Front Line Assembly is a name known to me, but I would have to admit I am unfamiliar with their electro-industrial brand of music. A little investigation and I find that the band were formed by Bill Leeb in 1986 in Vancouver, Canada after leaving Skinny Puppy and joined by Rhys Fulber a couple of years later. They have just released their seventeenth full-length studio album “Mechanical Soul” 

The album kicks off with `Purge` and there`s a relentless almost sequenced hammer effect laying down a marker for this driving thumping slice of hypnotic menace with vocals that are there but almost inconsequentially to the overall effect of the number. A clanging death knell opens up `Glass And Leather` before it takes on a high energy electronic vibe with some strange lyrics about driving naked.

`Unknown` has a rapid pounding beat and with the breathlessly shared vocals there`s a bleak quite post-apocalyptic feel about the number. I felt there was a much more introspective texture to `New World` and the lyrics appeared like they were shared through a vocoder adding to the impression of a vast open landscape of a freshly discovered planet.

The title alone of `Rubber Tube Gag` conjures up images of latex BDSM fetish masks but maybe that`s just me. The track has a steamy slightly kinky consistency that seemed to twist and turn as it progressed and drew you towards it. Dino Cazares from industrial Metallers Fear Factory adds his riffs to the churning `Stifle` a dark and brooding slow burn that builds as it advances with a discord of controlled noise.

`Alone` churns along with a rhythmic beat setting the pace as the vocals present a sense of isolation, of someone who interacts with mankind on their own terms. Jean-Luc De Meyer from Belgium EBM band Front 442 adds his vocals to `Barbarians` a reworking of the song “Future Fail” from Front Line Assembly’s 2006 album “Artificial Soldier”. It`s a much slower version that allows the vocal to shine and not get lost in the mix but still retaining that unnerving edge.

I`m led to believe that `Komm, stirbt mitt mir` translates to `Come die with me` and it`s an interesting number that is sung in German and to me had me thinking that if Kraftwerk went electro-industrial this might very well be what they would offer up. Although `Time Lapse` is the shortest track on the album it`s a curious offering with a quiet sort of electronic heartbeat throughout with swathes of synth waves enveloping it as it proceeds.

This release closes out with `Hatevol (Black Asteroid mix) ` a remix of the song that was originally on “Wake Up The Coma” and mixed by techno project Black Asteroid`s Bryan Black. It`s a much more thumping, in your face, striding piece. As it fades and some time passes a further hidden track arises, an almost ambient couple of minutes respite but an unexpected bonus all the same.

I have to say I did enjoy “Mechanical Soul” and felt that after three decades the guys could have sat back and rested on their laurels. But no, these trailblazers and pioneers of electro-industrial music have presented something a little different with a couple of well-chosen guests to offer an alternative flavour to a couple of numbers and a reimagining of a previous track that will spark some debate between long time fans as to which is superior. Once again Front Line Assembly have raised the standard for others to follow.

Rating 8.5 /10