Fear Factory- Obsolete
Original Release Date: March 23, 1999
Burton C. Bell- Vocals
Christian Olde Wolbers- Bass
Raymond Herrera- Drums
Fear Factory is a relatively famous and accomplished industrial metal band that formed sometime in the early 1990s. Their sound is also a prototype of nu-metal (as is almost everything recorded back then) and has inspired bands like Static-X and Dope. This album is their third or fourth, and it's a concept album set in a bleak dystopian future (aren't they all?). The lyrics booklet explains everything in nice detail and includes stage directions as if it were an actual screenplay for a movie. This version also has several bonus tracks, remakes, and covers to go along with it.
1. Shock (4:53)
This song starts up with an electronic build-up and a heavy entrance. "Shock!" Double-bass pounds and growling vocals come in after that. This is a pretty kickin' entrance for the band if you've never heard them before, and the chorus has some nice singing vocals over heavy guitar riffage. "Shock!" 4/5
2. Edgecrusher (3:39)
Here we have a verse consisting mostly of semi-rapping over a pronounced bassline (one of the only times you'll hear the bassist show his stuff without following the guitar). The rest of the song is more heavy riffage, with some turntables or something in solo. It's almost as if Pantera decided to open up a dance club or something. That's my whole impression of them, actually. 4/5
3. Smasher/Devourer (5:34)
This song isn't too memorable, but it's got lots of screaming and heavy guitars if that's your thing. Eventually we get more half-decent singing (it's mostly growling throughout the chorus). You definitely get a feeling of the evil incarnate in the song, but it's not the most evil song here by a long shot. 3.5/5
4. Securitron (Police State 2000) (5:47)
This one starts out with some police scanner reports (the main character is on the run right now), and eventually we get a song. It starts out with some double-bass triplets and another crushing guitar riff. The chorus is sung instead of screamed, and that's always a nice break. It's song about the price of security, and it's actually more relevant today than in 1999 or their pretend future. 4/5
5. Descent (4:35)
This song is my favorite off the album. Probably because it has the most actual singing while still keeping an interesting guitar riff. Since they have only one guitarist, I assume they're doubling their typical guitar riff along with a higher-pitched strumming one. "I feel... nothing!" Their simple guitar riffs are kept interesting through varying rhythm. It's actually a pretty good song, so it gets the ol' 5/5.
6. Hi-Tech Hate (4:33)
Okay, this song starts off a little creepy. It's some kind of pure tonality making low-pitched beeping noises and it sounds like it's getting closer. Scary! But still not the scariest song here. Eventually, we get more powerful screaming vocals with call-and-response too. "Cowards to all!" The riffs are pretty simple, but they make their statement boldly. We get more singing, but it's kind of hard to make out. (I can't find the lyrics booklet, but I remember some of them). He keeps repeating "Mass destruction" too, so that's creepy. 4/5
7. Freedom or Fire (5:11)
Bass chugging comes in with a suddenly-uptempo drum beat. This one's got a bit more kick to it, but it suffers the same tediousness as almost every other track so far. Definitely moshing music though, and the bass beat sounds almost synthetic right now. There's also a breakdown section with an almost-solo guitar squeal. Neat! 3/5
8. Obsolete (3:51)
The title track starts off with a distorted speech: "... man is obsolete." Grim! Then we get your usual double-bass and more electronic mumbo-jumbo. The verse is more of a march quality, but all the marchers are neo-Nazis. With Down's Syndrome. And they're on fire. Still, this is supposed to be the whole point of the album, but it's not that much different than the other tracks nor is it the high point. 3/5
9. Resurrection (6:35)
This one's a bit quieter to start off with, but the introduction in the lyrics booklet describes the main character's meeting with a statue of Christ in an abandoned church. Positively scary, as is the sudden change of pace here. The verses have some actual singing, then it plows into a safer chugging of the guitars and drums. Then it stops again, only to come back to full power in half a verse. The chorus is your usual stuff, but what a refreshing start! The singing is definitely Burton's better work. We've also got some strings in there too, which are nice and powerful along with the usual riffage. Such a welcome song gets the full 5/5.
10. Timelessness (4:08)
We get some bleeping and booping right into the next track, which contains some sort of rousing speech to start off with. Here we have some more choice singing along a cello or something. (This was originally the closing track, by the way). The singing goes on for quite a while, leading me to believe this isn't a typical mosh-pit concert selection. Very mournful violins come in; I actually haven't listened to this song in a while. Eventually it just ends, with no guitar or anything. Weird. 4.5/5
11. Cars[*] (3:37)
Here is the infamous Gary Numan cover. It seems unchanged at first, but it's actually got some heavy bass and added electronics behind it. If it weren't for "GTA: Vice City," I wouldn't even know much about the original, but I can safely say this is a lot different. I imagine they had a lot of fun with this, like Disturbed's cover of "Shout" by Tears For Fears. The F.F. guitars are just as powerful as always, and the synth comes in as usual. Now I feel like I have to drive somewhere. 5/5 for the sheer balls to do this song.
12. 0-0 (Where Evil Dwells)[*] (5:16)
"Long live the new flesh!" This is absolutely the most evil song on the album, or anywhere in my experience (limited). This is apparently a cover of a song about very blatantly Satanic murders of some sort. "At the sound of crow call/ He said, 'I love thee, Satan!'" Fucking
creepy, and heavy as sin. If this isn't death metal, then I'm not sure what is. 4/5
13. Soulwound[*] (3:51)
Here's another evil song whose origin is unknown by me at this time. It may be one of their earlier releases, as it sounds more like them than a cover. Still, it's heavy and it's got actual singing. Slightly better than your usual Fear Factory song, or just typical? I'll go with the latter. 3.5/5
14. Messiah[*] (3:31)
Electronic beeping gives way to an absolutely brutal sixty-fourth note double-bass and guitar fest. "Messiah!" he screams. Not too special; I'm getting tired of their schtick by now, even though the heaviness is much more pronounced even by their standards. This may also qualify as death metal, since it's considerably full of more punch than normal. Also, it's got the closest thing to a guitar solo yet: some wailing. But it's a start. 4/5
15. Concreto[*] (3:30)
I thought this said "Concerto," but I guess I'm wrong. Someone is, anyway! This song is more double-bass brutality and distorted guitar insanity. Low, bellowing vocals are a bit scary here. I don't know how much more of these guys I can take, but they sure picked an ending track for this album; it's every bit as heavy as the rest of their album, and I have no idea from where this song came from either. Just enjoy it if you've sat through the last fourteen tracks and your ears aren't bleeding yet. 4/5
Overall, this album is HEAVY and growling. I'm not sure if I should recommend it because my tastes have changed considerably. The lack of instrumental virtuosity is a downside for me, but some people like insanely brutal riffing and double-bass insanity. Track 10, "Timelessness" is a big surprise to me, and it's a good end to the album's story. The bonus tracks are superlative to everything on the album though; they're heavier, creepier, and more novel than the rest of the album. So if you're going to buy any version of the album, get this one with the bonus tracks.
3/5 for the album, 3.5/5 for the album with bonus tracks.