Into the Pit: 092: Combichrist – Live at the Electric Ballroom – 04-August 2010

I did wonder whether my evening was going to be cursed, after the heavens opened in biblical fashion while standing in the queue, with nowhere to shelter from the pouring rain. And then there was the poorly organised queue, with a lengthy wait to collect tickets that had been pre-booked. Surely, with all the technology available, there is a better and quicker way of checking online bookings than a printed piece of paper?

All these delays meant that I missed some of System:fx‘s set, and after what I did see, I was perhaps wondering if I should have been delayed a little more. Poor, tuneless cyb0r-industrial, with little variation, style or frankly anything else that made me want to rush to hear them again.

Their poor showing – and seemingly endless set – made it all the more galling that the vastly superior Dismantled were alloted a stage time that only allowed for five songs. This short time didn’t hinder an impressive show – frontman Gary Zon was joined by a live drummer and a synth player/backing vocalist, and the setup resulted in a raw, notably different take on their material. Curiously, perhaps, the last album When I’m Dead was ignored, instead blasting through what might be considered a pretty good beginners guide to the band. So we got the schizophrenic, twisting and rocking The Swarm (that certainly divided some friends who hadn’t heard the band before), two of the standouts from Standard Issue (the cutting scene critique and hard-edged synthpop of Get It Through, and the dancefloor-anthem-that-never-was of Breed To Death), and then two songs worthy of the ticket price alone.

And, in fact, the pair were a perfect demonstration of Dismantled’s past and future in one. First was new track Kill Or Be Killed, which introduced a harder, heavier, beat-based approach, clearly influenced by tonight’s headliner but with more of the songcraft that Gary Zon has been so good at, and clearly continues to be good at. More surprising was what followed it – Purity, off the FLA-worshipping debut, that got many of us into this band in the first place. Live, it took on a whole new life. Rather than being the dense, multilayered epic it is on CD, instead it was stripped down, with all distortion removed from the vocals, and instead revealed the beauty of the track that existed all the long beneath all the effects.

However brief the set, this was definitely worth the near-nine-year wait to see them live since I first heard them. I’m now hoping I’ll get another chance to see Dismantled live in the UK, and that next time it’ll be a full set.

Dismantled setlist

The Swarm
Get It Through
Kill Or Be Killed
Breed To Death

For Rabia Sorda, I must confess that while I’ve been a fan of Hocico for a good many years, I’ve never really bothered all that much with the various side-projects – and indeed I’ve begun to lose track of which ones are which. So I came to Erk Aicrag’s side-project with little knowledge, and certainly having heard very little either. So I was a little surprised to find that this was a project with a live drummer, and again a slightly rock-edge to a sound that otherwise wasn’t too many miles away from Hocico. Well, at least Erk’s vocals are rather familiar, and the synth lines were pure Hocico, too. Not that it was easy to make out the lyrics, but the atmosphere felt less dark and full of hate than Hocico, too, but I could be wrong. Either way, I perhaps should have picked up an album or too by this lot sooner.

Combichrist setlist

All Pain Is Gone
Today I Woke To The Rain Of Blood
Without Emotions
Feed Your Anger
Get Your Body Beat
Blut Royale
Fuck That Shit
Never Surrender

This Shit Will Fuck You Up
Sent To Destroy
What The Fuck Is Wrong With You People?

Headliners Combichrist have, frankly, nothing to prove anymore. What has become abundantly clear on recent tours – and again here – is that whether albums are up to scratch or not (and it’s open for debate whether the last one was, in particular), their live show continues to be a big, big draw, with a younger and bigger crowd each time than for any other band that I’ve seen in the industrial scene of late. This was the case more so than ever here, and with the sheer number of Rammstein T-shirts being worn, I’d also suggest that the lengthy stint as support on tour with Rammstein in the past year has widened their audience a lot. In fact, I’ll be really surprised if we don’t see Combichrist on the cover of Kerrang or the like in time.

If you’ve seen Combichrist live in, oh, the past three years, you probably wouldn’t have been surprised with this show at all, but that’s not really the point. It’s big, brash, in-yer-face and very unsubtle, but is undeniably entertaining for the most part and you get the impression that Andy La Plegua actually does love what he does – the grin across his face for much of the show being a bit of a giveaway.

So what did the fans get for their money? A very loud show, for a start – the two drummer setup works brilliantly well and does justice to the brutal power of most of the songs – and not to mention a set very heavily based around the breakthrough album Everybody Hates You (nearly half the set was from it). Not that this was a bad thing, really, as the choices of songs aired was good, and at points it became more obvious than ever why Combichrist are such a popular band. They are mindless escapism, bascially, and allow you to just dance away without worrying too much about any of the details. Some picks from the night? Well, Today I Woke To The Rain Of Blood remains a perfect microcosm of what Combichrist are about, and is clearly hugely loved by the fans, too, while the thundering, groovy beats of Scarred is growing on me a lot. However it’s Get Your Body Beat (a soundtrack for a film that never actually seemed to arrive?) that left my jaw on the floor as the crowd took over for pretty much all of the vocals and seemed to push the band to even greater heights.

The encore was predictable enough, stacked with raucous crowdpleasers to finish off the night, with additional special guests in a couple of the songs, not that anyone noticed too much. As the crowd trooped out into the cool summer night, it was reflecting on a good fun night that wasn’t anything too demanding or serious, but then, was it ever going to be? Sometimes mindless fun is just as good.

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