Review Summary: Burton and Dino from a ‘new’ Fear Factory and give us an album that resurrects their old sound and certainly lives up to its expectations.
Some bands in this world are never the same without the original parts that made them whole. Throughout music history, members have left certain bands that they helped form and therefore the sound they made on albums after that were never truly the same, even if it was still worth listening to. I’m sure we could all name a few, but we can all probably agree that one of these bands is Fear Factory. In 2002, after their 4th studio album Digimortal, Guitarist Dino Cazeres (who was a founding member of the band and an integral part to its heavy, futuristic sound) and Vocalist Burton C. Bell were at their wits end with each other and the band dissipated. Even though Fear Factory was reformed later on with Christian Olde Wolbers taking over guitar duties and Bassist Byron Stroud joining the lineup, the band was never truly the same. As a result, the sound on Archetype and Transgression was that of a band trying to recapture and re-create their former glory, and none of it seemed to work. Sure, 3 of the 4 founding members were still there and the sound was as heavy and awesome as Fear Factory could possibly be without Dino on board, but something was still always missing.
2 years after the mediocre Transgression, many people around the world were thrilled when Burton and Dino announced the reconciliation of their friendship and the formation of a new project, me included. When they announced further that it would in fact be a new version of Fear Factory itself, I was even more excited. Some might have been disappointed that Christian and founding drummer Raymond Herrera were no longer going to be included in the lineup, but I was still looking forward to what they could do, especially with renowned drummer Gene Holgan now in the band. When ‘Powershifter’ was released, my hopes were heightened. The song was catchy and sounded like old Fear Factory, which was something I’m sure everyone wanted to hear. There was no doubt that something huge was on the horizon.
Mechanize opens with its crushing title track, a defining statement that the true Fear Factory are back from the grave and ready to kick us all in the ass like they used to. The mechanical noises and robotic voice that begin the album remind us of the glory days of Demanufacture, and then Dino and Gene kick off the album with absolutely insane riffing and drumming. Burton is in top form here, screaming and singing the lyrics better than he ever has. ‘Industrial Discipline’ is next, and shows that the band are still masters at combining heavy verses with great and melodic choruses. The song is catchy and really gets you singing along, similar to ‘Self Bias Resistor’. ‘Fear Campaign’ features a great guitar solo from Dino, something he has rarely done at all in Fear Factory before, and ‘Christploitation’ is an extremely heavy song that kicks in after a chilling piano melody and atmosphere that sounds as if it would be used by a Black Metal band of sorts. The only time where the album even slightly slows down is on ‘Designing the Enemy’, which starts out as a very melodic song with a chorus that showcases Burton’s fantastic singing and then explodes into a heavy section that sounds like something off of 1992’s Soul Of A New Machine.
Even though this album is an excellent ray of light for Fear Factory, it is not without its negatives. The bass is nearly inaudible throughout the 10 tracks except for a few spots here and there where Dino lets off his guitar so it can be heard. Otherwise, Dino and Gene overpower it completely. Gene Holgan is an absolute monster behind the kit, and he combines with Dino perfectly to form the signature mechanical “machine gun” style Fear Factory are known for. Burton might not sound just like he did on the earlier albums as far as quality goes, but he gets the job done perfectly on this album. He screams, growls, and sings his way through the songs with great precision. ‘Metallic Division’ serves as a brief instrumental that is not really necessary and could have been replaced with an actual song, and some variation might have been good to use among the tracks as well. ‘Final Exit’ makes a great album closer though, sounding like ‘A Therapy For Pain’ except with Dino’s guitars in it and the album closing with a soft piano melody rather than 3 minutes of mechanical noise. As you listen, you will probably find that this album is such a great return to form that the negatives won’t bother you as much as they normally would.
After years of failing to live up to a sound they established, Fear Factory have truly returned with Mechanize. This album is 10 tracks of sheer industrial metal that only they could present, and it sounds like Fear factory should sound. Sure, Christian and Raymond aren’t here, so it can’t be considered a full reunion, but the reconciliation of Burton and Dino sparked a new life and energy into the band that drove this ‘new’ Fear Factory to create an album that gives us more of a sound we have all missed since the 90’s. If you are a fan of the band, you will easily devour this album. If you aren’t, I strongly suggest you check this out. While there are some minor flaws in it, the return to form is enough to wipe all them away and keep you satisfied with a band that has returned with one of their best and most consistent works to date. There truly is still life in the machine.