16 November 2012

It may sit uneasy with some that Front Line Assembly has sold its name to an action strategy game; AirMech is not your typical FLA album - there are no vocals for a start, but I’m more interested in the quality of the music on show. When an album’s brilliant, people care less about the motives behind making it.

The extenuating circumstance is that AirMech has to be written to suit a style, moulded to conform to what’s expected by those playing a multiplayer computer game about giant transformer robots. On the flip side, at least AirMech departs from the brutal, but boring, industrial-by-numbers of reecent FLA albums like Artificial Soldier.

In fact, in some ways AirMech returns to the FLA of old – even stretching as far back as their breakthrough album Tactical Neural Implant (1992), in that it’s 100% solid electronic. No clichéd guitar riffs are to be found here, no Delerium side-project-infected Gregorian chants and none of the going-through-the-motions, formulaic verse/chorus vocals that have pretty much plagued their latter albums, just 72 minutes of visceral atmospheres, pulped beats and pure, hardcore programming eliciting plentiful mind-bending cyber rhythms and atmospheric strings.

There’s even room for some old-school melodies, the sort that made FLA side-projects, such as Intermix, such a riveting and enjoyable migration. Alas, I would have liked to have seen more, but the track Arise – and to a lesser extent, Stealth Mech, are almost tear-inducingly nostalgic in that respect, while Everything That Was Before and Pulse Charge also elicit enjoyably airborne melodies, combined with pulverising Hecq-style dubstep beats.

If there is a downside, it’s that AirMech had to be written to correspond to a particular soundtrack-style, which somewhat restricts the album from becoming what it could have been. Still slightly lacking Leeb’s trademark bassline rhythms and still in need of a fresh angle, at least FLA is rejuvenated, back on course, and hopefully won’t slip back into another mediocre industrial coma. AirMech certainly proves there’s life in the old warhorse yet!

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