lipstick-coated lips.
Like a beetle on speed, LaPlegua scurries across the stage (making photographing him a near impossibility), occasionally stopping in his tracks to be fondled by adoring fans or to further mutilate the somewhat puzzling addition of a stuffed toy unicorn he brandished mid-way through the set. His utterly manic manner and crazed facial expressions are something to behold, as are his wildly intense vocals. One does indeed wonder how LaPlegua is able to summon such energy for the sustained periods witnessed throughout the set. Is he a cyborg? Or perhaps something more prosaic can explain this phenomenon – amphetamine anyone? I jest! Although I do wonder if he has something other than pure, red blood running through his veins.
The band play through a set of pure fan-pleasers which features songs such as This Shit Will Fuck You Up, Follow the Trail of Blood, Throat Full of Glass and What the Fuck is Wrong with You? The songs are full of heavy choruses, aggressive vocals and meat-tenderising beats which see the crowd pumping fists and pulling dance moves in abundance. Experiencing this raw performance can be likened to being tied down to a chair (very fitting given the band’s BDSM themes) and shock-blasted for almost two hours as you writhe ecstatically in masochistic pleasure. The aural assault had me banging my head so hard that a week later I’m still wearing Avid Merrion’s neck brace which he kindly lent me on the night of the gig.
For a lot of bands the transition from CD to the stage can be difficult, but this is something at which Combichrist utterly excel. This is a band that begs to be seen live! As the band leave the stage and LaPlegua re-enters his cryogenic chamber, I stand tenderised and broken-boned, contemplating the sanctuary of my sensual, pink leather gimp suit and accompanying gag ball awaiting me at home.
CHECK BACK SHORTLY FOR OUR EXCLUSIVE
INTERVIEW WITH COMBICHRIST!
(Reviewed by Steve Love and Andy Roles)