June 18, 2018 Front Line Assembly – WarMech (Album Review)
Prepare to explore new worlds with WarMech, the soundtrack to Carbon Games’ latest creation and, subsequently, the latest offering from Industrial titans Front Line Assembly, which arrives this Friday, June 22, 2018, thanks to Artoffact Records.
Fans already know that, in 1986, after parting ways with Skinny Puppy, Bill Leeb formulated the Electro-Industrial outfit we know and love as Canada’s Front Line Assembly. With sixteen full-length albums to their credit – ranging from 1987’s The Initial Command to 1992’s pivotal Tactical Neural Implant to 1995’s fan-favorite Hard Wired to 2013’s Echogenetic – this band have quite a lengthy and storied history of layering sounds to evoke a far-reaching array of moods. In 2012, they partnered with Carbon Games to dip their toes into new territory, providing a lush, electronic soundscape to accompany the video game AirMech, a free-to-play, multiplayer online battle arena. The resulting piece of sonic art was the band’s fifteenth full-length offering, and the beginning of a partnership that would inspire new heights.
Picking up where AirMech left off, Front Line Assembly – Bill Leeb, Jared Slingerland, Sasha Keevil, Craig Johnsen, and the late-great Jeremy Inkel (who tragically passed in January 2018) – now put their glorious talents to the latest of Carbon Games’ roster, AirMech Wastelands, which is the sequel to the 2012 game. With sounds ranging from Industrial to Ambient, to Techno, this is one soundtrack that easily competes for supremacy with its namesake video game. For fans wanting the soundtrack any way they can get it, the album will be released on double vinyl, including black and greasy-mess versions, as well as a strictly limited (100 copies) Dystopian Future half-half effect version with both brown and yellow. The vinyl comes in a gatefold sleeve designed exclusively by Dave McKean, and you also get a collectible, branded download card.
The 12-song WarMech begins with the over six-minute “Mechvirus,” where darkly atmospheric electronics blend with glittering synths and emotional sounds that connotate breaking glass, weaving together a cinematic texture that conjures images of action, travels, and wandering an apocalyptic landscape. Then, peaceful, nourishing rain falls as “Anthropod” begins, before flowing and flexing into a thrumming pulse with valleys and peaks, a living, breathing organism of sound. The end result is a creature that marches forth into a shining landscape with pride dancing atop its weighty shoulders.
The pulsating heat rises in “Heatmap,” an elevation to Techno, where sweaty bodies writhe together on the dance floor. Then, one individual takes the lead and injects a calming hip-sway into her movements, enticing and entrancing the group into something that bubbles over in “The Imminent.” This, in turn, creates a lulling hush as a wind sweeps across the desert landscape, then mechanical creatures begin to creep from the dunes and march.
“Force Carrier” lightens the mood a touch, with a dance-able, popping beat that builds into a triumphant celebration of brightness and shimmering light. A goal has been achieved, and it leads to a cacophony of dial-up modems that begin the plummet into “Meteorfall,” where you can literally see and feel the plunge of light across a night sky, delivering bursts of energy throughout the midnight darkness. Meanwhile, “Molotov” builds tension slowly, with baubles and whistles that pulsate and throb before growing into a glittering flex of sound.
The ominous march of “Rip Sensor” turns the mood darker, as the journey grows in difficulty and challenges even the best of soldiers, but there are moments of hope, moments of light that keep the fight strong. While calmness seems to permeate the land as “The Eminent” formulates itself into being, something robotic skitters across the sand and introduces “Mechanism.” Here, there is a curious turn of the head and observation of all around through the eyes of said robotic entity. Seemingly, the resultant observations are airy and light, a dance of sun-shining hope in a dying world.
Ultimately, the situation again escalates in “Earthriser,” building into a dream of flight, hovering somewhere above the earth and gazing down upon the devastation before a fuzzy mist opens “Creator.” This ultimate resolution of the journey is equal parts observation of what has led to here and exploration of the beyond. The gently echoing electronics weave a texture that is perfectly befitting of relaxation or end credits, whichever you might choose to pair it with.
On WarMech, the bulk of the tracks clock in at a hefty 5-6 minutes, exploring sonispheres that are vast, multi-layered and surprisingly emotive experiences that cross through all phases of electronica, from Industrial to Ambient. While there are obviously no lyrics here, Front Line Assembly beautifully narrate a journey that crosses through varying characters and viewpoints, offering a complex but intelligent commentary on all facets of the situation (err, game) at hand. While gamers will no doubt be focused on the battle before them, music fans can fully imbibe the sonic storytelling without these distractions and quickly discover themselves lost in a moving and triumphant aural journey. For these reasons, CrypticRock gives Front Line Assembly’s WarMech 4.5 of 5 stars.