Title: Improvised Electronic Device
Artist: Front Line Assembly
Release Date: 22nd June 2010 (Metropolis) / 25th June 2010 (Dependent)
Label: Metropolis / Dependent
There’s no denying, the Canadian FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY is one of the most influential acts of the Industrial scene. Albums like ‘Caustic Grip’ (1990) or ‘Tactical Neural Implant’ (1992) stand the test of time and have been a source of inspiration to a plethora of electronic underground bands. After gaining huge mainstream success with the side project (sic!) DELERIUM in the 1990s, founder Bill Leeb seemed to neglect a little his first brainchild FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY but managed to revive it over the last few years. FLA’s more recent albums, however, were a bit of hit or miss and at times a bit inconsistent. The single ‘Shifting through the Lens’ was the herald for FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY’s new album ‘Improvised Electronic Device’, which will be released at the end of June. ‘Shifting through the Lens’ is a very good and very dance-floor friendly track but I for one didn’t join the praise that it would be FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY’s best single since the mid-90s. Still a good track, though, but simply not 100% on par with huge FLA classics like ‘Mindphaser’, ‘Provision’ or ‘Millenium’.
The new album ‘I.E.D.’ (the press release rather uses this short form) on the hand deserves a lot of praise! It’s a true return-to-form album which doesn’t have to fear the competition of the big FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY albums like ‘Caustic Grip’, ‘Tactical Neural Implant’ or 1995’s ‘Hard Wired’. In fact, ‘I.E.D.’ sounds in a way like a hybrid of these three classic albums. It’s all there - the commanding bass lines, the great hooks, the layered and cinematic soundscapes, the razor-sharp Metal guitars, and last but not least Bill Leeb’s significant and often distorted vocals. And all elements are in the right places. With the epic album closer ‘Downfall’ they even revisit the dark, brooding side of the early DELERIUM works, before this FLA side project turned into an Ethno Pop chart topper. But ‘I.E.D.’ is not simply a remake of old glories; it sounds fresh and also explores new territory. One fine example is ‘Afterlife’, a pretty emotional song with unusually personal lyrics and somewhat FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY’s take on making a ballad.
However, the most significant novelty about ‘I.E.D.’ is that FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY eventually evolved into a fully-fledged band. This is probably not the first thing that the innocent listener might notice but if you followed FLA’s development over the last few years and listen to the entire album it strikes you that this is the most collaborative band effort of the “new” FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY. Surely a result of touring the world as a four-piece for quite some time. For most of its history, FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY was rather Bill Leeb’s project than a full band, even though Bill Leeb has always preferred to work with a partner - with Rhys Fulber being his most essential collaborator over the years. So Bill Leeb, Chris Peterson, Jeremy Inkel, and Jared Singerland have managed to deliver FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY’s finest full-length work in ages because it’s a true band effort. They even achieved to release a really good single prior the album and nevertheless ‘Shifting through the Lens’ is still not among the best tracks on the album.
Other songs like ‘Afterlife’, the intense ‘Laws of Deception’ with its grave guitars, the German tongued ‘Angriff’ or the breakbeat driven anthem ‘Hostage’ are simply too strong in comparison. For the song ‘Stupidity’ they even hired MINISTRY’s Al Jourgensen to deliver the lead vocals but unfortunately that’s a track which is not featured on the promo version of ‘Improvised Electronic Device’, so I can’t comment on it. Perhaps the label wanted to give the reviewer a reason to buy the official release later on - okay, you have won! I will! But the quality of this best FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY album since the mid-90s is reason enough, anyway.
01. I. E. D. - 6:35
02. Angriff - 6:43
03. Hostage - 6:57
04. Release - 5:21
05. Shifting through the lens (Edit) - 3:56
06. Laws of deception - 5:21
07. Pressure wave - 4:58
08. Afterlife - 5:57
09. Stupidity (feat. Al Jourgensen) - 4:15
10. Downfall - 8:06
http://www.mindphaser.com/ / www.myspace.com/thefrontlineassembly
Extras: two bonus tracks (download version only)
Total: 9.75 / 10