Front Line Assembly have always had somewhat of an unacknowledged aptitude for introspective and atmospheric mood music.
You have to respect Seattle’s Carbon Games for stepping up when it came to their video game soundtrack. It’s not uncommon to see large budget studios tapping huge names and talent to help add atmosphere or simply to sell a brand, but you don’t often see smaller indie developers employing such talent. That they reached out to arguably one of the pillars of North American industrial music is no small testament to their desire for quality. While there might be some overlap with fans of industrial music and those who play video games, nobody could accuse Carbon Games of simply trying to move product. What’s also evident is that Bill Leeb and company treat Carbon Games’ trademarked “WarMech” with an equal amount of respect.
Joining Leeb on this go-round are Jared Slingerland, Sasha Keevill, and Craig Johnson and notably, the late Jeremy Inkel, from Vancouver’s Left Spine Down who also co-wrote Artificial Soldier. That said, if you’re hoping for a continuation of the robotic melodic electro of 2013’s Echogenetic, you’re not going to find it here. In their latest work, Front Line Assembly–just like club DJs worldwide–have embraced the flavour and sound of bass music first introduced to us by drum n’ bass and dubstep producers. The winding, bending belch of wobble-bass marks just about every track on the record. It actually works very well and the production, as one would expect from the people behind Front Line Assembly, Delerium and related projects, is masterful.
Game soundtracks are often constructed and laid out as they might be used in the game with accessible loops and soaring emotional queues. Listening to this soundtrack gives no indication of the former and the latter is all over it. With names like “Meteorfall”, “Heatmap” and “Mechanism” it’s clear that the game served as a thematic inspiration. Game soundtracks often have to have below sound effects. They have to ebb and flow with the action sequences and emotional tempo of dynamic gameplay. That might have been more of a challenge on the prequel to this record, 2010’s AirMech. It bares slightly more resemblance to Front Line Assembly’s more harsh, angry, bleak future sound. Neither record has any vocals but again, with such prowess behind the arrangements, you really don’t miss it. The strength of any Front Line Assembly release is in the combination of hard bass lines, melodic synths that manage to sound fresh and timeless no matter how electronic music may evolve and, with the later material at least, the snarl of of the sawtooth wobble bass.
Everything in WarMech is slower paced and this is far more of an electro record than any other Front Line Assembly release. Indeed it’s got more in common with the Delerium project than anything from Millennium or Hard Wired. There are elements of harder techno sounds in patterns here and there — just enough to you compelled and moving forward. These may be the areas where playing the game action would be at its peak, looped, repeated and amped up for the duration of play. Contrasting to that is tracks like “Rip Sensor” which explores similar emotional territory to 2016’s “Ghosts” without any vocals.
Front Line Assembly have always had somewhat of an unacknowledged aptitude for introspective and atmospheric mood music. Even as early as Tactical Neural Implant, the tracks “Remorse” and “Lifeline” mourned in loss and hopelessness. On their latest work the themes are more constructed for ease of access, deliberately and consciously produced for maximum appeal. It is, after all, very much a video game soundtrack. But don’t think for a moment that it wasn’t given every bit of work and attention that Front Line Assembly have to give. Though it may not be the Echogenetic follow-up fans are clambering for, Warmech is nevertheless an exceptional electro record.