Front Line Assembly
Improvised. Electronic. Device.

If your version of industrial metal starts with Ministry and ends with Rammstein, then you haven’t heard Front Line Assembly – particularly their pulverizing 1994 release Millennium. On that album, Bill Leeb and Rhys Fulber (yes, the same electronic wizard who collaborated with Fear Factory on Demanufacture and Mechanize) took riffs from Sepultura’s Arise and Pantera’s Vulgar Display of Power and welded them to pounding dance beats, apocalyptic soundscapes, and the occasional Hellraiser sample. The industrial purists may have spewed venom and battery acid, but for  more metal-minded fans, a genre classic was born.

After that, Fulber’s involvement was sporadic, as were the metal riffs (FLA is primarily an industrial/electro act). Leeb and his studio cohorts continued on with a succession of stellar albums and remixes, creating dystopian anthems from electronic ephemera, harsh vocals, crushing beats, and  cinematic heft. Highlights include the brutish and claustrophobic Hard Wired, the soaring, Delerium-tinged Civilization and the symphonic nightmare of Implode. For my money, FLA has always been one of the most atmospheric acts in heavy music, period.

Now, after 15 years, Front Line Assembly brings the metal back to their cybernetic forge with Improvised. Electronic. Device. It’s not Millennium part II, but it’s good to hear pumping, crunchy riffs in their sound again – even if they don’t deliver quite the same cathartic punch that accompanied Millenium’s easily-recognized samples. Yet it still sounds like Front Line Assembly to me: futuristic warfare beneath dark, polluted skies, or the SkyNet soundtrack to obliteration, set to a high BPM.

“I.E.D,” aptly titled, starts the album off with an explosive blast. It’s all lurching stomp, skittering beats and downtuned thrash riffs – a high-speed roadie run through a rubble-strewn urban hell, with a bomb-defusing drone as your tour guide. The assault continues with “Angriff,” one of my favorite tracks on the album. Although it starts off morose and ethereal, a guitar riff soon rips through that veil like razor wire. A chain-gang shout in the chorus sounds like the backbreaking work of bodies being tossed over the wall.

There’s more slashing guitar on later tracks like “Laws of Deception” and its follow-up, “Pressure Wave.” One stalks like a relentless Terminator; the second thrums and clangs like the blazing foundry that birthed it. Other tracks like “Hostage” and first single “Shifting Through the Lens” are all pounding electro-industrial breakbeats, dance-floor stomp and sinister melodies. Even without the guitars, they’re two of the most intense and high-energy cuts on the album. There’s even an emotional peak with “Afterlife.” It’s not FLA‘s first dirge – far from it – but they’ve not used distorted guitars with such a warm, organic sound like this before.

There’s also the much-talked-about Al Jourgensen cameo, and no surprise, “Stupidity” sounds just like it came off a Ministry album. It’s fast, bristling, seething electro-thrash, and one of the fastest things that FLA has ever done. Yet it’s more one-dimensional than most of their usual material, and if you pitted it against past terrorizers like “Plasticity,” “Liquid Separation,” or the Combichrist-remix of “Beneath the Rubble” (off of Fallout), it would prove to be the weaker model.

I.E.D isn’t a massive departure from anything FLA has done before, but once again, they deliver exactly what I was hoping for – a high-energy futuristic assault. It’s also a better overall experience than the choppy Artificial Soldier, and more energetic than the sludgy Civilization.  It’s also been worth the wait to hear guitar-based firepower in Front Line Assembly again, but it’s not like their other albums have lacked aggression without it.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
August 10th, 2010

Comments

  1. Commented by: vugelnox

    I often forget this band even exists although I really dig the few albums of theirs that I own, especially Implode. I’ll have to check this album out


  2. Commented by: Brandon Duncan

    I must say I am thrilled to see an FLA review here. This rules. Is this going to open the floodgates for more electronic/industrial reviews?


  3. Commented by: Gabaghoul

    I was excited to do it, one of my favorite bands. Brandon if you hear something you think we should cover, ping me with it.


  4. Commented by: shaden

    if your idea of industrial metal has anything to do with rammstein,well…enough said.industrial metal these days is best left to turmion katilot and asociated bands. fla always rules though,and dont forget devin townsend played abit on millenium.
    also you guys should review some psyclon nine,or some industrial with metal connections such as thirteenth exile.


  5. Commented by: gabaghoul

    I just recently heard Turmion, pretty cool. Will check out the others and who knows, maybe write some of them up too. Thanks.


  6. Commented by: elguerosinfe

    My current fav is Acumen Nation – check them out too GG. Way darker than turmion katilot, but still well within the genre.


  7. Commented by: Brandon Duncan

    I saw Acumen Nation open for KMFDM once. Very energetic live!


  8. Commented by: Appollyonx

    Wumpscut tends to put out some nifty industrial flavor, as does The Electric Hellfire Club and My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult.


  9. Commented by: Brandon Duncan

    Hell yea Appollyon. Wumpscut is pure evil. You guys might also be interested in checking out Funker Vogt, Terrorfakt, Combichrist, Grendel and Tactical Sekt.


  10. Commented by: gabaghoul

    you guys are taking me back to college – Wumpscut, EHC, Thrill Kill Kult, Wax Trax, NIN, Ministry, Misery Loves Company, Pig, KMFDM and of course lots of FLA… been awhile since I’ve been heavy into this scene.


  11. Commented by: vugelnox

    same here gaba. I was all about industrial back in high school and early college but my interest drifted away after that. Back in those days lots of Skinny Puppy, Ministry, Einsturzende Neubauten, FLA, KMFDM, Laibach, Front 242…etc. Been many years since that stuff was a mainstay on my stereo (except Skinny Puppy, never get tired of them)


  12. Commented by: gabaghoul

    aside from Rabies (particularly Hexonxonx and Worlock) I just never connected with most Skinny Puppy. Their songs are just too unstructured and lopsided for me. Atmosphere-wise they’re amazing though.


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