Front Line Assembly live @Logo (Hamburg): Review

I’ve never been starstruck and never ever had one of those bands where I collect every single piece of music they release (you know that die-hard fan that looks at his/her record collection while whispering ‘my precious’), but Front Line Assembly is the closest I get to being starstruck (and yes, I have everything they ever released on vinyl, a fairly big chunk of my overall records collection).

For me, this love story started in June 1988 just two days after the summer break started and I headed off to the local industrial/electronic record store in Gothenburg to buy Skinny Puppy’s Cleanse Fold and Manipulate album released the year before. When I was about to pay for the album the man at the counter told me “Do you know that one of their former members has his own band called Front Line Assembly. They just released a mini-album called Disorder”, and then he put it on so everyone could listen to the first track of the album, ‘Body Count’. From that moment I’ve been an avid and loyal listener, and buyer apparently (29 albums and 15 singles/EPs – all on vinyl – bear witness to that).

The major problem when you go to yet another concert with one of your childhood heroes is expectations. Any other band goes down easily but when you know a band’s whole back catalogue really well you always have expectations. What songs are they going to play? Any classics? Or most importantly, will they play some of my favorites? The answer to that is ‘Yes’, they did a fantastic set of older electronic songs, nothing from the guitar-tinged era save for ‘Millennium’, and they played many of my favorites this night at Logo.

After the intro they start off the night with ‘Killing Grounds’, their best song from their best album in the last two decades, 2013’s Echogenetic. That’s how you take the best of modern club music at the time, dubstep, and mix it with characteristic industrial/EBM FLA sound. From that point, the set went quickly as Front Line Assembly won the crowd over with songs like ‘Plasticity’, ‘Blood’ and ‘Deadened’. With such a start you can’t lose.

Frontman Bill Leeb paced the stage as he growled and grunted his vocals, and his figure would writhe and lurch across the stage through sharp zig zagging streaks of predominantly blue and yellow light; all while engineered and propelled by the band’s co-founder Rhys Fulber’s waves of mechanical-sounding synthesizers and sequencers and guest musician, electronic know-twiddler, Joey Blush.

Logo may not be the best venue for a Front Line gig, it looks like a shoebox from the outside, and the stage is divided into two halves by a ‘misplaced’ wooden post in the middle that all bands I’ve ever seen at the venue have to struggle with (or use as part of the show; I’ve seen some fun examples through the years). For FLA it means they can’t make use of their standard show and have any kind of visuals. But why focus on the negative side of it? Lots of people cramped together in a small space loving the same kind of music causes tension (and a lot of heat) you won’t get at bigger venues, and after the first four or five songs the whole crowd was bouncing around.

The set feels a bit short or I just had a great night and wanted more. The second half of the show is remembered for some of my all-time favorite songs ‘Resist” and ‘Millennium’, and when you have 1992’s cybertechno hit song ‘Mindphaser’ (watch the Gunhead pieced-together video) as the encore, you know you can’t get a bad review. People wanted more though and were hoping for more because the ‘Zugabe’ [‘one more time’] never ended, not even after I left Logo

I can say that Front Line Assembly are still just as heavy as I remember them and they delivered a convincing performance. There is no doubt about the astonishing accomplishments the band has achieved throughout their impressive career. Throughout their rising career, they have been at the forefront of the industrial electronic music scene, having perfected their sound within the genre, experimenting and pushing the sound barriers to the extreme, and they evidently won’t stop after almost forty years in the scene.

Photo: Mandy Privenau


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About J.N.

Music researcher with an unhealthy passion for music and music festivals. Former studio owner, semi-functional drummer and with a fairly good collection of old analogue synthesizers from the 70's. Indie rock, post rock, electronic/industrial and drum & bass (kind of a mix, yeah?) are usual stuff in my playlists but everything that sounds good will fit in.