In the 26 years since Bill Leeb left Skinny Puppy, Front Line Assembly have moved in fits and starts through industrial, disco and metal to an increasingly electronic style but always featuring Leeb’s penchant for intensity and harsh themes. FLA’s latest release, Echogenetic, is their 18th studio album, and it contains 11 tracks. Fans of FLA and of industrial in general, have no fear: This opus upholds the every essence of the genre as they have come to love it.
The first of these, “Resonance” is a slow-paced, emotionally burdensome slog through an electronic swamp with eerie male choral interludes. “Leveled,” the next song, introduces a complex and disorienting rhythm, vocals in Leeb’s signature theatrical whisper, a vastly arrayed synthetic soundscape and a delicate bridge of light sounds. “Killing Grounds” starts with a menacingly rapid, galloping rhythm, brings in distant, undecipherable vocals, and then intermittently slows to a very danceable march.
“Blood” starts out with growling synthesized noise before featuring Leeb’s full-throated singing alternating with the hissing, hostile cries that are the familiar voice of FLA. “Deadened” has a traditional industrial feel and is moderately paced, containing distorted voices, some interesting lyrics and melodious hooks. “Ghosts” starts with a weighty, menacing, slow pace, then switches from minor to major chords for most of the track, gliding back into minor key solemnity as soothing strings intervene to provide short-term relief. It would be impossible to sit still while listening to these compelling anthems.
“Echogenetic,” the title-track, begins with a misleadingly pleasant, pizzicato string opening, followed by harsh, electronic-distorted human and instrumental voices and a dragging rhythm that would actually be too slow to dance to. “Exhale” returns to the signature FLA style, with Bill Leeb vocals and a mesmerizing cadence that will compel listeners to get up and move. Imagine dancers alternating between frantic, robotic moves and zombie-like catatonia during the erratic beat and rapidly shifting scenario of “Prototype.”
“Exo” recalls classic FLA, sure to please industrial nostalgia buffs. Finally, “Heartquake” closes the album with computer-generated voices (à la Laurie Anderson) in a rondo of dialogue with Leeb’s natural growl.
Aspiring young rockers tend to study the guitar or drums less nowadays, favoring all the electronic, computer-generated and synthetic means of producing music. FLA have a generation-sized head start in that direction. This album, completely guitar-free, demonstrates their total mastery of the new and future genre of techno-industrial music.