Front Line Assembly - Civilization [Synthetic Symphony - 2004]Firstly let me say that I used to be a huge FLA fan. Hard wired and Implode are still pleasurable to listen to, and Tactical Neural Implant is quite possibly the finest record the EBM genre has, or ever will produce. However since said Implode album Front Line Assembly main man Bill Leeb has focused his attentions on the far more lucrative and derivative Delerium project. (Yes thatís the one that birthed the Silence single and itís never ending deluge of remixes) As a result FLA has become more of a occasional side project, no longer drawing the bests efforts of Leeb and for this album his old partner in crime Rhys Fulber. Their last effort Epitaph was a decent if lightweight effort that had little in the way of punch or new ideas. On Civilization however FLA have change their sound dramatically but sadly the result is less than inspiring.
The first track Psychosomatic is a pretty good microcosm of the album as a whole. It begins with abstract sounding electronics from the Absynth software synth before lurching into what could only be described as an awful techno funk beat complete with shaky hi-hat and James Brown style orchestral hit. Throw in a few piano samples and R & B moaning and you have probably one of the worst FLA songs ever.
The single Maniacal is a glint of light emerging from the deluge with itís distorted riffs and thumping bass. Although Leebs lyrics and delivery are awful (But then thatís what gave FLA some of their charm) he does however convey enough aggression to at least keep you awake.
Fragmented and Strategic are both instantly throwaway slabs of simple sequencing and EBM rhythms. The addition of news samples artlessly attempts to add tension but fails to distract the listener from the lowest common denominator electronics being employed.
The second single from the album (Yes they released two, but hey people buy singles released by digital frogs you know!!) is Vanished. Quite similar to the opening track but with a slightly more interesting Eastern vibe to it, and nice floaty synth work. The Leeb vocals however prevent even the possibility of chilling out though.
Anyone wanting to here Fear Factory with Bill Leeb singing should check out the albums title track, which has the cryptically ignorant subtitle Colliding Islamís. After a ham fisted, done a million times Bladerunner like atmospheric intro, with BBC news samples from around the time of the invasion of Iraq we get to the standard bass and tinny bit loop over which Fear Factoryís Christian Olde Wolbers delivers a decent enough guitar backing. It is however a horrifically low brow attempt at a politically themed song. Although I expect itís pretty deep for the average EBM club character.
The last song I will single out is the third track on the album Transmitter (Come together) although it is listed as track seven on many copies of the CD, a standard error experienced with many EBM labels (Cleopatra anyone?). For a start Leebs vocals are vocoded for most of the track, which is a bonus. The track certainly doesnít sound like a FLA song. It has the lyrics "Lets all come together, lets all hold hands" and use of classical violin and piano recordings that P-Diddy would cringe at.
Ok so lets get this over with, I didnít just review this album to stick the knife into FLA who once were very relevant and forward thinking in what they released. They now however have become the epitome of a genre that has had itís cake an eaten it, and has for the last seven to ten years been feeding off itís own rotting corpse. This records total lack of not only originally but also any suggestion that the musicians made any effort to produce it underlines the fundamental problem with a scene whoís fans are the most undemanding around. This all being said Iím sure that this record along with those of VNV Nation, Covenant and all the rest has been snapped up like free Es at the Slimelight by all the patrons of Mindphaser and the other EBMers the world overDuncan Simpson