Today's artists are the best known of the various electronic music projects undertaken by the prolific Vancouver-based duo of Bill Leeb (vocals, synthesizers) and Rhys Fulber (synthesizers, samplers). After working in the mid-'80s under the pseudonym Wilhelm Schroeder with Skinny Puppy, the Austrian-born Leeb formed the industrial/techno-based Front Line Assembly in 1986 with Fulber -- who initially joined on as a studio assistant -- and synth player Michael Balch. . ....N'Joy
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Between 1985 and 1986, Bill Leeb supported Skinny Puppy under the name Wilhelm Schroeder. Wilhelm is Leeb's real first name while Schroeder stems from the Peanuts character of the same name and was meant as a joke. "I think the fact that we didn't have any musical training, gave us free range", he said, "The words 'experimental electronic music' really come to mind as to how we did that." Leeb contributed bass synth and backing vocals for several tracks while also supporting their 1985 tour. His drug experiences at the time, though Leeb felt no need to repeat it at later times, added to his creativity. "You can always draw from that experience of when you were there and what the ambiance and the feeling was like. It's not like you need to go there every year to recapture that moment.", Leeb stated. Since Leeb did not want to continue with the next tour, splitting up with Skinny Puppy was imminent.
The band debuted its first album The Initial Command with credited assistance by Fulber and Michael Balch on Belgian independent record label KK at the end of 1987. The album had been produced on a tight budget which would determine whether or not cuts would be done with an eight track system or split into two four track cuts. With the next album State of Mind, released in January 1988, the band switched to German independent label Dossier. Having assumed producing and mixing duties before, Balch emerged as official band member in 1988 and began writing songs alongside Leeb for the next few albums. Balch mostly contributed by providing keyboards and programming. As Leeb put it, "I would write the songs, and he was really good with the software." This partnership produced the releases Corrosion and Disorder. Originally planned to be issued on Canadian label Nettwerk, which ultimately failed "because of politics and the previous Skinny Puppy relationship", both records mark the beginning of the cooperation with Third Mind in 1988.
The change in labels for the first few releases before finally sticking with Third Mind was a deliberate choice. Adhering to Third Mind for Europe and Wax Trax! for North America made Front Line Assembly releases significantly more available. According to Leeb, this arrangement "worked out much better as far as distribution and promotion. Third Mind is getting very good distribution in Europe." Being signed to Third Mind also helped catching the attention of established music magazines such as Melody Maker or NME.
Front Line Assembly produced their next album Gashed Senses & Crossfire in 1989. This album introduced their first single Digital Tension Dementia which became their first chart success and peaked at position 45 of the Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs chart. Fueled by growing success and in support of their latest release, the band, together with Rhys Fulber as live metal percussionist, headed out to Europe and North America for their first tour which were met "with rave reviews for F.L.A.'s powerful live act." For Balch it was also the last Front Line Assembly tour since he parted ways to join Ministry and Revolting Cocks.
Filling the void, Rhys Fulber officially joined, "a natural progression", according to Leeb, which changed the working routine in the band. "The working situation in the band is a lot different because Rhys is working with me on everything, and his taste runs more into electronic music, just like me", said Leeb, noting that Fulber was "a lot more fun to work with." The duo recorded their next album, Caustic Grip, in the first half of 1990. Accompanied by the release of two singles in 1990, Iceolate and Provision, the album raised Front Line Assembly's profile in the industrial music scene and in the media considerably. The tour in support of the album started in January 1991 in the United States to be followed by a European leg in February which was accompanied by the release of stand-alone single Virus the same month. Chris Peterson, who would later become a full-time member of Front Line Assembly, gave his debut for the band on this tour, completing the live line-up as percussionist.
