FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY

Album: "Civilization"
Label: Metropolis Records (2004)
Style: Electro-industrial / EBM
Songs: 10
A

Reviewed by: Darklight

After Hard Wired, Rhys Fulber stopped collaborating on Front Line Assembly (FLA). Bill Leeb brought on Chris Peterson and continued the project without Fulber. The first FLA recording released by Leeb and Perterson was 1997's FLAvour of the Weak. It was met with mixed reviews from fans and critics alike. Some liked it, and others hated its more techno direction. I personally found it to be rather refreshing for FLA, and quite enjoyed it. Leeb and Peterson released two more FLA CDs: Implode (1999) and Epitaph (2001) which were met with better response. Shortly after the release of Epitaph, Peterson left FLA. But Fulber decided to come back on. And this Civilization CD is the first FLA recording created by Leeb and Fulber since 1995's Hard Wired.

As much as I like previous FLA CDs, this is probably my favorite yet. You can definitely tell that Fulber is back making the music. There's a lot of trademark sounds from older FLA and Noise Unit found here along with some Delerium for added variety. The overall CD sounds like all of the past FLA styles mixed into one. There's heavy and aggressive electro-industrial tracks with angry shouting vocals, electro experimental techno/trance flavored tracks with robotically altered vocals and moody orchestrated dark EBM with whispered snarling vocals. In addition to these styles, there's the beautifully enchanting Delerium type atmospheres with female chanting. All of these different styles are blended together exceptionally well to make for the most varied FLA release yet.

The first two tracks "Psychosomatic" and "Maniacal" are the most straight forward structured energetic club type songs on the CD. The remainder of the CD is somewhat darker and more experimental with a lot of different thoughts and ideas coming and going constantly.

Bill Leeb shows a lot more range to his singing on this recording than he has before. His vocals are less treated and sing with melody on a lot of the tracks. But he shows on occasion that he can still yell with anger as well. The additional female backing vocals add even more to a lot of these songs allowing the listener a break from just Leeb.

The music in the songs is especially good. Almost all of them could work strictly as instrumentals without the addition of vocals. And that's why I'm pleased that the vocals are not the main focus of the songs. They're blended into the music without overpowering it allowing everything to be heard equally.

The music is developed with extremely well textured and varied electronic programming along with sampling and bass beats over dark dramatic melodies. There's even the addition of distorted guitar in a couple of the heavier tracks.

Even with all of the slight changes Leeb and Fulber have made to the FLA sound on this CD, it still sounds very much like FLA. And it should since that's what it is. However, some people might feel that the band hasn't changed enough over the years. If you've gotten somewhat tired of the FLA sound, then this CD might not appeal to you. But if you still enjoy their music, I highly recommend this Civilization CD.

 

Album: "Epitaph" (2001)
Label: Metropolis Records
Style: Dark EBM
Songs: 10
A

Reviewed by: Darklight

Front Line Assembly (FLA) gets better and better with each new release, and this is their best album yet in my personal opinion. Each and every song contained here is just as good as the next all sticking to a similar dark EBM style. While there are some similarities here to their previous release Implode, this is a much more fully realized album that flows extremely smoothly from beginning to end. The songs are a mixture of creative, varied and textured electronic sounds and effects combined with driving bass beats placed over well orchestrated haunting melodies finished off by Bill Leebís throat work that is a combination of both angry snarling and melodic crooning. The overall feel of the album is dark and sinister like a soundtrack to a sci-fi horror film.

FLA does an excellent job here of combining upbeat tempos with beautiful harmonies and memorable choruses. Iím also very pleased to report that there are vocals on each track. FLA has managed to meld their usual vocal heavy style with their instrumental style to make for songs that are a blend of both in one. This allows for the songs to be very interesting and enjoyable to listen to from beginning to end many times over again.

While there are a few tracks here that would definitely be big hits out on the club floor, this is not just a shallow EBM dance album meant to make you move. This music is for both the mind and body as it will intrigue you as you knod your head along to the grabbing beats. I especially feel that itís enjoyable on headphones as there is so much happening in it.

