Review Summary: The soul of this machine has improved
Fear Factory are a band who have earned their place in the annals of metal history. Their ’94 effort Demanufacture
, and ‘97’s effort, Obsolete
, would already be more than enough to secure them entry into that lofty of vaults. Fusing punishing rapid fire like riffs, an unrelenting machine gun percussive unit and Burton’s unique vocals, it was only a matter of time before the band would hit the big time. One could argue that Fear Factory peaked too early in their career; while Obsolete
remains their most commercial album to date, critically they have yet to re-conquer the heights they made with Demanufacture
. Almost equally as important though, and arguably as well documented as their successes has been the almost constant internal conflicts within the group. The revolving door policy they seem to have employed has seen the band split – twice. As mentioned, all the animosity present has been well documented, so details will be spared. But what needs to be reminded is this: with their recent releases failing to capitalize on their former glory, and 2 of the band’s former members still playing the game themselves, what does Fear Factory have in store to redeem themselves.
The band wastes no time in staking their claims, and any doubt over a revamped line up is dismissed as the opening track comes barreling out of the gate. Dino’s spot on riffing instantly evoke a sense of deja vu, it’s nostalgic and yet so intense and electrifying at the same time. Gene easily falls into the task of replacing former member Raymond, and while his style is mainly rooted in the Death metal scene, he adapts with ease to the confines of the industrial stigma. And as Burton steps up to the plate, it’s clear that this band has found its pulse once again, all cylinders are firing and show the band once more at their powerful best. Another key factor present is the return of long time colleague Rhys Fulber. Absent on their last few outings, he helps the band in returning to their more traditional sounding roots. Everything here is polished to a mirror sheen, and his electronic fills are a welcome return to the fold.
The crucial element to Fear Factory, and essentially their recipe for success, has always been the interplay between Burton and Dino. Whereas before with Christian Olbe Wolbers filling in on the guitar, Burton sought to place vocal hooks where there were none to be found. Reteamed with Dino he eliminates this idea entirely, in fact returning to his Demanufacture
ways of dry throat screaming. An interesting thing to hear, given Burton’s denouncement of all things ‘heavy’; one of his reasons for the band’s first split was his lack of enthusiasm of singing anything of the sort ever again. But one needs only listen to his blistering all out attack style performance on ‘Fear Campaign’ to relieve any fears of this being a continued belief for the man.
Also giving credit where it’s due, the alliance of Dino and Gene is for a lack of a better word, pulverizing. The synchronization of Gene’s double kicks with Dino’s relentless riffing and fragmenting arpeggios are crushing to hear. In this album, the band has eliminated the almost ‘hard rock’ sound of Transgression
and returned once again to the sound of a cold, menacing mass of mechanical precision. Sadly, the same cannot be said for bassist Byron Stroud. The man’s performance is barely audible on the album at all, save for the few times that Dino stops playing. A bass will generally follow the main guitarist's riffing to create a very deep sounding guitar tone, the bass in a sense accentuates the guitarist’s performance and saves it form sounding too hollow or thin. That’s not the case here as Byron cannot be heard through the barrage of shreds and riffs, luckily Dino's 8 string performance saves any sounds of hollowness ringing out.
Now like any band well into their second decade, nods to their past become inevitable. Such is the case here; Obsolete
fans will be delighted to hear the Fulber enhanced final tracks on the album; ‘Final Exit’ plays out as a continuation of the musical themes of ‘Descent’ and ‘Resurrection’, it also serves as a fitting epitaph to some of their more toothless entries into their catalogue from the more recent years. The midsection of this album plays out akin to the same section of Demanufacture
, in fact if it weren’t for the crisper production, it would actually become rather difficult to tell them apart. These are the reasons why Mechanize
will go over well with the band’s long term fans, it’s an album designed for the dedicated. To the people who stood there through the reformations and the bad ideas, who were disappointed when Archetype
dropped and it didn’t sound, well like this album. This won’t bring anyone new into the FF world, and I think that’s almost the intention. Sure, new bands relish when new blood enters into the fandom, but this album serves out as a sincere apology if nothing more.
That isn’t to say that this album isn’t without its flaws, far from it in fact. While it surely takes great skill to keep an album from becoming overly repetitive (especially in this genre), even on the first listen recycled riffs and replayed lyrics will rear their head up. Every song tumbles forward into the next, and if attention wasn’t being paid you’d very easily lose track of what song you were on. Despite the much heralded return of Rhys Fulber, he still remains under utilized, with his distorted and shrill piano hitting opening up ‘Christploiation’ being his biggest contribution to the album, mixing aside. The complete lack of bass will deter people as well, to say that the album was more than likely recorded while Byron was out at lunch wouldn’t be much of a stretch. And while Gene Hoglan more than retains his status as a legend with his performance, there were definite moments on the album that could’ve benefited the firmly set in industrial style drumming of Raymond. Dino, in competition with himself (coming off of two Divine Heresy albums) comes off second best on this recording. While his work is more than adequate and up to par, his recent outings with Divine came over as more inspired and in parts, even more energetic and frenzied. But bar some truly ill advised and misplaced solo’s Dino’s return to the Fear Factory holds up well. So eliminate Transgression
from your mind, forget about the nu metal tendencies and slower tempo’s of Digimortal
, Fear Factory are back and with a venom not heard in a number of years. Before this album is up, one thing will become abundantly clear: the soul of this machine has improved.