But Listen: 026: Front Line Assembly – Artificial Soldier

It’s been a tough few years being an FLA fan. Every release in, oh, the past five years has been touted as “the best one since…[insert your favourite FLA album here – me? I’ll lay my cards on the table now and say Tactical Neural Implant]”, when they patently haven’t. Epitaph was well, ok, but not a patch on the prime-nineties stuff, while Civilization was great for all of two tracks before it lost it’s way rather badly.

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Front Line Assembly
Artificial Soldier
Label: Metropolis
Catalog#: MET 431
Buy from: Storming The Base
Spotify_Icon_RGB_Green Listen on: Spotify

8/10

So it is heartening to note that things are looking up in a big way. Rhys Fulber is back, and more importantly, the fire is back. Most of the album bristles with menace like all their best stuff used to, but takes on a 21st century sheen.

Not that you’d know it from opener Unleashed, which sounds for all the world like an out-take from Epitaph – the beats have no real power to them, the chorus is melodic but not catchy. All is forgiven following that, though, with the hissing Low Life, and the pulsating rumble of Beneath The Rubble, complete with phased vocals and the feel of a postnuclear world decaying around you.

The relentless pace of the album only dips on a couple of occasions, the slow groove of Dissension being one of them, and it works well as some form of breather. Especially before the drum’n’bass attack of Buried Alive (yes, really, and it’s fucking ace), and the processed-to-fuck guitars and slow-burn of Dopamine. FLA may even return to dancefloors, too, with Social Enemy surging, racing beat and big chorus, only bad thing is that it ends too quickly, or so it seems!

The much-vaunted “guest” appearances of Jean-Luc de Meyer (on Future Fail) and Eskil Simonsson (on The Storm) being mixed results. Both turn into what are effectively Front242 and Covenant tracks respectively, but there is no denying the quality of Jean-Luc’s contribution – another track headed straight for the dancefloor as he growls and snarls his way through. Eskil’s contribution is the weaker of the two, it being an almost straight techno tune that is, sadly, not all that interesting.

One last track to go – Humanity (World War Three) – and it’s a slightly downtempo track, with a rather worldweary feel to it that just about pulls itself through.

And that’s that. They’re back, they seem interested again, and have made their first truly good album since Hard Wired – and that was eleven years ago. Word from the US is that the live show is just as good as ever, and even if this is a short renaissance for one of the most quintessential industrial bands, it is a most welcome and much-needed return in a scene that with some notable exceptions, has become a little short of ideas of late.

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