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
. 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.
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.