FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY Reclamation (Roadrunner)

So, after being mercilessly pummelled by Flying Saucer Attack, next out of the Jiffy Bag was this compilation from Vancouver-based industrial terrorists Front Line Assembly, focusing on their work between 1989 and 1993, with a few remixes and b-sides thrown in to tempt the completist.

Front Line Assembly were, in their former incarnation Skinny Puppy, heavily influenced by the first generation electro acts such as Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle, who in turn had learned the whole game from the pioneering efforts of the mighty Kraftwerk, where inevitably any investigation into the roots of machine-based music must inevitably end up. In turn Front Line Assembly have sired or inspired bands such as Ministry, Revolting Cocks and Fear Factory (whose "Remanufacture" album sounds not unlike "New Lands", come to think of it, in concept if not in execution).

I mention all this to emphasise the importance of Front Line Assembly to the industrial scene. What this doesn’t square with is the way that, for me at least, "Reclamation" sounds like early Donna Summer - the throbbing electro soundtracks haven’t developed much from those Giorgio Moroder used to fashion twenty years ago (or from each other, it has to be said - this is samey stuff) - with a heavily Benilyn’d-up Lou Reed on those allegedly scary vocals. Sometimes there are nice acid lines, such as on the Progress mix of "The Blade", but mostly Front Line Assembly’s doomy portents on tunes with catchy (no pun, again) titles like "Virus" and "Digital Tension Dilemma" conjure up an image of somebody who was picked on one time too many at school, and has made it his life’s mission to enact a cruel revenge on society by filling an unworthy planet with mild electro tunes with Ozzy Osbourne-reject lyrics and film samples.

Then again, I’m not a card carrying industrial enthusiast, but I know people who are and would undoubtedly lap the likes of "Reclamation". If this is you, investigate, but if you’re labouring under any misapprehension that this is in any way scary, why not seek out the new Aphex Twin single and the new Flying Saucer Attack album as well, for an experience that’s truly frightening.

FRONTLINE ASSEMBLY Monument (Roadrunner)

In a similar style to last year’s "Reclamation", "Monument" is a 12-track compilation, split between remixes and a raft of what, I must presume, are Frontline Assembly classics. Which means that once again I have to relate how boring I find all this industrial lark to be. Yet again the majority of this CD sounds like Giorgio Moroder in a particularly bad mood: think early Donna Summer with the lady herself replaced by somebody whose singing sounds like the, er, outpourings of a man permanently on the brink of vomiting. (Wonder what his vomiting sounds like...). No matter how many scary samples about electrocution they trot into their songs, or how many titles like "Mental Distortion", "Virus", "Mutilate" or "Laughing Pain" they can come up with, "Monument" is essentially a pointless record, not in the slightest bit frightening, apart from the way it seems to have been created without the slightest hint of human intervention. I don’t want to sound like some flaky old hippie whinging about how synthesisers are wrecking ‘real’ music, because the best electronic music has as much soul as anything Motown or Stax ever released, but "Monument" sounds so emotionally hollow you could be forgiven for thinking that it had been spawned entirely by computer. Don’t buy this, get some Jeff Mills instead.