This is an album that didnít leave my stereo for several days when I first got it. And even now itís something that I reach for quite often as it has a unique edge about it that allows it to stand out of the crowd. This album is just as enjoyable from the beginning to the end without a bad track coming in to spoil the fun.

This CD is highly recommended to fans of FLA, as well as to those who enjoy dark EBM that contains experimental electronics and club beats with haunting sci-fi moods and melody. This is yet another contender for album of the year.

 

Album: "Implode" (1999)
Label: Metropolis Records
Style: Electro industrial
Songs: 10
A

Reviewed by: Nicholas

At one time it was the case that any CD by Bill and Rhys would be worth the money.  Whenever the lineup changed to Bill and Chris, there were many complaints about the shift to a more "electronica" type sound in the side projects and in this main project.  Now we have Implode, which combines not only all of the previous styles from past FLA releases but also from the various side projects. The electronica influence from FLAvour of the Weak is still there, but manifests itself more subtly this time and gets heavy bass lines and thick drones that we have come to know from other releases laid over it.  The guitars are here, but they are not the sampled overpowering riffs from Millenium.  Jed Simon plays the instrument, which gets woven nicely into the music but does not dominate it. There are quite a few surprises on this album, though, as it includes styles that are not expected from the Front Line Assembly name.  The album begins with three heavy electro industrial tracks that let us know the old hard Front Line Assembly is back.  Complexity is the key, as the songs are completely packed with rhythms and melodies all twisting and churning around each other.  The bass and beats are heavy enough that these can be enjoyed and tracks in a club, but careful listening on headphones rewards the listener with details that demonstrate the amazing skill of these musicians.  The third track, the single Prophecy, is one of the best FLA songs ever to be released and will not disappoint with its energy and intensity.  The guitar, chorus samples, and even a piano come together with amazing songwriting that ties all of these elements together.  Tying in another type of sound, two tracks that could be Synaesthesia or Delerium songs, "Synthetic Dreams" and "Silent Ceremony", appear on this disc and are some of the best tracks on this release.  They incorpotate spacey sounds and drifting atmospheres with flutes and great manipulation of vocal samples.  Speaking of samples, the movie of the moment for FLA is apparently Event Horizon, with samples from that movie popping up all over the disc.  As for sampling other bands, this tradition keeps on going with bands like Aphex Twin, Autechre, Depeche Mode, FSOL, Massive Attack, and even Nine Inch Nails on the music industry theme song "Machine Slave" which will be the next single.

One more big surprise, besides the inclusion of such Delerium-esque tracks, is how catchy a lot of the choruses are.  I thought that Bill snarled, growled, and shouted his way through his singing career (with the exception of Sado-Masochist), but there is quite a bit of very melodic singing on this disc both with and without a lot of voice modification.  This is most apparent in the chorus to Unknown Dreams, which is so catchy that a radio mix of it appears on the single for Prophecy.

Lastly, the hidden track "Stalker" appears after a minute of silence past the last track.  This is not a noisy experiment like the hidden track on FLAvour of the Weak, but is an ambient track with nice bubbling and beeping that develops a slow ominous beat.  Even this last bit of the CD is amazing, and this album will restore all faith in FLA as a band with unlimited talent.

 

Album: "Reclamation" (1997)
Label: Roadrunner Records
Style: Electro industrial
Songs: 12
B

