Artist: Front Line Assembly
Genre: Electro / Industrial
Release Date: 12th July 2013
Label: Dependent Records
“Back to the roots” was the battle cry when the German label Dependent announced a new album by Canadian band FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY. Indeed 'Echogenetic' is the first album in ages by Bill Leeb's brainchild which is fully electronic from start to finish after FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY have been a hybrid of aggressive Metal guitars, pounding beats and an electronic wall of sound since their 'Millennium' album in 1994. Since their ignition in the mid-80s, FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY have been on the forefront of the EBM/ Industrial genre. Albums like 'Caustic Grip' (1990) or 'Tactical Neural Implant' (1992, incl. the massive hit 'Mindphaser') were truly genre-defining and are still among the best releases of the scene. There are good reasons why FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY are named in the same breath as SKINNY PUPPY, FRONT 242 or THE KLINIK. But all the old school fans hoping for classic FLA will rub their ears when they give 'Echogenetic' a first listen!
Granted, the album is fully electronic just like the early FLA albums. But it is hardly a rehash of the iconic sound of albums like 'Caustic Grip', 'Tactical Neural Implant' or even 'Gashed Senses & Crossfire'! 'Echogenetic' starts with the dark and atmospheric instrumental 'Resonance', a piece of music in perfect FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY tradition. But if that raised your hope for old-school-ish FLA the wobbling bass, syncopated rhythm patterns and squirming synths of 'Leveled' will teach you a lesson! Yeah, Dubstep is in the house and in fact almost half of the new album is pretty dominated by this style. One might argue that FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY bring here some fresh air to the rather stagnating EBM/ Industrial scene, on the other hand it feels a bit like jumping the bandwagon. And Bill Leeb and his peers jump it pretty late, to be honest, as the time when SKRILLEX was the latest hot thing is a while ago now and even mainstream artists like BRITNEY SPEARS or RIHANNA have introduced Dubstep elements to their chart hits already. The fresh air FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY induce to their genre with 'Echogenetic' is not as modern as band and label might think, in fact it sounds a bit dated already on the day of the album release. At least to anyone who has kept an ear on the Dance and Electronica underground in the last few years.
There is still good old FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY in all of the tracks, though. 'Leveled' and the title track 'Echogenetic' are almost unbearable, to me at least, but the track 'Killing Ground' finds the right balance between classic FLA aggression and hymnal synth lines on one hand and shuffling rhythms and dropping basses on the other. 'Exhale' and 'Deadened' (do I hear a reference to NITZER EBB's 'Captivate' here?) are straight-forward Industrial dance numbers which will keep DJs and old fans alike happy, while 'Ghost' and 'Exo' are the kind of creepy, bombastic mid-tempo anthems which FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY have always done so well! If you loved FLA albums like 'Hard Wired' (1995), Implode (1999) or 2004's Civilization there is indeed some stuff on 'Echogenetic' you will enjoy.
'Echogenetic' is really an album which needs some time to sink in. I have to say that I needed a few attempts to listen to the album in its entirety as I always stopped halfway through or skipped quite a few tracks. I just happen to find the Dubstep elements pretty annoying and I simply do not agree with the band that this is the hottest shit of this season – especially not when BRITNEY SPEARS had the very same idea two years ago! For everyone who equally loves FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY and Dubstep, 'Echogenetic' might be the album of the year. For me it is far from that but after a couple of runs I will admit that there are indeed quite a few gems hidden between all the wobble and wub. But 'Echogenetic' fails in the same area as the 1997 album 'FLAvour of the Weak' – it picks up hot trends from the Dance scene, it picks them up too late and hence it is going to sound dated all too soon.
03. Killing Grounds
http://www.mindphaser.com / https://www.facebook.com/frontlineassembly
Total: 7.5 / 10