FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY ‘WarMech’ Album Review

It probably comes as no surprise that Front Line Assembly’s latest release, ‘WarMech,’ is the sequel to their 2012 ‘AirMech.’ Likewise, while ‘AirMech’ was the soundtrack to the video game of the same name, ‘WarMech’ is indeed the soundtrack to the game’s sequel, AirMech Wastelands. As a soundtrack, the album is nothing short of an ambient masterpiece. That being said, it’s not an album one would typically sit down and listen to from start to finish; rather, it provides a fitting backdrop to the Cyberpunk world of Mecha – indeed, it would fit just as well as the soundtrack to an anime of that genre.

The album opens with the eerie digital and mechanical noises of Mechvirus, immediately evoking a Cyberpunk feel. The beat is carried by these Industrial sounds as the track builds, while the deep bass infuses a distant sense of Dubstep. Indeed, this fusion is a growing trend in modern Industrial, evident in the work of bands like Melbourne’s own Sirus. Meanwhile, lilting keys come in to carry the melody, evoking a post-apocalyptic and yet quiet, peaceful landscape. The keys become more obviously digital as the melody continues, gradually building in density before flowing through gentler moments, and kicking back in with powerful drums.

The sound of rain in the background enhances the sombre ambience of Anthropod, a track that strongly feels as though it belongs in an anime, or the cyber-Noir world of Blade Runner. It feels like there’s a great bass track buried somewhere below the slow, heavy Dubstep beats, but overall the track remains reflective and contemplative.

Heatmap immediately becomes tense and threatening, rapidly building in pace as though taking off over a burning desert landscape. The pumping beat of this track introduces the only really club-ready track of the album with heavy, harsh, Industrial. As the track goes on, the Dubstep elements make a comeback, along with an injection of Noise. Over time the track evokes more of a sense of city skylines, classic 80s techno and Cyberpunk.

The Imminent by contrast is slow, doom-laden and funeral, opening with creepy, insectoid sounds that occasionally recur throughout the album. Force Carrier on the other hand is quiet, contemplative and windswept. As it goes on it develops into something a little more upbeat, with deep bass and a focus on drums. The Dubstep elements continue subtly in a swaying dance for what is the most uplifting piece so far, eventually becoming climactic and exultant.

Meteorfall begins with digital sounds and the nostalgic noise of a dial-up modem. The track becomes tense and suspenseful before introducing extremely deep bass and Dubstep tinged with Industrial beats. The dramatic tension is maintained through the Industrial high end, including some nicely-placed synth strings. Eventually the track mellows out to a gentle electro pulse, which carries over almost seamlessly into the quiet digital sounds of Molotov. This track sustains the mellow and expansive feeling until it suddenly kicks into harsh Industrial synth riffs and beats. The almost oceanic feeling of the previous emotional notes weaves its way through the Industrial sounds to eventually create a very dense mix that shifts between grating and open.

Rip Sensor is another eerie track at first, opening out into slow electro elements that lift the mood, but nevertheless carry a touch of mournfulness. Deep, heavy beats encourage a sense of vigilance as the track goes on, so that the sense of creeping tension never entirely dissipates, even as the track grows quite emotive towards the end.

The Eminent is similar, with a creepy vibe that becomes contemplative and ambient, with a sense of indistinct choral voices. Mechanism meanwhile resurrects the nasty insectoid sounds before opening up with a strangely upbeat techno feel. Dub and Industrial elements make the track quite danceable at times, while at others it is light and ethereal. The more uplifting vibes are reprised with a deeper and harsher feel further in, with some interesting tubular sounds.

Earthriser is distant and suspenseful, then harsh and grating in very Industrial style, with a touch of Nine Inch Nails to the sound. From being heavy and threatening, it drops into a more welcoming sound with ambient, flowing techno before drifting back into heavier Industrial beats.

The album closes on a poignant note with Creator, leaving the listenter with slow, sombre Cyberpunk.

Overall ‘WarMech’ is a more powerful soundtrack than ‘AirMech,’ evoking powerful images even in a listener unfamiliar with the games. The landscapes painted in the music are rich and diverse, and the sheer vividness of the imagery speaks to the quality of the work as a soundtrack.