Twenty-year veterans Front Line Assembly came with an actual drummer to their first-ever show in Winnipeg, and while louder, they didn't sound any better than the second band, Winnipeg's Distorted Memory, an anti-religion industrial-techno outfit (really nasty, hateful stuff to avoid if you have are sensitive about your religious beliefs). Still, FLA were magnificent while performing their exceptional songs and just all right the rest of the time.
FLA have two keyboardists, one vocalist (and main creator Bill Leeb), a guitarist and a drummer. Together, they make industrial-techno music, occasionally with some vicious, razor sharp and crunchy thrash metal guitar playing. The Metallica influence is everywhere. Notably absent from the band was Rhys Fulber, who, together with Bill Leeb, are the duo behind Delerium, the most financially successful project the two are involved with, including FLA. Early in his career, Bill Leeb worked with Vancouver's Skinny Puppy, another industrial band, before forming FLA around 1986.
In 1989, Leeb and Rhys Fulber released the first of several Delerium albums, noted for their dark, cinematic enthno-ambient soundscapes, and later on, for their improvement on Enigma's new-agey chanting monk music. After a few sensational albums marking the second phase of Delerium, they began to turn out sonic wallpaper techno – music that pretty much all sounds alike without any outstanding material. Front Line Assembly's most recent full-length CD, Artificial Soldier, however, was the perfect antidote to the bland Delerium offerings. Tracks like "Unleashed" (the concert's opener) and "Buried Alive" are industrial songwriting at their finest. Listening to the album makes you think that you are in a dark, lonely factory when all of a sudden, you stumble across a frantic rave.
FLA have an enormous catalogue of material to select from, but even so, some of the tunes just seemed weak, definitely lacking the ability to impress. On the other hand, a minority of what they played was brilliant and well worth the $21 price of admission.
Most disappointing about the evening was the crowd size for what is surely one of the world's pre-eminent industrial techno bands. I would guess that there was less than 200 people there, maybe even less than 150. Okay, it was a Monday night, but still, FLA should draw 2000 people in Winnipeg. They should be able to sell out the Burt easily. I was hoping that the new FLA disc, the remix album Fallout, would be at the merchandise table, seeing that it was to go on sale the very next day, but no such luck. Of course, I bought it the next day.
Openers were Synkro and Distorted Memory, a duo, were excellent with plenty of atmospheric techno meets growling vocals. Seems like an odd combination but it worked and it sounded really good. I tried to buy some of their CDs, but they were sold out at the merchandise table. I special ordered the latest Distorted Memory CD and I have found myself a little uncomfortable with their lyrics, but then I am somewhat religious. I dig the music, though. I would see Front Line Assembly again, but I would only hope that the legions of fans of their genre would actually show up.