Release Date: January 20, 2004
Reviewed by Sonya Sutherland
The problem with mainstream music is that it puts all its eggs in one basket. If the musician at the forefront of the genre decides to sit in his basement, the genre suddenly ceases to exist, or at least in popular theory. When it comes to the industrial side of things, it seems if Nine Inch Nails isn’t up to anything, then apparently no one is. Everyone eagerly anticipates the day Trent Reznor stops mopping and gets it together to put out an album (which incidentally is rumored to be in the late summer/early fall). Listen up, because here is a music history fact you won’t learn at Hot Topic – Far before the man who wanted to fuck you like an animal there existed the godfathers of everything industrial – Skinny Puppy (without which Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, and the likes wouldn’t exist). Skinny Puppy put out some great disks, but as all great bands do, they split. Left over was Bill Leeb, who in 1986, went onto form Front Line Assembly.
Front Line Assembly has an impressive history which spans more than a decade, and presently they have made their home on Metropolis Records. Their new album, Civilization, is their fourteenth release and a masterpiece of ambient electronics, with a little bit of heavy electronics thrown in for good measure. To try to put this album in one category of the every expansive electronica sound would be close to impossible. It is dance, yet has jungle, house, EMB that blend surprisingly well.
Civilization’s whole sound has a futuristic space age feel, like an album you could pick up if you lived in the movie Bladerunner. Front Line Assembly has been around for so long, so one should expect Civilization to be built on a foundation of solid songwriting. This album defiantly delivers. Each track is a finely composed with complex rhythm sections and an overall complicated structure that works efficiently to keep the listener interested, not something that can be generally said of the more recent electronic releases.
Overall, Civilization is an excellent listen. It is a symphony of industrial beats with a vast musical landscape. It provides a mix of slow paced harmonies like Fragmented, Parasite, Schicksal, and more upbeat tracks, starting with the opener, Psychosomatic. Maniacal has a great breakdown in the middle which seems like a soundtrack to a laser battle. Fragmented also has a noteworthy breakdown with a harmonizing string portion. The one downside to the album is the vocals. Although the lyrics are clever, Leeb has a very monotone voice that sometimes would be better left out. But the iffy vocals aren’t enough to detract from the overall album+. Time can make some bands played out and boring, not true with Leeb and Fulber, the Front Line team.