Released: 2004, Liquid 8
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
A lot has happened in the Fear Factory camp since the release of the much-maligned DIGIMORTAL in 2001. There have been two compilation releases (2002’s CONCRETE, which was the first “real” Fear Factory record and 2003’s rarities/remix release, HATEFILES) and the band temporarily dissolved. Guitarist Dino Cazares and vocalist Burton C. Bell had been butting heads over the direction of the band and things finally came to a head as the two members went their separate ways and drummer Raymond Herrera and bassist Christian Olde Wolbers were left to pick up the pieces. Once the dust settled, Bell was welcomed back and the band began recording again. Strapping Young Lad bassist, Byron Stroud, was enlisted with Wolbers now filling Cazares’ void on seven-string. ARCHETYPE, the fruit of their efforts, is about to be unleashed on the metal world and this is, without a doubt, Fear Factory’s strongest release since 1995’s DEMANUFACTURE. The mid-tempo numbers that saddled the last two releases have taken a back seat to the triggered rhythms and aggressive, dirty vocals that made Bell one of the best extreme metal vocalists of the 90s. Herrera is a double bass maniac with his machine gun beats pulverizing your ears. Stroud’s bass is in perfect synch with Herrera, too, as if he was born to be in this band and Wolbers has officially closed the door on those who doubted his ability to fill Cazares’ shoes. The guitars are not as polished as they have been and the music benefits greatly from it. The ever-present lyrical theme of man vs. machine is still intact, but the band’s song structures have taken on a less formulaic feel. Fear Factory has always incorporated that cold, industrial element with their music, but 1998’s OBSOLETE and, to a greater extent, DIGIMORTAL were becoming too slick and polished under the production duties of Front Line Assembly/Skinny Puppy mastermind Rhys Fulber. ARCHETYPE is the return of Fear Factory to past glories but without seeming forced or desperate.
“Slave Labor” and “Cyberwaste” are two of the heaviest tracks Fear Factory has done since their 1992 debut, SOUL OF A NEW MACHINE. “Slave Labor” features a meaty bassline and Bell’s vocals alternate between a soaring clean vocal and gruff death rasp. “Cyberwaste” incorporates a thrash break over Herrera’s punishing drums. There are no clean vocals to be found here, either, as Bell roars through the track “nothing…you say…matters…to us!” “Act of God” features an interesting vocal performance from Bell as he drones on at one point imitating the Gregorian monks who chant in that deep glottal tone. Along with “Corporate Cloning,” this track sounds most like a DEMANUFACTURE-era song, with its subtle keyboard line and clean vocal chorus. “Archetype” is catchy as hell with Bell’s impressive vocal range in the spotlight. The song also features a scathing line directed at Cazares, “the infection has been removed, the soul of this machine has improved.” “Bit e The Hand That Bleeds You” is a slower number with Bell’s soaring vocals at the forefront. “Default Judgement” is another of the heavier tracks found here and Stroud’s bass echoes through the track. Bell’s roar is counteracted with a clean chorus and Herrera’s drumming wavers between technical prowess and speedy blastbeats. “Human Shield” slows things WAAAAAY down and segues into the seven-minute instrumental, “Ascension.” This track is like the intro to “Resurrection” from OBSOLETE with its faint robotic voice and soothing new age-y keyboards. The final track, a cover of Nirvana’s “School,” is an excellent reworking of the original, although Bell is never able to nail down Kurt Cobain’s whiny screech.
ARCHETYPE is one of the most anticipated releases of 2004 and the band has delivered an amazing piece of music here. Despite the fact that Fear Factory was dead and buried less than 2 years ago, they are back with one of the strongest releases of their 14-year career. DIGIMORTAL was a great CD and I remained a fan of the band, but Fear Factory had softened from their trademark aggression and were almost a completely different band (see the rapping on “Back The Fuck Up”). Rest assured that ARCHETYPE leaves all that behind as Fear Factory is back, baby!
KILLER KUTS: “Slave Labor,” “Cyberwaste,” “Archetype,” “Default Judgement”