In 1992, Front Line Assembly reached a turning point in the band's musical style with the album Tactical Neural Implant. The media commented particularly on the more melodious approach featured on the album and noted the use of multi-layered sounds which would become a trademark of the band. The video for the first single off the album, Mindphaser, was awarded "Best Alternative Video" at Much Music's 1992 Canadian Music Video Awards. In August 1992, Front Line Assembly embarked on a tour that covered Northern America and Europe. The album is played in industrial and electronic music dance clubs to this day and considered a classic among listeners and musicians of industrial music. The next album Millennium (1994) featured a combination of metal guitars, electronic music, and media sampling (much of which was taken from the Michael Douglas film Falling Down) which had become one of the characteristics of industrial rock and industrial metal during the 1990s.
Hard Wired (1995) and the world tour following the release was FLA's most successful commercial and critical period.
Rhys Fulber rejoined the band in 2003. The reunited duo released the single Maniacal in October of that same year, launching a new phase in the band's career. The next year, they released the studio album Civilization. Chris Peterson later rejoined the band to release Artificial Soldier in 2006. The following tour was cut short due to a problem with the company supplying the tour bus. The band acknowledged that they were returning home to Vancouver earlier than planned after playing roughly half of their scheduled tour in the United States (dates in New York and Canada were canceled). The band toured in Europe in August 2006 covering 18 cities.
In April 2007, Front Line Assembly released a remix album titled Fallout. The album was released in a 4-panel digipak and featured three previously unreleased tracks ("Electric Dreams," "Unconscious," and "Armageddon") and nine remixes by several other Industrial acts and names. After the release of the remix album, the band went out to tour North America and Europe. In 2010, Front Line Assembly, with new members Jeremy Inkel and Jared Slingerland, released a new single, Shifting Through the Lens, and album, Improvised Electronic Device.
As described on Dependent Records' website, the album is described as "stronger and more danceable" when compared to immediately previous releases. "Angriff", the second single from the album, is further described as "wandering on metal paths reminiscent of Rammstein and their own Millenium album." In 2012, Leeb mentioned that a new album will be completed by the end of the year, though no official announcement or tour date has been released.
Having integrated guitars into their sound since the late 1980s, either sampled or as live guitars, FLA set the stage in 2012 for the return to an exclusively electronic soundscape. This change could be heard when the band released the soundtrack album AirMech for the video game of the same name at the end of 2012. Comprising only instrumental tracks, AirMech laid some grounds for 2013 full-length album Echogenetic, as Bill Leeb recalls in an interview with Rock Sins: "I guess this sound of this record maybe it started pretty much with the record we did prior called AirMech." Echogenetic was widely praised by critics, who also noted the dubstep influences on the record, and hit the charts in the United States and in Germany. Entering the official German charts was a first in the band's history. On the occasion of the release of Echogenetic Front Line Assembly announced a remix album which was released in May 2014 under the moniker of Echoes.
Resuming tour activities, the band gave a number of concerts in September and November 2015. They started off with a show in Vancouver and went on to headline the second day of the fourth run of the Cold Waves industrial festival in Chicago. In November they followed up with their first ever show in Mexico City, supported by Mexican electro-industrial band Hocico, and a gig in Guadalajara both of which were also supported by Canadian electro-industrial group Decoded Feedback.
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Most of the original cassette was later remastered and commercially released on CD in 1993 as Total Terror I (fully titled Total Terror Part I: Official Demos 1986) on Cleopatra Records and Dossier. It does not include "Eternal", which remains unreleased on CD or vinyl, but added three previously-unreleased bonus tracks from other sessions in 1986: "Freedom", "Distorted Vision" and "Cleanser".
All the songs on this album are the first ever recordings by Frontline Assembly. Original recordings were constructed in 1986, on nothing more than an eight track recording system. This is quite primitive by today's standards. The sound quality will not be as effective as our new recordings. However, the ideas are all there. We have decided to release Total Terror (unavailable release since 1986) due to popular demand, and to stop the bootlegging of Total Terror which we do not approve of. All of the songs have been re-mixed plus a few other songs which have never been released.
