"Echogenetic" (Album, 2013)
Founder (and only remaining original) member, Bill Leeb returns with Front Line Assembly's seventeenth(!) studio album. There are few acts that reach this kind of longevity. Those that do either pander the masses and compromise, or they stick to their guns, consistently develop and never toe the line. Thankfully, Leeb constantly moves this project forward, absorbing contemporary influences along the way. Not that such a strategy is likely to reward those fixated on FLA's formative years.
Long-standing followers will remember the kick-back the band received (from some quarters) after releasing [FLA]vour of The Weak in 1997. A gloriously triumphant leap forward for the project into alternative dance territory; which had some of the knuckle-headed Caustic Grip era refuseniks spitting out their beer in anger. Retards. In 2013, Leeb's 46th year, a certain amount of urgency has unquestionably been supplanted by reflection. At least Leeb isn't embarrassing himself by pretending he's still in his 20s. Despite its distinctly FLA title, Echogenetic is purely electronic and guitar-free, a much more complex affair that the memorable one-word title might imply.
The entire album is more considered than I guessed it would be; and whilst it doesn't rank in the upper quartile of stellar FLA albums, its a solid addition to the catalogue. Apparently, there was no tactical game plan with its construction, no concerted effort to make a particular 'type' of album; and that shows. Echogenetic is an eclectic affair, reflecting the diverse past of styles the project has explored over time. The first track, Resonance, is a natural segue from the preceding AirMech game soundtrack, but what follows is another left turn from the band. Most rewarding, for a variety of differing reasons, are Killing Grounds, Blood and Exo. It may not be wall-to-wall golden hour Front Line Assembly, but Echogenetic provides an impressive explanation as to why FLA are still around, still fighting and still breaking personal new ground. 7/10
Rob Dyer (September 2013)
"Improvised Electronic Device" (Album, 2010)
After the electronic-focus of the Shifting Through The Lens single, where two-thirds of the material was of a cerebral nature, the visceral heavier, guitar driven songs that dominate Front Line Assembly's umpteenth album came as a bit of a surprise. (Ministry's Al Jourgensen guests on Stupidity - the most insane entry here.) Opening song I.E.D. with its chugging guitars and frantic drumming is a superb intro to the album and promises plenty (and will make a fantastic start to the live set on the accompanying tour). What follows is a mostly neat and successful blending of previous FLA styles and influences. Third track Hostage maybe balances the mix best, being the fascinating offspring of FLA's 1992 classic Tactical Neural Implant and their dance influenced FLAvour of the Weak album five years later. Yet it (and the album as a whole) is resolutely contemporary and manages to still see the FLA sound developing even after twenty four years on the job.
Of course, due to Leeb's recruitment drive in recent years, the reality is that half of the band line-up today were almost babes in arms when the first FLA material was released back in 1986. So the success of Improvised Electronic Device is actually around its ability to span generations and yet deliver an album to both that works on several levels instead of sounding forced or contrived. Downfall closes proceedings in epic style, returning to the soundtrack style of the previous single. For me, it's pieces like Downfall and Shifting Through the Lens that are standout moments, suggesting to me that those not already set on securing their copy of this latest, impressive long-player, should at least do themselves the favour of picking up the thrilling single that preceded it. 7/10
"Shifting Through The Lens" (Single, 2010) !DSO Recommended!
Rock solid three-track single that is the perfect tease for FLA's latest album due to follow at the end of the month. The title track gets things up and running to a terrific start with its dance beats, twisting bass synth line and Bill Leeb's measured vocals. Kinda like a darker Fluke, it rapidly makes short order of its plus six minute running time. Thrilling stuff.
Knocking on seven minutes, you could initially be forgiven for thinking Angriff had been mislabelled, with its sleep-inducing dripping piano intro. But it quickly changes tack and gear altogether with guitars and vocal growling (somewhere between KMFDM and Rammstein) kicking in, before very cleverly combining the two aspects into the final third.
Finally, the nine-and-a-half minute instrumental Endless Void begins by echoing past side project Will with its landscape atmospherics and distant tolling church bell, before gradually building into a sweeping piece of ambient electronica. Again, it's over before you know it, which has to be a good sign. In these three tracks Front Line Assembly prove beyond doubt that they don't need to rely upon past glories to demonstrate they are as essential today as ever they've ever been. I can't wait for the album and the tour. 8/10
Rob Dyer (June 2010)
"Civilisation" (Album, 2004) !DSO Recommended!
Having spent the last six years achieving international recognition for his Delirium and Conjure One projects working with the likes of Sinead O'Connor and Sarah MaClachlan, and producing acts such as Fear Factory and Paradise Lost, Rhys Fulber returns to his most industrial of outlets, FLA. The previous four FLA albums, Flavour of the Weak (1997), Monument (1998), Implode (1999) and Epitaph (2001) were Fulber-free, seeing Bill Leeb teaming up again with Chris Peterson. But for many fans, Front Line Assembly is Bill Leeb and Rhys Fulber. On the strength of Civilisation it's easy to understand why.
Since their formation in 1986, FLA have been at the forefront of the industrial music movement, but their talent has seen them constantly develop their sound putting them forever at the leading edge of the scene. Civilisation is the perfect summation of the two core members' respective careers to date. It's FLA filtered through everything else they've done in their various side projects, but particularly Delerium. This is most noticeable on a song like Vanished with its gentle rhythms and lilting melodies and female backing vocals.
Such phrases might strike terror into the heart of some FLA traditionalists, but opening track Psychosomatic should reassure them that these guys know what they're up to, but that it's time to forget the past and move on. Title track Civilisation is one of the finest examples of just why FLA remains such an important, influential and unrivalled partnership. And Transmitter (Come Together) proves beyond doubt that the fusion between Delerium and Tactical Neural Implant era FLA is not only divine inspiration but also human genius.
Yet, what Civilisation the album demonstrates more convincingly than anything else, is the sheer talent that lies at the heart of FLA in the Leeb and Fulber team. Talent for producing constantly impressive work, effortlessly ensuring that the name Front Line Assembly will forever remain in the upper echelons of electronic bands. Thoroughly compelling. 8/10
Rob Dyer (April 2004)
Official Front Line Assembly website: http://www.mindphaser.com