Review Summary: While Digimortal isn’t entirely average, there are some points on here that hint at the obvious decline in the Fear Factory sound.
When you release 2 superb industrial metal albums such as Demanufacture and Obsolete, there are going to be expectations for a decent follow up if anything. Furthermore, in 2001, a lot of metal bands were under the influence of the Nu-Metal movement. When these 2 things are considered, Fear Factory’s 4th album, Digimortal, isn’t all that bad. However, it isn’t all that good either. This is the last album to feature their “classic lineup”; and you can tell that there is a decline in the Fear Factory sound, for there are many errors throughout.
The album opens with the heavy assault of ‘What Will Become’. The catchy chorus with shouted vocals by Burton and a menacing riff from Dino get your head banging, but this is nothing compared to ‘Demanufacture’ or ‘Shock’ or even the frantic ‘Martyr’. You can tell right away from the opening track that Fear Factory have lost something, something that made their previous 3 albums so great. ‘Damaged’ continues the trend of catchy hooks, but the sound of the band is watered down somewhat and Burton sounds like he’s not putting a lot of emotion into his vocal delivery. Despite an average 2 tracks, a glimmer of light arrives with the title track. The Nu-Metal influence is apparent in the sampled turntables that were put into the song, but the awesome chorus is what saves this one. Burton really shines on this song, and the band does a great job of backing him.
The lead single from the album, ‘Linchpin’, is an obvious attempt to gain a more mainstream audience, but it still works well if you enjoy Burton’s clean vocals. Some of Dino’s most catchy riffs on the album can be found here, although they are rather simple and not as inspired as usual. This is something that you will find all over the album, and you can tell that he has done much better with his riffing then he shows on here. Christian’s bass lines are also very prominent during the verses and keep the song flowing along well. The bass also drives songs like ‘Back the *** Up’ and ‘Byte Block’, the former being one of the most horrid Fear Factory songs ever and the most Nu-Metal thing they have ever created (a poor collaboration with B-Real of Cypress Hill) and the latter being a heavy number that harkens back to the days of their previous albums. Raymond Herrera is very important to this album, as his drum work never disappoints and his skills behind the kit make up for the sometimes mediocre songs. ‘Memory Imprints (Never End)’ should also be noted for its attempt to make an excellent melodic album closer, but it still fails in comparison to the others, especially the recent ‘Final Exit’.
In many ways, this album could be considered a companion of sorts to Demanufacture and Obsolete, for the lyrics continue the story of man and machine and how the 2 have become 1. As a result, Burton’s lyrics have to do with the concept and aren’t bad, it’s what you would expect from Fear Factory. The electronics have also increased drastically from the last album and are very prominent on songs like ‘Damaged’, ‘Byte Block’, and ‘Memory Imprints (Never End)’.
Overall, while it’s not exactly a horrible album, Digimortal still fails in some aspects. It’s the sound of Fear Factory declining, as their trademark industrial metal has been watered down and the mainstream can appeal to them better. The Nu-Metal influence sort of brings this album down, and in the end the suspicions were proved when the band dissolved shortly after this album was released. A different Fear Factory would go on to produce Archetype and Transgression, and now the revitalized Fear Factory has crafted one of the greatest albums in their career. This might have been a swan song of sorts for the bands “classic lineup”, but there were still some good tracks on here. Its not an album you would listen to all the time, but you might find yourself enjoying a few songs off of it every now and then.