November 3, 2014 Front Line Assembly – Echoes (Album Review)
When Industrial music emigrated from England abroad in the early 1980s, Germany’s Einstürzende Neubauten and America’s Ministry were among the first to take its sound to new heights, but perhaps the most significant musical act in the 1980s evolution of Industrial was Skinny Puppy from Vancouver. Skinny Puppy was the biting, sardonic lovechild of Canadian musicians cEvin Key and Nivek Ogre. Within a few years, they had employed the assistance of local electronic musician Bill Leeb (known in the band as Wilhelm Schroeder) and released such industrial classics as Bites and Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse. Leeb left Skinny Puppy to pursue his own project Front Line Assembly with the help of other like-minded individuals. As Skinny Puppy continued to produce music, they further solidified their status as the originators of Electro-Industrial with releases like VIVIsectVI and Too Dark Park. Front Line Assembly, however, was certainly not simply standing by idly. On the contrary, Front Line Assembly released a number of crucial Industrial records, leaving wide open the door for the possibility of experimentation. Front Line Assembly even dared to brush shoulders with EBM, IDM, Dark Ambient, and Metal throughout their discography, dropping albums on both Wax Trax! Records and Metropolis Records, the two most important American Industrial record labels. Front Line Assembly issued a fresh batch of Dubstep-kissed Electro-Industrial in 2013 called Echogenetic; May of 2014 saw an impressive collection of remixes of the aforementioned called Echoes.
With exception for two original songs, “Contagion” and “Next War”, Echoes serves to be a remix album for 2013’s selected cuts. Leeb and company enlisted individuals as disparate as one can imagine in the realm of electronic music. From the glitchy revision of “Leveled” by Metal-leaning video game music producer Sonic Mayhem to the minimal, yet bass-heavy remix of “Echogenetic” by Dark Electro artist Youth Code, there is a slew of auditory versatility present on this record. A curious feature on Echoes is Rhys Fulber’s (ex-Front Line Assembly programmer) remix of “Killing Grounds,” the most Dubstep-influenced track on Echogenetic, which Fulber rearranges with full conviction into an Industrial-dance song, laden with vocoder and pounding kick drum. Comaduster’s remix of “Ghosts” and HECQ’s remix of “Prototype” are two sizable changes of pace on this album, being the two most ambient tracks on it. These songs stand out amidst the claustrophobically dense songs (Blush Response’s remix of “Echogenetic”) and the club mixes (Henrik Bäckström’s remix of “Exhale”). Comaduster treats “Ghosts” with delicacy and tenderness, giving each minute sonic anomaly meaning and definition, not unlike the way Autechre would behave. By contrast, HECQ, lets the silence between sounds and the agency of minimalistic repetition fuel his expression of ambience. Another particularly eye-catching remix is that of German Electro-Industrial outfit/Metropolis Records label-mates Haujobb’s work on “Blood,” which is easily Front Line Assembly’s most poppy song on Echogenetic. Haujobb make it entirely their own. They place the song’s hook alongside blaring, dissonant synth chords, effortlessly molding it into another mere part of the song’s scenery.
Echoes is a seventy-five minute assortment of Industrial of all shapes, sizes, colors, and varieties. There is no doubt something here to please any given rivethead or cybergoth, as the topography covered is staggering. It should be noted that Echoes is no more than a sister album to Echogenetic, and only bolsters the creative work that Leeb has once again achieved with his 2013 release. CrypticRock gives Echoes 3 out of 5 stars.