Review Summary: Against all odds, and despite a few setbacks, The Industrialist is something of a minor triumph for a group that has spent nearly a decade attempting to redefine itself
serving as the only stain against the enduring legacy of Burton C. Bell and Dino Cazares, it’s a pretty fair notion to posit that Fear Factory as a sound and an idea belong chiefly to both singer and guitarist. Amidst the ever-changing lineups, the behind closed doors reformations and the side projects (Divine Heresy and Arkaea respectively), the band have never sounded quite as potent and relentless when they weren’t being driven by this particular duo. Dino attempted to replicate the group’s success on his own terms with mixed results, and Burton, now relying on his former bass player for inspiration gave us the so-so Archetype
and the turgid Transgression
. If Mechanize
proved anything (and lets be honest, it had a lot to prove), it was that through difference was inspiration born. If the arguments and conflict that led to the group’s first big disbandment were to be believed, it showed a group of individuals willing to fight it out for the chance to be heard; conflict might be bad press but at the very least it shows a band still caring about what they’re doing.
While perseverance might be appreciated in the same way that we champion the underdog and praise the individuals who can overcome adversity, there’s a certain comfort to be had when going into The Industrialist
that comes from the knowledge that Burton and Dino are still in it to win it. That Mechanize
wasn’t just a one time only rehash and attempt to cash in on the band’s influence and legacy. And The Industrialist
is essentially the Dino and Burton show: Rhys Fulber returns and his influence is felt in just about every track, but it’s Dino who handles not just the bass guitar duties but the drums as well (programmed with the assistance of Devolved’s John Sankey). This limitation on outside presence gives the album something of a unified front, but it also shows the band (duo) stretching themselves to full capacity, and with Dino essentially pulling triple-duty the album suffers as a result. Now there are a few things to point out before we get into the meat and potatoes of the album: The Industrialist
might very well be the most pissed-off that Fear Factory have sounded in a long, long time (and given that everything seems fine in paradise one can only assume that this aggression lies strictly in the band’s intentions to release top product), and for the majority of the album’s length there’s very little in the way of breathing room. Even Obsolete
, (arguably the most spine crushing the band have ever been) relieved the pressure with ‘Descent’, perfectly placed at around the halfway point of the album.
The decision to place both ‘Religion Is Flawed Because Man Is Flawed’ and ‘Human Augmentation’ together, and at the end of the album no less, raises a few questions; granted it only escalates the intensity of the album, but it also cuts that temperament off far too abruptly, rendering the forward-thrust and momentum of the album strangely mute. It almost cuts the album off at the knees, and while adding a few more tracks to the runtime and spicing up the variety might have served to better strengthen the album’s later stages, the attempt to replicate the band’s previous successes with album closers just feels weak and tacked on. In some ways The Industrialist
ends up feeling like half an album with an extended outro thrown in that does little more than extend the runtime. It could perhaps serve as some grand gesture or invocation of the album’s concept, but unlike Obsolete
, here the “narrative” just feels like an excuse to give Burton something to write about – it certainly isn’t tantamount to the crux of the album’s mentality.
The other issue with the album lies within its production: granted that music technology has finally caught up with Fear factory’s ambitions, but the sheen with which this album has been polished to is simply far too glossy and ineffective. The bass is simply inaudible, both in string and percussion, and more times than not does the album feel as if it’s being presented in a vacuum. There’s a claustrophobic feel to everything here, not just in its approach and veracity, but there’s an oppressive force that seems to push against any kind of sound from being greatly illustrated; granted that this all ties into the aesthetic of the group, but truthfully it gives everything a sterilized kind of nature to it. The percussion needs to be addressed as well; while the band has always relied on its fair share of double-pedal action (Kerry King’s remarks against former drummer Raymond Herrera do hold some truth to them), but now without the need to rely on human endurance the group push the approach to an almost obscene amount. Which works when the patterns are accentuated by Dino’s machine-gun string work, but when left to fend on their own (the opening salvos of the title track for instance) it all sounds like little more than accentuated clicks and taps. There’s no emotion to be had with their performance, every snare hit rings out with the same level of ruthless authoritarianism and the cymbals just feel washed out and hollow.
These are all major faults to be addressing, and while they do certainly hold The industrialist
back from being any kind of grand defining statement for the band, once every track begins to settle into its rhythmic groove you begin to simply accept the faults and actually enjoy the music. And there is a lot on here to be thankful for: the songwriting has greatly improved since Mechanize
, and ample time is given to both brutality and melody, with Burton giving his best performance since the glory days of Demanufacture
. Dino, while still cashing in on the same riffs he wrote two decades ago, has never sounded more vital than he does here. While he’ll never be a virtuoso he’s an artist who has recognized his strengths (in this case, his right hand), and in that respect he plays up to expectations admirably. As previously noted, The Industrialist
marks another appearance for Rhys Fulber and his influence is felt everywhere, from his best John Carpenter impersonation on ‘God Eater’, the synthesizer overload of ‘Virus Of Faith’ to the little fills and pops that he employs at just about every moment of the album, that while accentuating the cognitive process of the album also help to assuage the emptiness of the album’s final mix.
What this all boils down to is another solid outing for the group, who in the light of a controversy that’s spanned almost a full decade have managed to hold onto the vitality and balls to the wall approach that was rediscovered with Mechanize
. It’s not the grand return to form that we all might have hoped for, but barring the far too polished production and the abrupt finality of the album, The Industrialist
is yet another fitting reminder that Fear Factory are still a driving force in the metal community and a band to be respected for still knowing how to throw it down some twenty years after the fact.