Reviewed by: Darklight

This is a collection of past Front Line Assembly material that was recorded between 1989-1994. These are singles, B sides and remixes that were not included on any full length Front Line Assembly albums. So it's very nice to be able to get them all on one CD, especially considering that this is easily some of their best work. Since the songs included here were recorded over a nine year time period, you can really hear a progression and change from one track to the next. What I am very pleased about is that the recording quality is the same on each track allowing this to sound clean and polished without having the "ups and downs" that a lot of compilations have due to different recording processes used. So the sound stays consistant from start to finish without ever coming off as a bunch of songs just thrown together. Also, the track layout is done right. The songs are placed in a good order. I am also very happy to report that each song here does include vocals. There isn't one instrumental in the bunch. There's variety to the singing as well. Some tracks have cleaner more harmony driven singing while others have deeper slightly distorted growling. There's even robotically distorted effects used on the singing at times. This allows each song to sound diverse and unique. The music is created with electronic sequencing, synths, sampling and drum programming with occasional heavy guitar thrown in at times as well. The songs are placed from older to newer recordings to let you really notice how Front Line Assembly has changed over the years. My only real complaint is that while everything is good, it does sound a bit dated. But considering how old these songs are, that should come as no surprise. They are still very good and show that Front Line Assembly was ahead of their time and influenced many bands in this scene now. If you want a taste of older Front Line Assembly, this is one of the best compilations of their past material that you can get.

 

Album: "FLAvour Of The Weak" (1997)
Label: Metropolis Records
Style: Electro industrial
Songs: 8
A

Reviewed by: Darklight

Rhys Fulber has left Front Line Assembly and has been replaced with Chris Peterson. Well, Chris Peterson deserves credit for making a good band even better because this is the best Front Line Assembly album that I have heard. The music found here is alive. The programming techniques and layering of different sounds is amazing. This is experimental music with excellent rhythms and beats designed for the dance floor. When a song begins you can expect it to make many changes during its course. This is what makes the songs so fresh and interesting. The music never gets dull, drab, or old. There are surprises at every turn to keep the listener intrigued. The overall sound presented here is very upbeat with a sci-fi techno vibe. It's energetic and makes you want to move. There are vocals on six of the tracks and two instrumentals. I like everything here except for the first song "Corruption". It's an eight minute opening instrumental that I just don't find as interesting as the rest of the songs. Once I skip past it, it's smooth sailing the rest of the way. The other instrumental delivered here "Evil Playground" is excellent. It comes in at the perfect time and is full of variety to keep it interesting. The vocals on the other tracks are great because they change from song to song. They range from deep, dramatic, distorted anger to robotically enhanced to add diversity. I was disappointed at first to see that this album only has eight songs, but they are long. They play for six to eight minutes each. The bottom line is that If you like electro industrial music, this album can't be missed.

 

Album: "Hard Wired" (1995)
Label: Metropolis Records
Style: Electro industrial
Songs: 10
C

Reviewed by: Darklight

This is the newest release by Front Line Assembly. It's slightly different than their last release Millennium. This album is a bit slower paced and more electronic. Also, the songs tend to sound a lot alike. They don't contain a lot of diversity. They are still good, but not very catchy. They are a bit drab. They don't have the energy that the songs on Millennium had. My favorite song on this album is "Circuitry". It is about the only song on the album that rocks just as hard as the songs found on "Millennium". It's very catchy and aggressive with great changes throughout the song. It's a shame that all of the songs on this album aren't as good. But they are still decent. There isn't a song on this album that I dislike. But other than "Circuitry", nothing really stands out. This is still a good album to add to your collection. But expect a lot more experimental electronics, and a lot less guitar.

 

Album: "Millennium" (1994)
Label: Roadrunner Records
Style: Electro Metal
Songs: 10
B

Reviewed by: Darklight

I wasn't a Front Line Assembly fan in the past, but due to this album I am now. This is extremely aggressive guitar driven electro metal. The vocals are slightly distorted, and go well with the music. There is just the right touch of electronics and samples to make this album pure cyber. I'm sure that Front Line Assembly fans from the past are upset with this album, because it doesn't sound like older Front Line Assembly in the least. But the band will gain a lot of new fans with their new sound. All of the songs on this album tend to sound the same. They are all aggressive with a lot of heavy guitar. But they do have their own unique rhythms that make them stand apart from each other. There is only one song on the album that doesn't belong, and it's "Victim Of A Criminal". It's an electronic hip-hop song with a guest singer. It sounds nothing like anything else on the album. I have no idea what it's doing here. It's not a bad song, but it just doesn't fit on this album. Anyway, this is a great album. If you like aggressive electro metal music, this album is a must for you.