Review Summary: The soul before the machine.
At the time of this recording, Fear Factory was:
Guitar, Bass (studio)
For those who don't know, Concrete
was originally supposed to be Fear Factory's first release. The band wasn't happy with the recording contract, however, and after some legal battling, Ross Robinson ended up with the rights to the actual recordings while the band had intellectual and publishing rights, making a release impossible at the time. That said, much of the material found here was re-recorded for Soul of A New Machine
, with a few tracks finding new lives on later albums, if only partially. So while I don't like making too many comparisons to a band's other works, doing so here is required.
opens up with the familiar monologue of Big God/Raped Souls
, featuring vocals by Dave Gibney, and follows up with the anti-authoritarian anthem Arise Above Oppression
, both songs far surpassing the versions heard on SOANM
. Both songs are louder, heavier, and just a bit sloppier. The same could be said for many of the songs on here, though a few cuts, such as Escape Confusion
, have nothing on the version fans have come to know and love. The album's title track, which would reappear as Concreto
several years later, is very similar to the version found on the Demanufacture/Obsolete
digipaks, although the latter version's production gives it a slight edge. Soulwound
, known here as Soulwomb
, has unmistakable similarities, specifically the main riff, but overall it's different enough to keep the listener interested. Crisis
is another of the few songs that aren't quite up to par with their later incarnations, mainly suffering from the lack of a more emphasized chorus, though redeems itself with sheer brutality.
'New' songs on here include highlight Sangre de Niños
, with other tracks such as Anxiety
acting as little more than filler material, with the combined two clocking in at just over two minutes. Piss Christ
(not to be confused with Pisschrist
) serves as the album's Christian-themed song, albeit not as anti- as say, Christploitation
. While not terribly imaginative lyrically or musically, it's definitely one of the catchier songs on here that didn't eventually wind up on another record in some form. The final track, Ulceration
, also the band's original name because "it sounded cool" finishes the record up on an rather ominous note. A sample of a man shouting "bitch" adds an extra bit of foreboding atmosphere that completes this worthy closer. Unlike Fear Factory's later releases (sans the slightly embarrassing Transgression
), there are no traces of their signature cybernetic, dystopian sound on this record, but rather the focus is placed squarely on old-fashioned, head-banging aggression.
Bell's vocals aren't nearly as powerful on certain songs as the SOANM
versions, partially due to the fact that a then unknown Ross Robinson was behind the mixing board. His clean vocals are more subdued on this album than on later releases, but they prove effective enough, and perhaps are even more fitting than the highly mixed, almost overpowering SOANM
cleans on songs such as W.O.E.
(Dragged Down By the Weight of Existence
). His growls, while not as 'brutal' as many modern death metal acts, are the most fierce he's ever done. Both vocal styles, especially the cleans, are almost always drenched in reverb. While it adds to the overall oppressive, bleak atmosphere of the album, it also makes Bell sound awkward at times, though some of the blame lies with him seemingly struggling to find what would become his often-mimicked vocal style. However, he hits far more often than he misses, so it's only a minor gripe.
While the clean vocals on here may have been downplayed a bit, all the instruments are thicker and louder than what SOANM
has to offer. The production here is a far cry from the overly polished, almost radio-friendly sound of their later recordings, but it works to the album's advantage here, contributing to the bleak sound while giving it some attitude. The bass is loud, grumbling, and muddy throughout the record, and while it adds some massive crunch to many of the songs, it rarely does anything interesting on its own, though Dino was busy handling both bass and guitar duties at the time. Which leads me to the riffs; they're almost always hard-hitting and flat out catchy, though a bit simple at times. While Dino isn't exactly the most diverse or technical player, he has a very distinct style, and the deliciously raw and sludgy guitar tone found here complements his playing well. Just don't expect any solos or anything overly complex here; this is
Fear Factory we're talking about after all.
In conclusion, Concrete
is quite a treat for those who aren't too interested in post-Demanufacture
Fear Factory, and is also interesting look at a very influential band defining their Napalm Death
inspired sound. Perhaps this album doesn't stand the test of time like their other 90's albums have, but make no mistake, it's one hell of a listen, even surpassing their later work in some respects. This is Fear Factory at their most primitive and raw state, so those who are turned off by the usual cold, overly polished sound of the band may find this album to be a highly enjoyable listen. I know I did.
Dragged Down by the Weight of Existence
Sangre de Niños
Arise Above Oppression
PS: Took half a point off since many of the songs can be found on other releases.