Front Line Assembly - Total Terror (flac 366mb)
01 Total Terror 6:32
02 A Decade 5:00
03 Rebels In Afghanistan 5:15
04 Developing Suicide 4:46
05 Black Fluid 5:35
06 Falling There 4:26
07 All You Do 4:19
08 Seeing Is Believing 4:30
09 Empty Walls 4:42
10 Enemy Number One 4:18
11 On The Cross 5:51
12 Freedom 5:41
13 Distorted Vision 5:46
14 Cleanser 3:00
Front Line Assembly - Total Terror (ogg 151mb)
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The Initial Command is the first album released by Canadian Industrial band Front Line Assembly. Their first two releases, Nerve War and Total Terror, were demo tapes. The music was created mostly by Bill Leeb with some help from Michael Balch. Since the 1987 release of The Initial Command, the album has been re-issued twice. The first release, in 1992, contained no changes. The second release, in 1997, contained two new tracks and new cover art.
At this early point in Front Line Assembly's history, Bill Leeb was the band's only member. Armed with only a rather limiting synthesizer, Bill pushed his primitive equipment to its absolute limit in each track on The Initial Command. In songs like "The State" and "Black March", we hear a protoform of Front Line Assembly's trademark sound, complete with sampling and much distortion everywhere. The most enticing song on this release is the ambient and chilling "Ausgang Zum Himmel". When the title's English translation, "Exit to the Sky" is taken into consideration, the song's expansive and somewhat psychedelic soundscape comes into perfect focus.
Front Line Assembly - The Initial Command (flac 284mb)
01 The State 6:16
02 Insanity Lurks Nearby 6:10
03 Casualties 4:46
04 Ausgang Zum Himmel 7:14
05 Nine Times 6:27
06 Black March 5:59
07 No Control 6:37
08 Slaughter House 5:11
Front Line Assembly - The Initial Command (ogg 120mb)
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Given that this was Front Line Assembly's second album (not counting the "Total Terror" demos), it feels strange to call it their best, especially considering that there have been at least seven albums since. But "State of Mind" has a raw, primitive quality to it that you can't find in industrial albums released nowadays. Bill Leeb knew how to make use of space back in the late '80s and didn't feel the need to throw all the effects in the studio at the listener. What is painted in an extremely detailed way in the concept industrial masterpiece, is a distopian planet without man and without God, where the cold and monstrously accurate machines rule and get on undisturbed with their job. They build, put together, assemble and produce undaunted, in an apocalyptic world nearly devoid of life forms. The occasional, distorted and out of range Leeb’s voice, even if emitted by a human figure, even contributes to the dehumanization of an already exaggeratedly gloomy atmosphere.
It's a dark album without being self-consciously so, and Leeb's gripping, original use of voice samples adds a touch of gritty drama. At some point the agony ends and the machines’ power is re-elected in the closure of the album And They Shall Bow; here the drum machines begin again to build straight-ahead rhythms accompanied by mournful tunes that resound in the now exhausted hearer’s mind. The melodies, as in the rest of the work, act almost as a counterpoint, constituting the gentler but also the darkest side in the perfectly successful construction of the macabre atmosphere. An extremely complex and evocative concept album that catapults the listener in a world that no one would like to see, but towards which humanity is possibly heading.. Yes, there are other great industrial albums, but this is certainly in the top five.
Front Line Assembly - State Of Mind (flac 316mb)
01 First Reprisal 5:21
02 Consequence 5:36
03 Burnt Soul 2:42
04 Testimony 5:26
05 Landslide 4:45
06 Terminal Power 5:48
07 Malignant Fracture 4:16
08 Eastern Voices 5:27
09 Resistance 4:31
10 Sustain Upright 4:07
11 No Tomorrow 5:06
12 And They Shall Bow 4:45
Front Line Assembly - State Of Mind (ogg 134mb)
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