The name Fear Factory is one that gathers appreciation and respect amongst both the mainstream and the more underground metal hordes. The first will have liked Obsolete
and the fairly weak Digimortal
; the former will prefer earlier work like Soul Of A New Machine
or even their grind/death debut, Concrete
. 1998ís Obsolete
was the album that marked the transition between the two phases.
, Fear Factoryís lineup was comprised of:
Dino Cazares Ė guitar
Burton C.Bell Ė vocals
Raymond Herrera - drums
Christian Olde-Wolbers Ė bass
Rhys Fulber Ė samples and looping*
*not an official band member.
Apart from the bandís musicians, Gary Numan has a cameo doing a spoken-word intro and there are some guest musicians.
One look at Obsolete
will tell you that this is a concept album. The story takes place in the distant future, in the usual apocalyptic, machine-driven society. Somewhere on Earth, a totalitarian regime is in practice. But this regime, like all dictatorial regimes, has its detractors. The main one is a guy called Edgecrusher, who affirms himself as the leader of the opposition. One day, Edgecrusher is addressing a crowd when suddenly he has to go on the run: both the Securitron police and the dreaded Smasher/Devourer are out to get him. He then basically spends the entire record running from them, but in the end is caught and thrown in jail, annihilating all hopes of freedom for men. The story, despite somewhat clichťd, is perfectly suited to the groupís sound and actually quite interesting. If you read the booklet, it is presented to you in the form of a movie script, with the lyrics intertwined in the story itself. Overall, a very well-done concept.
But the thing that matters the most here is the music. And it also delivers in spades. The mixture of death, thrash and nu-metal with subtle electronic elements, which is the groupís trademark, is honed to perfection. As for Bellís vocals, they are either fittingly aggressive or disarmingly melodic, almost ingenuous at times. Which is almost ironic, since the lyrics are anything but
ingenuous: most of them are aggressively shouted statements of intentions from the characters in the story. The problem, then, is that not all the songs have the most attractive choruses. Some of them are just plain forgettable, like Descent
. Fortunately, the huge chorus section in Edgecrusher
and the often-repeated chorus in Smasher/Devourer
more than make up for those blander moments. Nevertheless, this is not a chorus-driven album; donít expect an easy listen.
The album kicks off with Shock
, which is a declaration of intentions from Edgecrusher. This song starts with an electronic effect going from one speaker to the other, which leads into a great intro riff. Burton then comes in singing of inconformity and rebellion in his raspy voice. For the chorus, however, he momentarily switches to his clear register. Something noteworthy is that the chorus of this song is one of the few moments when Burtonís two vocal registers mingle; usually, they are quite separate entities, wisely escaping the nu-metal clichť of mixing them both. All in all, this is a great start to the album, which sets some of its themes and introduces us to the story. (4,5/5)
Every FF fan knows this next song. Edgecrusher
is one of the most famous songs in the groupís repertoire and it boasts probably the best chorus on this album. Itís simple but insanely catchy:
Break of the Edge-crusher, break of the Edgecrusher, break of the Edge-crusherrrr
Dumb it may be, but itís also extremely appealing. The riffing is once again excellent, and overall this is one hell of a great song. By the way, Edgecrusherís on the run by now. (5/5)
The third song introduces us to its titular character, Smasher/Devourer
. As he chases Edgecrusher, he spews out a very characteristical litany:
I am the way
Prepare for salvation
Of course, this is exactly the type of speech you would expect to hear from both a totalitarian society and an organized form of religion: binding, controlling and brainwashing. Musically, it keeps with the theme of the album, although it gives more prominence to the groupís death-metallic side. Overall, another great song, although the chorus is a bit overused. (5/5)
Securitron (Police State 2000)
is the next entity to start chasing Edgecrusher. This is where the albumís choruses start to falter, as this one is much blander than any of the previous three. Still, this song is made better by its catchy riffing, and overall is not a bad song. (4/5)
starts off on a very melodic riff, and when Burton comes in singing, even his vocal register is lighter than on the other songs. This gives the album a bit of added variety, as well as managing to capture our interest. Unfortunately, the chorus is a virtual nonentity, which detracts a lot from the song. It does, however, still deserve (4,5/5)
is one of the most nondescript songs on the album. It sounds exactly like every other song on here, with nothing to set it apart from the others. It also never fully captures our attention, making this one of the blander moments on this album. (2,5/5)
Fortunately, Freedom Or Fire
represents The Return Of The Chorus. In what is once again a declaration of intentions from our hero Edgecrusher, the chorus is dumb but insanely catchy, basically consisting of the song title repeated twice J. This is a song that re-captures our interest and fires us up for the last few songs on this album. Great. (4,5/5)
features the Gary Numan intro, leading into another catchy nu-metallish riff. The first verse has a somewhat airy felling to it, but soon it develops into one of the most purely metal tracks on the album, where the clean vocals are barely used at all. This track has a tremendous groove and Ė once again Ė one hell of a great chorus. Itís a track worthy of sitting up there with the first few on the album. (4,5/5)
starts off with a Hollywood-soundtrack felling to it, and when Burton C.Bellís vocals come in, we canít help but be amazed Ė he sounds like one of those whiny post-grunge guys. Pretty soon, of course, all hell breaks loose, in a more melodic way than before, but still very effective. The main riff could have been Nirvana, but once again Burtonís vocals (whose two registers mingle again in this song) tell us that itís FF weíre talking about here. The chorus sounds almost like something Incubus might have wrote (*shudder*), but itís not as prominent as others on this album. All in all, a song thatís worth listening to basically because itís different from all the others Ė it even features orchestrations! - , and also very good, despite the relative absence of chorus. (4,5/5)
closes the album, with Edgecrusher already rotting in jail. The first seconds are once again ethereal, with vague echoes of distant voices echoing in both our speakers. The rest of the song comes across as a calmer moment on this album, with Burtonís vocals casting a nearly foreboding aura. We can almost sense
Edgecrusherís fear and despair, yet his vocals are never overdone, despite their definite melodic nature. A nice, relaxing way to close a very good album, and also something slightly different from the albumís musical pattern. (4/5)
Overall, then, this is a pretty good album. I confess that I was going to give it a lower grade at first, but then after listening to it more attentively, I actually liked what I heard. So Iím giving it a very honourable four out of five stars.