Into the Pit: 091: Front Line Assembly – Live in Islington – 20-July 2010

I’ve recently been raving about Concrete Lung‘s debut EP (my 9/10 review here), so I have been keen to see them live to see how it translates in the live arena. Happily, the answer is resoundingly positive.

Perhaps even heavier here, the band bulldozed through six songs – the five from the EP, and then one new song, which kept up the quality impressively and suggests that this band have a bright future. They won’t necessarily suit everyone, though – think Godflesh in their prime or early Pitchshifter with more prominent, jackhammer electronics – as they could be seen as too extreme.

Concrete Lung @ Islington o2 Academy, London: 20-July 2010
Concrete Lung setlist:
Breathe In The Monochrome
Recovery Position
[new track]
Pyre Burns
Waste of Flesh

For those of us into this kind of thing, though, it’s most welcome to hear this kind of industrial extremity again, particularly in songs as fantastically powerful as set highlight Recovery Position. Another opportunity to see them live is coming up at Infest, and I’d highly recommend making it down “early” on the Sunday to see them. Just bring earplugs.

Je$us Loves Amerika @ Islington o2 Academy, London: 20-July 2010

Following that 30 minute dose of brutality, it was the turn of Je$us Loves Amerika to take the stage. For readers new to the industrial scene, you may be forgiven for thinking that they are another new band. For older heads with good memories, a handful of live appearances this year have effectively been a return to live performance after a good few years away – I last saw them at Infest back in 2003, and their only album came out a bit before that. Right from the off it was clear that Patrick and his two cohorts were happy to be back, and tore through a forty-minute set that reminded us how good they were, and how good they are now, too. But while the old songs were great – especially a vicious Dogma whose beats *throbbed* inside my head – the new material has taken the template and gone one step further.

Je$us Loves Amerika setlist:
Everything Is Fine
Dogma (Verse 02)
Exit Strategy
Fuck Tha Police

Opener Everything Is Fine was a perfect storm of breakbeats and sheer rage, while Breathe is a dancefloor-bound monster that, judging by the crowd reaction, is clearly a track that could win them a wider audience and rebuild any momentum they may have lost by being away. It was also great to hear the snarling cover of Fuck Tha Police once again, too, with the assistance of the singer of Concrete Lung. The new album is due soon, apparently, and on this evidence, it should be very good indeed.

Front Line Assembly, let’s be honest, have nothing left to prove. Well into their third decade of existence, they developed a (very heavy) style a long time ago, and have more or less stuck with that template ever since, letting the experimentation with dance music and ambient to the many side-projects, but importantly taking notice of other musical developments and adapting along the way. And in recent years, Bill Leeb appears to have hit something of a purple patch. Last album Artificial Soldier – now already four years old! – was the first truly vital FLA album in nearly a decade, updating the sound for a new decade and gaining a whole legion of new fans, and the new album Improvised. Electronic. Device has built on this and is arguably even better.

Front Line Assembly @ Islington o2 Academy, London: 20-July 2010
FLA setlist:
Pressure Wave
Shifting Through The Lens

Encore 1:
Liquid Separation

Encore 2:

What is interesting, though, is how time has changed opinions of some of their back catalogue. Millenium, with it’s guitar-laden industrial, was initially not popular, as I recall, but over time has probably become rather more positively viewed, critically, with a number of tracks from it long-time live staples. And the new album feels in some ways – not least in the heavy use of guitars again – a sister album to it. So it was no great surprise to find that songs from FLA’s past that fitted with that style formed the bulk of the set. New tracks like the pulverising Pressure Wave fitted in perfectly against mid-90s bruisers like Circuitry and Plasticity, while Shifting Through The Lens (the recent single) proved that at a good volume, it’s most certainly a track I want to hear on dancefloors (and actually worked much better live than Angriff did, in my view – a reversal from the album).

The band promised a few surprises from the back catalogue, although I only considered the appearance of the mighty percussive attack of Resist (really, it sounded fucking huge) to be a surprise. More of a surprise was what was missing – nothing from Artificial Soldier at all, no Vigilante, no Gun… But maybe, with a new album as good as it is, the band were able to leave live sets relying heavily on their past for the first time – and certainly I’ve no complaints with what was played.

But then, they hardly left us long-time fans unhappy – Millenium was as metal as fuck (as ever), while the encore, in particular a rampaging Liquid Separation, was nearly worth the ticket price alone. And after Mindphaser, most of the crowd didn’t budge an inch, and our patience was rewarded with long-time favourite Bio-Mechanic, a song whose slower-pace, darker and robotic themes always serve to remind of Blade Runner, and it was perhaps the most intense live version of it I’ve heard yet.

Anyway, all three bands put in near-perfect performances, for a night of fantastic live industrial music, with not a single goblin vocal to be seen. It was also very fucking loud indeed, with my ears still ringing this morning despite the earplugs – but it wasn’t just loud to mask a poor sound – it was just simply very loud, with a crystal clear sound for all three bands, something that I find all too rare. More gigs like this please – both in terms of the quality of the line-up, and also in the quality of the sound.

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