Review Summary: Rhys Fulber might have left again, but it hasn't affected the quality of this release.
There was a time in the early nineties when it seemed as though Front Line Assembly were going to break into the mainstream. After their landmark 1992 release, Tactical Neural Implant
, they had returned with two albums that successfully mixed metal riffs with aggressive electronic music (a combination that was still kind of a novelty at the time). They had even taken things one step further during their 1996 world tour for Hard Wired
by recreating the songs with a full band that included guitarist Devin Townsend. Instead of exploding into the mainstream, though, the band ended up falling apart. Rhys Fulber left to pursue other interests while Bill Leeb stripped the metal influences and pushed Front Line Assembly through a series of new directions – all of which yielded disappointing results. It wasn’t until Rhys Fulber’s return and the release of Artificial Soldier
that the band seemed to get back on track – although still lacking the metal influence. It has been four years since the release of Artificial Soldier
and Rhys Fulber has jumped ship again, but fortunately things haven’t fallen apart. Bill Leeb was able to retain his focus and deliver an album that mixes the modern EBM sound of Artificial Soldier
with the solid industrial metal of Hard Wired
It’s really hard to accurately describe what makes this album great without delving a bit more into the band’s recent past. When Bill Leeb dropped the metal influences after Hard Wired
he replaced them with a strong drum&bass influence, but he never seemed to truly make it work. That eventually lead him to try integrating a bit of the melodic influences of Delerium
, but that also lead to underwhelming results. This is important because it seems that he has finally figured out how to make all of those divergent elements come together and work seamlessly. Pounding industrial beats are coupled with drum&bass breakdowns, power chords are coupled with lush melodic electronics, and it finally all works without diluting the band’s core sound. This powerful musical backdrop seems to have even pushed Bill Leeb to do a bit more with his vocals. It’s no secret that Bill’s lyrics are pretty corny (and they still are) and that his vocals are easily the band’s weakest link, but he has done quite a lot to make them better. Instead of mainly utilizing his monotone, spoken-word delivery he has opted to use a multitude of effects that allow him to more effectively accommodate any given musical situation.
Improvised. Electronic. Device.
certainly turned into a pleasant surprise. With Rhys Fulber’s departure, it was largely assumed that Front Line Assembly would go back to directionless experimentation, but Bill Leeb has managed to stay focused. He has retained the powerful electro/industrial sound established on Artificial Soldier
and pushed it forward with the return of the heavy guitar riffs. More importantly, he has finally made the drum&bass and ambient electronica elements an effective part of the music for the first time. Improvised. Electronic. Device.
is the first album since Hard Wired
in 1996 that could truly be considered a great Front Line Assembly release, and we can only hope that this is the beginning of a new trend.