Review Summary: The updated, more atmospheric counterpart to Tactical Neural Implant.
Of all the electro-industrial/industrial metal bands that have enjoyed success and wide exposure towards the end of the 80s and, subsequently, in the early to mid 90s, Front Line Assembly have always been one of the most underrated and overlooked. At some point, Skinny Puppy, Ministry and later Nine Inch Nails were plagued by several addictions and turmoil, while Godflesh or KMFDM enjoyed a good run, ultimately disbanding, only to reform years later. Even though mastermind Bill Leeb and his army of collaborators soldiered on, creating a couple of genre classics such as 1992's Tactical Neural Implant and 1995's Hard Wired, they mostly flew under the radar, thus gaining more of a cult following.
A few years later, Leeb and his then main contributor Rhys Fulber's side project, Delerium, became more commercially successful, at one point influencing Front Line Assembly's own direction, as evidenced on Epitaph and Civilization. However, with Artificial Soldier, the band returned to the aggressive, guitar leaned sound, managing to remain relevant throughout the 00s by constant updates to their overall sound, lately adding new influences like dubstep on the video game soundtrack AirMech, out last year.
Now, with a new release behind them, Front Line Assembly returned to the early 90s mindset, getting rid of all guitars to create a pure electronic record. As a result, Echogenetic is less manic in terms of approach, becoming in some ways an updated, more atmospheric counterpart to Tactical Neural Implant. Unwilling to rely solely on previously covered grounds, the rather fresh dubstep influences are present mainly on tracks like 'Killing Grounds' and 'Prototype'. The former mixes Leeb's distorted, urgent rants with pungent, dance floor-oriented grooves, turning into one of their most accomplished tracks in over 15 years, while the latter is a moody, mid-tempo instrumental, akin to the material found on AirMech.
Keeping the disaster prone, nihilistic attitude, Leeb manages to sound mournful on 'Exo', 'Blood' or 'Ghosts'. All these have melodic moments where it feels as if Delerium crossed once more the sonic boundaries into the FLA world. It suits the album's undiluted electronic nature, becoming a natural expansion that portrays our civilization's impending doom in a nostalgic, yet beautiful way. Merging these moments with the menacing, brooding soundscapes and vocal delivery is something the band has improved in time. Another highlight, 'Exo', expands this melancholic side, adding at some point a blissful Massive Attack-meets-Delerium coda. Much like the whole record, the track is meticulously arranged, juxtaposing various layers to create a complete musical journey.
Even if the album is fairly encompassing, showing most of the band's various facets, the hyperactive, industrial metal edge is sometimes missing. If FLA had selectively inserted the distorted guitars, they might have boosted some of the songs' power. That way, the record would've been an excellent run through their 27-year career. Besides that, Leeb's monotone voice and sometimes rudimentary lyrics were never strong points, so those who can't get past his delivery, will be slightly turned off again.
Nevertheless, Echogenetic is an important addition to the band's vast discography. It does not only show how much they have grown over the years and the great attention given to sonic details, but also reveals how interesting and relevant they still are to the genre. Constantly updating the sound, while searching for new grounds in the meantime, Bill Leeb and his latest co-workers, Jeremy Inkel and Jared Slingerland have proved to be one of the most reliable bands these days.
I said the same for Air Mech Soundtrack, its funny how Bill just started incorporating elements of dubstep in here yet FLA sounds better then artists from that genre, probly cuz he can actually write music not throw random sounds into a blender.
FLA's last 3 albums have been really damn good imo on par with their 80's and 90's material. this is a great album I just downloaded it yesterday, can't wait to get a physical copy. really digging Deadened, Killing Grounds and Heartquake.
Didn't know that he did Delerium for awhile, was a bit shocked when I learned it
Really? I even know FLA through Delerium ;)
its funny how Bill just started incorporating elements of dubstep in here yet FLA sounds better then artists from that genre, probly cuz he can actually write music not throw random sounds into a blender
@Willie - Yeah, their best albums are with Fulber behind, although this is one of their best without him. The chemistry between Leeb, Inkel and Slingerland seems to have been improved a lot. It's curious how Fulber still helps with Delerium records, but stopped with FLA.
@Gmork89 - You should listen to FLA's Epitaph and Civilization, they are the most melodic records in their discography. Also, Skinny Puppy's past decade of records are somewhat similar: Handover, Weapon, Mythmaker or Greater Wrong Of The Right. They follow the same formulas: eerie stuff with harsher moments.
Yeah, their best albums are with Fulber behind, although this is one of their best without him. The chemistry between Leeb, Inkel and Slingerland seems to have been improved a lot. It's curious how Fulber still helps with Delerium records, but stopped with FLA.
This one just seems to lack energy. It kind of just plods along. He still helps with Delerium because it's a different style. For his 'heavier' side he'd prefer for FLA to be heavier, but since they won't be he works with other bands instead.
^ This and I.E.D. didn't have Fulber and they were better then the last record with him (although A.S.
was a solid piece as well imo). I don't see how you think they "lack energy" they are heavy as hell
This and I.E.D. didn't have Fulber and they were better then the last record with him (although A.S. was a solid piece as well imo). I don't see how you think they "lack energy" they are heavy as hell
This album does seem to lack their normal energy, but energy doesn't equal heaviness. I'm talking strictly how uptempo, energetic, etc the album is. It's mellow and I can't get into it. Independent of that, this album also isn't heavy (which isn't a problem, just an observation).
I.E.D. was definitely better than anything they had done since Hard Wired, that is true. Historically, though, the best albums have come with Rhys Fulber contributing.