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Front Line Assembly - Mechanical Soul


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This is not a nice looking cover – 'Mechanical Soul's artwork is reminiscent of their past aesthethic but somehow cheapend. The colour pallet is evocative of the game soundtrack 'Warmech' but the actual visual collage of elements harkens back to the 2000's. Front Line Assembly keeps repurposing itself with this latest, seventeenth album. But to what effect exactly and what purpose?

With the initial pulse of the opening track – Purge it appears that FLA is ready to recapture that energy but there's so much intrusive sampling and ambiance in the background that it quickly betrays just how uncertain the overall production of this album is. It's neither about Fulber's more recent interest in the languid atmospheres, apparent in the later New World, nor about the recognizable stomping of the heel against the dancefloor.
Leeb's voice guides the listener through the general monotony but this lack of commitment to melody and the overriding undertow of disparate cacophonies seems less about building a glitch-laden industrial album and more about just filling the silence.

It's confirmed elsewhere, too. Glass and Leather is harsh and sparse, comes close to igniting 'Mechanical Soul' but at over six minutes lacks a solid hook. That faint echo of big diva vocal that emerges from the distortion is interesting but FLA seems preoccupied with the needless disruption of the rhythm. On Unknown the beat and the flow have a curious house flavour but the song never commits, electronic fuzz is there to tie it with the rest of the production but does not serve the moment. In a dirty, grease on metal kind of way Rubber Tube Gag might be fleshy and erotic but that's just another tuck in a different direction without much lasting impact.

Not that they need it, but FLA yet again brings some big names to help sell the record. Dino Cazares' guitar riffing on Stifle is almost an afterthought though – this track is heavy and unwieldy, lacks the edge of 'Millenium' era material and the anger of Fear Factory's output. Jean-Luc de Meyer sings on Barbarians and it's spacious amidst deterministic percussion, probably the only immediately resonant track on all of the 'Mechanical Soul'. Why put a remix of Hatevol, a track from the previous album, on here at all? It shows how much denser this release is when compared to "Wake up the Coma', I suppose.

It would be absolutely fine to expect this new record to sound dirtier, trembling with anxiety of clashing, corroded textures – the year past was ripe for reflection of this variety – but there is hardly a memorable moment here for the listener, a die hard fan or otherwise. Bill Leeb and Rhys Fulber are back, it's business as usual. 'Mechanical Soul' might sink in a bit more upon repeated listens but the impulse to return to it never materializes.

Tracklist:
  1. Purge
  2. Glass and Leather
  3. Unknown
  4. New World
  5. Rubber Tube Gag
  6. Stifle
  7. Alone
  8. Barbarians
  9. Komm, Stirbt Mit Mir
  10. Time Lapse
  11. Hatevol (Black Asteroid Mix)
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Translator: DamienG
Add date: 2021-01-10 / Music reviews


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