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frontlineassembly mechanicalsoul
Artist: Front Line Assembly
Title: Mechanical Soul
Genre: Industrial / EBM
Release Date: 15th January 2021
Label: Metropolis Records


Album Review

It is only some weeks ago that FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY disclosed the release of their seventeenth studio album ‘Mechanical Soul’. So far, the announcement reads very promising and is only increased by the fact that it states that Jean-Luc de Meyer from FRONT 242 and Dino Cazares from FEAR FACTORY have guest appearances. Again, Rhys Fulber is back in the creative line-up as he already was for the previous full-length record ‘Wake up the Coma’. It is the third album since the early passing of the talented genius Jeremy Inkel back in January 2018, though the first of these three ‘Warmech’ is a computer game soundtrack. FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY have always been regulars in regard of releasing new sounds, reinventing themselves and giving new perspectives. The expectations are certainly very high, but let’s see what is inside the music.

‘Purge’ starts with a well-known sequence which reminds you of a big hit of GESAFFELSTEIN immediately. Wait, just a quick double-check and the evidence is clear: It is very close to ‘Pursuit’ of the French artist regarding sound, sequence and expression. When Bill Leeb’s vocals start at around 35 seconds, the feel of being a cheap copy disappears a bit. Unfortunately, the song doesn’t offer much more and continues on that level for the next five minutes, missing any real highs and lows. There is a lot of background sounds and extensive use of vocal effects that give the song something like a raison d'être, but to be honest, it is nothing more than an album opener of a seasoned band. This is not inevitably a negative, because they obviously include their influences. But let us wait for the things to come.

‘Glass and Leather’ begins way more promising, even its intro evolves to a different level. The hook sequence repeats itself through almost the whole track, but does not get too boring. The depth of lyrics and sounds is what can be expected of such pioneers. You really feel that RHYS is back in the creative studio process and if you respect his solo work of the past few years, he has brought a new influence back to FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY. The listener can easily find many Techno influences on one hand and a splash of game soundtrack on the other, but for Techno the sound is not pumping enough and especially the hi-hat is left in the background too much.

‘Unknown’ has already been released as a digital single in December, as for now on the label’s Soundcloud channel exclusively. That this one was selected is obvious as it is a stronger song on ‘Mechanical Soul’. It delivers what FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY were famous for in another creative phase back in the days and it surely meets the fans’ expectations. It comes with up-tempo drive, pumping basslines, masterclass effects and typical vocoder voices in hymn-like choruses. Not every progress is always wanted and so ‘Unknown’ makes use of the band’s strengths.

‘New World’ is a good ballad to sing along, a masterpiece of experimenting with sounds and using the three decades of songwriting experience. The claim of “Rubber Tube Gag” is contemporary slow and dark Berlin Techno which is musically and thematically very trendy with those producers who include the ideas of EBM and Industrial into their Techno productions. It can be seen as yet another song that is based on Rhys Fulber’s recent solo work. But if it works out has to be seen, because the mentioned producers usually don’t use so many lyrics or if they do, they are much clearer or even less concise, but always something like reduced and on point. It is hard to say, probably some DJs have to try this one out at the Berghain.

‘Stifle’ undoubtedly throws you back to the 90s when the band massively used Metal guitars in their productions. That no one less than Dino Cazares played the guitar riffs is only half the truth, but the representative arrangement is the other half. Of course, one depends on the other, but if you have heard that the guitarist of FEAR FACTORY would be playing you would bet everything on heavy guitar riffs which are mixed very dominant. Instead, and that is a fortune, the guitar is not used too excessively. Otherwise, the album would lose its cohesion at this point at the latest.

‘Alone’ is another typical FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY song that never gets boring and offers a lot. It is dark and varied without becoming unfaithful. Play it repeatedly! As soon as ‘Alone’ ends, the next guest appearance begins. ‘Barbarians’ does not take long to make use of the impressive and recognisable voice of Jean-Luc de Meyer. And it plays everything to the strengths of the legendary voice, but leaves the needed room to work. The guest vocals embed themselves just perfectly into the album, Jean-Luc could sing even more songs. Additionally, the catchy chorus is mentionable.

‘Komm, Stirbt Mit Mir’ returns to how the album began, but this one is written a lot more interesting and exciting. Or at least it is more experimental, shocking and confusing in a way. Every album needs different low points to make the highlights shine. One of those can be ‘Time Lapse’, especially for the advanced listeners who love the sound of modular synthesis. A simple but well-set sequence gradually plays a Doepfer A100 or something similar to the extent. And so are the vocals evolving.

The album finishes with the remix ‘Hatevol (Black Asteroid Mix)’. The original mix was released on the previous album. Holding both mixes against each other, this one, again, gives the impression that Rhys has mixed it. It is very comparable to contemporary dark Berlin Techno, but its reduced nature could be more promising than for example “Rubber Tube Gag” would respectively be. The remix of ‘Hatevol’ could successfully be spun in the nightclubs of Germany’s capital.

‘Mechanical Soul’ is more than a mediocre album by the ever-present FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY. It is diversified to the limit, offering a dish for every taste. This can be a disadvantage because the album is not just one gift box. The listeners will find many different boxes inside. Take what you need and get happy. It is not easy to meet every fan’s expectations though. Below the line ‘Mechanical Soul’ contains the ingredients that the seventeenth album of a band needs: A bit history from every of the band’s decades and a bit progression. Neither is overly present. The nostalgic fans come to the expense and so do the open-minded who are always looking for new things. The variability of ‘Mechanical Soul’ is its strength and weakness at the same time. The album as a whole is thoroughly seasoned which anticipates the future output. Hopefully they will find their way to a clearer path then. Nevertheless, this one is a decent record.


Tracklist

01. Purge
02. Glass and Leather
03. Unknown
04. New World
05. Rubber Tube Gag
06. Stifle
07. Alone
08. Barbarians
09. Komm, Stirbt Mit Mir
10. Time Lapse
11. Hatevol (Black Asteroid Mix)


Line-up

Bill Leeb
Rhys Fulber
Jean-Luc de Meyer - Guest Vocals
Dino Cazares - Guest Vocals


Website

https://www.facebook.com/frontlineassembly


Cover Picture

frontlineassembly mechanicalsoul


Rating

Music: 9
Sound: 9
Total: 9 / 10




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