Fear is your only god
Fear Factory took extreme metal to a new level in the 90's, but since their founding members fell out at the start of the 00's, they've been out of touch. 2010 finds them rejuvinated and ready to kick serious arse. Is their first album with guitarist Dino Cazares in almost a decade any cop?
Fear Factory were formed in 1989 by vocalist Burton C Bell and guitarist (and, like me, heavy metal fat guy) Dino Cazares in 1989, recruiting drummer Raymond Herrera and bassist Andrew Shives soon after to record their 1992 debut Soul of a New Machine. The record welded groove, death and speed metal to the established Ministry/Godflesh industrial metal template to create something altogether more different and spine-crushingly heavy.
Vocalist Burton C Bell
3 years later with new bassist Christian Olde Wolbers they recorded the classic Demanufacture album, the title track of which has recieved the accolade of having one of the heaviest riffs ever, and also contained other Fear Factory classics such as Zero Signal, Self Bias Restrictor and their signature track, Replica.
Guitarist Dino Cazares
Dino quit in 2001, leading to the band's break up, but they reformed a year later, releasing two further albums before splitting in 2006. However, Dino and Burton met again backstage at a 2008 Ministry show and they've at last made up. With former Strapping Young Lad bassist Byron Stroud and drumming legend Gene "Atomic Clock" Hoglan completing the lineup, Fear Factory are back and better than ever.
The opening two tracks, the title track and "Industrial Discipline" are saved from being slightly generic industrial-speed metallers by how aggressive they are, the furious machine-gun riffs and stunning bass drums rampaging their way through as Burton's sandpaper bark and magnificently atmospheric choruses display why they chose the term "cyber metal" to describe themselves-as cold, precise and merciless as a computer doing its task.
The album really begins to pick up with first single "Fear Campaign", the spoken "Fear...the mind is fear" and swirling atmospherics setting the tone before Burton's furious roar and the lightspeed drumming kick in, driven along by a hooky riff buried under layers of dense heaviness.
"Powershifter" should be familiar to any buyers of Metal Hammer magazine, and along with "Fear Campaign" sets the blueprint for most of the album-brutal verse, big chorus, atmospheric bit, end. However don't let that throw you, as it's still a fantastic song.
My personal favourite on the album was "Christploitation", one of the heaviest tracks on the album. The eerie piano and digital choir leads into another strangely catchy riff, and is the only song on the album with no clean vocals but probably boasts Burton's strongest vocal performance, the crushing roars of "your god is just a lie" having impressive amounts of impact.
"Oxidizer" sounds, like the opening tracks, slightly generic, but is saved as with the whole album by the amount of arse it kicks. "Controlled Demolition" is the lightest and catchiest song on the album (but it's still heavy as fuck) and has one of the finest choruses in metal for a long-ass time, in my opinion. It does, however, mark the end of the metal part of the album.
Yes, on the last 3 tracks the atmosphere is more prevalent than the heaviness, "Designing the Enemy"'s weird, swirling synth and vocals, short instrumental "Metallic Division" and vast, 8-minute closer "Final Exit".
I'm going to devote an entire paragraph to the closer because it deserves it, for being one of the most incongrous and yet affecting songs on the album. It opens with a clean, softly played guitar riff, before juddering into a fast riff with more thundering drums, and yet it still feels strangely upbeat, even when Burton sings "Your life no longer has any value", and the chorus almost brought a tear to my eye. As Burton tenderly sings "Goodbye" over a gentle piano riff that leads out into the final 4 minutes of atmosphere, I just sat back and let it wash over me.
If from reading the review you can't quite place whether I like the album or not-well, the answer is FUCK YES. This is fast, heavy, brutal and accessible all at the same time, and the energy pouring off it makes it feel like a debut rather than a comeback album from a band approaching their 20th anniversary, Dino's presence having rejuvenated the band. So, yes, buy it, buy it right now, or you're missing out.
((Thanks for reading. Critique is appreciated.))