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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Front Line Assembly- party like it's 1992!

Two album reviews in one week?- I thought this was supposed to be a gaming blog. Well, I just got the new Front Line Assembly album, "Improvised Electronic Device" in the mail. I've given it several listens and have very conflicted feelings towards it. What better time to review it, eh? This also gives me an opportunity to step outside of all of the indie-rock albums I've been reviewing lately. I like that shit a lot, but really I just like music. I'm not a hipster douche-bag, but unfortunately that's where most of the interesting shit is happening in music right now.


In the beginning, Bill Leeb created Frontline Assembly (FLA) in 1986 after (allegedly) being kicked out of fellow Canadian (and vastly superior act) Skinny Puppy. Since that time he and a revolving cast of long time co-contributors have created several of the more memorable industrial albums out there. Sadly, the band and perhaps the industrial scene at large really peaked around the early to mid 90s. FLA went on to produce a handful of really terrible albums (Implode, Epitaph, and Civilization) throughout the 2000s with Rhys Fulber in the band full time throughout most of those productions. The band basically devolved into a dark disco act like so many other industrial groups have done since then (yes Apoptygma Berzerk, I mean you). They were responsible for some of the worst abuses of the arpeggiator since Phillip Glass was first allowed to get within 10 feet of a keyboard and really slipped into this awful phase of trying to sound like a "Pure Moods" worthy group. If you think I'm kidding, one of Leeb's 50+ awful side projects, Delerium, actually was on a "Pure Moods" album. Add in some truly pitiful attempts at mixing break beats into the sound as well as completely long and masturbatory "soundscapes" and you have a real train wreck on your hands.

Thankfully, Rhys has left the band and much like when Paul Barker left Ministry, they've pretty much stopped sucking again. Now don't expect a return to the days of "Tactical Neural Implant" or "Hard Wired," but if the death of the industrial scene has left a hole in your heart like it has mine, this album sounds like a more logical progression of where industrial should have gone then what it devolved into. This album hits pretty hard at times and avoids the trap most modern attempts at industrial music fall into- sounding like music made for sad/angry ravers. Don't get me wrong, if there still were industrial clubs and I happened to find myself in one, parts of this album could coerce me to get out of my seat, but it's by no means a dance album.

Glowing review so far, but here's where things get a little complicated. This is such a return to business as usual that it really fails to bring anything new to the table. The album is rife with some truly uninspired songwriting. Yet it does sound distinctly like FLA. You wanna know why? Because many elements are recycled wholesale throughout. I couldn't help escape the feeling while listening to it that it could have pretty much been any FLA album ever. Song structures are eerily familiar, chord progressions are ripped from old songs, vocal phrasings and effects processing haven't evolved, and worst of all synth tones (presumably keyboard/sequencer presets at that!) are reused from old songs. This honestly just shows that either Leeb doesn't know how his hardware and software actually works and can't create his own unique synth voices or that he has gotten truly lazy and just phoned a lot of this record in. Plus a lot of those soundscapes and bad arpeggiations are still lingering in the background. Here's a tip- if you play one pad for almost 3 minutes of nothing happening on the first track of your record, your listeners will lose interest. You really need to go straight for the balls right away in your line of work.

A guitar player joins the band on this album again though, so it's not a total wash. FLA has always been one of only a handful of industrial acts that really need a guitar to drive the sound. Oh and also Al Jourgensen of Ministry sings on one track. Good times.

So my final conflicted verdict at the moment seems to be that if you are already familiar with the scene, this is an ok way to relive your lost youth. If on, on the other hand, you are not familiar with industrial music I would advise trying to find any of the following albums and forgo the newest FLA release:

Skinny Puppy "Too Dark Park"
Skinny Puppy "Rabies"
Skinny Puppy "Remission"
Die Krupps "Odessy of the Mind" - under rated and very guitar driven
FLA "Tactical Neural Implant"
FLA "Hard Wired"
Einst├╝rzende Neubauten "Halber Mensch"
Front 242 "Front By Front"  - if you play Hordes this is where the Troll headhunter character got all of his special rules from :)

So any ways, here are some videos from "Improvised Electronic Device."

Well fuck me sideways, there are like no videos of any kind at all anywhere on the Internet. It's been one of those days. Well here's a link to some decent length preview tracks on some random website. You should check out "Angriff" and "I.E.D" for sure. Also listen to "Release." That one will prove my point about recycling. It's basically just "Bio-Mechanic" and "Prophecy" from earlier albums mashed together.

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