Released: 2004, Roadrunner Records/Bonnier Amigo Music
Reviewer: Anders Sandvall
Fear Factory started out back in 1990 and their debut SOUL OF A NEW MACHINE came in ‘92. They were one of the first bands who mixed metal with industrial metal and some hardcore. No further introduction is needed for this American band.
Fear Factory’s previous album (their fourth) DIGIMORTAL was released in 2001. Long time guitarist Dino Cazares left the band sometime after that album and for a time the band fell apart. Luckily they solved the problem within the band and recruited their bass player (Christian) to play guitar and took in a fill-in bassist (Byron from Strapping Young Lad). Both of the bands knew each other for years since they had toured together. Fear Factory took a break in the middle of 2002 and according to vocalist Burton Bell it was because of some well-needed rest and repair. The guys have produced the album and they have done a great job with it. It has a brilliant, aggressive, and brutal sound and is one of the rawest things I’ve heard from them since the begiing of the band. Greg Reely mixed the album. Drummer Herrera and guitarist Wolbers have written all the music while Burton Bell penned almost all the lyrics (11 of the 13 songs). The other two songs “ASCENSION” were co-written with Rhys Fulber and the other one is a cover of Nirvanas “SCHOOL”.
Fear Factory plays a mix of aggressive/brutal metal that sometimes borders into thrash and I also think that some influences of hardcore and industrial metal. Mr. Bell has still an impressive voice and he alters between his very angry/aggressive sound and ordinary lead vocals. He has many different nuances in his voice. Mr. Wolbers has a very razor-sharp guitar style. Mr. Herrera has a very dynamic drum playing with incredible speed, especially with his extensive use of double bass pedals. The album is filled with frequent tempo changes and different speeds the whole way through. Sometimes the speed can vary between a thrash-like moment into some ballad-like parts. It’s hard to describe exactly what their music sounds like but I’ll do my best.
The album opens brutally and with the determined with “SLAVE LABOR”. The intro is calm and grinding before the tempo rises enormously with double bass pedals and heavy metal that partly borders to thrash/hardcore. Mr. Bell shifts between his aggressive and ordinary vocals. Song number one goes straight into the second one called “CYBERWASTE”. Now the band takes the music a step further. This song is even more aggressive and brutal. It is thrash/hardcore almost straight through the song. “ACT OF GOD” sounds more like the opening song with heavy grinding for the intro before Mr. Bell comes in. This song also borders to thrash/hardcore but with some calmer passages to where Mr. Bell uses his ordinary lead vocals. In “DRONES” the speed drops into some more grinding metal with an angry Mr. Bell. In “ARCHETYPE” they have used some keyboard in the intro before the vocals comes in. The tempo is not extremely fast but still very heavy. This song is a well-needed break from the rest of the album with its extremely hard music. “CORPORATE CLONING” is also a bit of a slower song most of the way through but there is some passages with double bass pedals and riffing guitars. “BITE THE HAND THAT BLEEDS” has guitar and whispering vocals in the intro before the rest of the band kicks in. This could be taken for a ballad because the tempo slows down and for the whispering. With “UNDERCURRENT” the break is over and the tempo rises in this hard metal song. In “DEFAULT JUDGEMENT” and “BONESCRAPER” the tempo and speed rises and once again they have used keyboard. Mr. Stroud takes a big part of the sound picture with his bass playing here. “HUMAN SHIELDS” is a slow ballad that in the middle turns into an up-tempo song. With “ASCENSION” it is time for the instrumental song where the main instrument is keyboard and nothing more. It’s quite a long song at 7 minutes. The only vocals here are whispering vocals where you can sense some words from the previous song. The last song is the Nirvana cover “SCHOOL”. Fear Factory has done a pretty good cover of it. It’s grunge/metal with influences of punk on this 2-minute short song.
Fear Factory delivers a strong injection for those who thought they almost became history just 2 years ago. This is brutal and aggressive and it feels like they have found a new spark in their music. The minor thing is some songs feels weaker and they could have skipped the cover song. They could also have put a little more time into the cover art.
My favorite tracks are “SLAVE LABOR”; “CYBERWASTE”; “ACT OF GOD”; “DRONES” and “ARCHETYPE”. A worldwide tour for Fear Factory is next and with this album they have showed that they are not to be counted out yet.