Artist: Front Line Assembly
Title: Wake Up The Coma
Genre: EBM / Industrial / Techno
Release Date: 8th February 2019
Label: Metropolis Records
It’s been six long years since FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY’s last “regular” album, ‘Echogenetic’, but it certainly were not lazy years for Bill Leeb’s Industrial / EBM outlet. Extensive touring, a remix album, and another computer game soundtrack with ‘WarMech’, the return of producer legend Rhys Fulber to the line-up, even more touring with other long-standing acts like SKINNY PUPPY and DIE KRUPPS and lots of festival gigs in Europe - in fact it’s been busy years for FLA, as fans like to call the band. And then there was the tragic death of Jeremy Inkel in January 2018 at the young age of 34 years due to complications resulting from an asthma condition. Inkel was part of the FLA line-up for 11 years both live on stage and in the studio and was co-author of many FLA tracks, including the single ‘Shifting through the Lense’ and the first game soundtrack, ‘AirMech’.
Inkel’s untimely passing was probably a deeper cut in FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY’s history then many people realize. One year after his death, ‘Wake up the Coma’ is the last FLA release to feature Inkel as a programmer and co-author, namely on the songs ‘Structured’ and ‘Mesmerized’. ‘Wake up the Coma’ is also the first album since the 2006 album ‘Artificial Soldier’ to feature Rhys Fulber as part of the studio team. It’s a little difficult to pinpoint his influence compared to previous albums but his work for big names like FEAR FACTORY, MACHINE HEAD or PARADISE LOST as a producer, programmer and engineer certainly brought valuable experience to the table. And some guest vocalists for the new FLA album!
Which leads us to the big elephant in the room, the cover version of FALCO’s classic ‘Rock Me Amadeus’ featuring Jimmy Urine from MINDLESS SELF INDULGENCE on vocals. There’s been a lot of controversy around this song. After all, it’s an odd choice! FLA stayed relatively close to the original aside from giving it some heavy beats, and Jimmy Urine indeed does deliver a good, albeit cheeky FALCO impression. Still it sticks out like a sore thumb during the first few runs of the album. That FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY released a video for the song which is just as unusual for FLA as the song itself surely didn’t help to smooth the waters. With its pastel shades, beach babes and Jimmy Urine as some sort of Max Headroom in HD it rather looks like a 1980s TV commercial than anything you would expect from FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY. The guys clearly had a good laugh with this cover version, and perhaps they are still laughing.
The rest of ‘Wake up the Coma’ treads much more familiar FLA territory. The album was preceded by the download-only single ‘Eye on You’, which features Robert Görl of DAF fame and which also opens the album. It’s classic FLA material with marching beats, Görl’s churning sequencer, a short but epic chorus and a (too) long atmospheric break. Not the strongest track on the album but it links nicely the mosh-pitty, fast-paced EBM tracks with the darker, more dystopian songs and is definitely more representative of ‘Wake up the Coma’ than ‘Rock Me Amadeus’! Track number two, ‘Arbeit’, does not just display Austria-born Bill Leeb playing around with the German language yet another time but makes also clear that FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY do not intend to make any prisoners on this album.
‘Hatevol’ is just another mighty attack in classic FLA mode which fans and DJs will love equally. Both songs are standout tracks and instant FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY classics, and they show that the dubstep influence of ‘Echogenetic’ made way for subluminal Techno/EDM influences. Something particularly eminent on the trancy mid-tempo track ‘Structures’ towards the end of the long-player, and the galloping rhythms of ‘Living A Lie’ even take it a step further and add a Hellectro / Neo-Industrial flavour to it. A “WTF??” moment at first listen but after a few rounds I really dig the track for the fun of it. The lyrics about fucking an alien suggest that Leeb and his companions were tickled pink when fooling around with this in the studio.
If you have a knack for the slower, dark and menacing side of FLA, then ‘Tilt’, ‘Negative Territory’, ‘Proximity’ and the album’s title song give you full delivery. However, with the latter you have to be satisfied with the vocals of PARADISE LOST’s Nick Holmes instead of Leeb’s hoarse vocoder voice but Holmes delivers a brilliant job, making the song one of the highlights. ‘Spitting Wind’ is another one featuring a guest singer, in this case Chris Connelly of MINISTRY and REVOLTING COCKS fame. Musically it has everything you would expect from a FLA album closer but I have to admit that ‘Spitting Wind’ is the sole song on the album I can’t get into, even less so than ‘Amadeus’ which is at least a nice fun track. Kudos to Connelly for his clear-cut vocals delivery, I had no idea that he could hit such high notes and especially in the chorus he echoes the late DAVID BOWIE a little, but I can’t deny that this singing style doesn’t work for me in a FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY context.
Even though the many guest vocalists feel a bit like "contaminants" in a FLA context, ‘Wake up the Coma’ is in my book the best FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY offering since … well, since when actually? Since ‘Improvised Electronic Device’ from 2010? Or since 1999’s’Implode’? Or even since the classic ‘Hard Wired’? I’m not sure yet but it is clearly a very strong album which consolidates the band’s diverse strengths without sounding backwards and on the other hand it offers something new and fresh, as well. On ‘Wake up the Coma’ FLA dare to think outside the box every now and then, they even dare to have some fun among all the dystopian sounds. Okay, ‘Rock Me Amadeus’ would be probably better off towards the end of the album instead of disrupting the album flow as track number three, and ‘Spitting Wind’ would be perhaps be in better hands on a DELERIUM album. Then again, two stunners and ten songs which are going to make any fan happy, that ain’t too bad for a band more than three decades into their career!
01. Eye On You (feat. Robert Görl)
03. Rock Me Amadeus (feat. Jimmy Urine)
07. Living a Lie
08. Wake up the Coma (feat. Chris Holmes)
10. Negative Territory
12. Spitting Wind (feat. Chris Connelly)
http://www.mindphaser.com / https://www.facebook.com/frontlineassembly
Total: 9.5 / 10