Front Line Assembly
Live at Cold Waves LA Festival
Downtown Los Angeles, CA
November 10th, 2017
Review and photos by Travis Baumann
Front Line Assembly are one of the premiere electro-industrial bands in the world. Hailing from Vancouver, Canada, they broke onto the underground scene in 1986 and have continued to push the genre and their own sound for over thirty years now.
A revolving roster of musicians all based around the focal point of Bill Leeb, this incarnation on stage sees the return of long-time coconspirator, Rhys Fulber who was a big part of the early development stages of this amazing band. Joining this duo were Jeremy Inkel and Jared Slingerland on synths and percussion as well as an additional percussionist on some songs.
The scene was set with the projection screen coming to life and "The Chair" playing as an introductory track. As the band took the stage, this bled into "Resist" from the "Caustic Grip" album which firmly placed them on the map. "Resist the command!" was frequently played and (sang along to) at dance clubs around the world.
Jumping to their most recent full length album, they played "Killing Grounds" from "Echogenetic". Front Line Assembly have experimented with a lot of different styles of electronic music over the decades but the latest release sees them return to fan favorite sound-scapes that are at once new and nostalgic, so perfect for a retrospective look at their career with something like this Cold Waves festival.
1995's "Hardwired" release represents their most successful breakthrough and the crowd enthusiastically reacted to "Neologic Spasm" as the band tapped into this era. At points Rhys and Bill would pick up drum sticks as well as the primary drummer and the additional percussionist, so for these moments you would have four men pounding out the beats which had a powerful effect.
Taking another song from the latest material, "Blood" represents a fairly accessible song for those not fully immersed in electro trappings but still retains enough of an edge to satisfy all. The chorus on this song has Bill at his most emotive and showcases his voice with less of the vocal processing that often embeds the vocals into the musical layers.
Another crowd favorite came in the form of "Plasticity" from the EP of same name. Front Line Assembly have always been one of the more "Cyberpunk" bands out there and have pushed electronic sound-scapes and atmospheres into structured dance songs. This song fully embodies this, incorporating all of the stabbing synths, driving rhythms, processed sinister vocals, carefully selected dialog samples, and the sound effects that set it in that future realm.
"Plasticity" also illustrates the lyrical nature of many of Front Line's songs with "The laws of nature, The laws of man.. This volatile paradox will never stand." Front Line Assembly looks at Man's role in the world and the universe and the ill-fated effects his ignorance and ambition bring to pass.
The album of theirs that had the biggest impact on myself and seemingly a whole generation of lovers of electronic music was "Tactical Neural Implant". This seminal album still remains one of my favorite releases of theirs and a milestone of music in general.
They gave us two back to back from this era with "Remorse" followed by the amazing "Mindphaser". Both of these songs have a beautiful starkness, a machine coldness that is layered in the rich atmosphere of electronic melodies. At points the vocals become the synthesizers or maybe its the other way around. It was so cool to see these songs performed again, I really love all of the Front Line's albums but "Tactical Neural Implant" remains the one that forever cemented itself into my psyche.
They finished up their set with another milestone for the band and for electro-industrial music in general. "Millenium" was the first album to see them work with guitars in this fashion and while it initially took some of the fanbase by shock, this album showed their diversity and mutating sound as they continued to stretch their cyber arms. Phil Barry of Cubanate fame came out for this song and performed the guitar work for the title track which was an awesome added bonus.
It was a phenomenal show. Bill Leeb was in a great mood and thanked everyone for their ongoing support for so many years and also mentioned the night previous where Wax Trax had premiered their retrospective documentary with a Q&A involving a number of the pioneers under the label at its breakthrough point, including Front Line Assembly. Bill said this whole three day Cold Waves experience was really special and it made us all feel privileged to be a part of it.
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