Turns out Fear Factory’s still putting out albums. I hadn’t really paid attention to them since 1995’s Demanufacture, which I remember liking quite a bit. So here they are with basically the same album: dystopic future with technology run amok, obliterating the human in the world, and drum machine blast beats.
So, no, Fear Factory is not really breaking new ground 20 years after their most popular album. But often I review albums of bands not breaking new ground with a well-who-cares-when-its-this-good attitude. This album doesn’t quite fall into that category. Fear Factory’s formula is still a winning one, as this album is quite enjoyable. However, you’ve basically heard it all before and are really only listening for the good half of the album.
You can see below the half of the album that I legitimately like (versus the half that I’m merely okay with). I think what separates the better tracks is that the sung choruses, as distinguished from the barked/shouted verses, transcend the cacophony of the relentless music underlying everything. Those underlying instruments are the most formulaic part of the album (well, apart from the lyrics, I suppose): ridiculously compressed guitars and drum sounds at an incredibly fast pace. I’ve also realized with age that, no, that’s not an awesome drummer they have; that’s humanly impossible drumming executed by a drum machine. It sounds cool, but, you know, what I think bothers most people about drum machines is that they’re just so obviously in your face “Hey I’m a drum machine!,” and so you kind of end up discounting the music even if it sounds awesome. Interestingly, the ridiculously short Wikipedia entry on this album indicates that they used a real drummer on the album. And you can hear it, they did. The real drummer is there augmenting the machine in parts, and that’s kind of cool. Though I don’t know if I would have noticed it if I hadn’t read about it.
I should say that I was initially reviewing the Deluxe Edition of this album, which has two bonus tracks, but I had to stop because I just couldn’t take those last two tracks. So the rating below reflects the ten-track standard edition. (Honestly, in this age of streaming, what does a Deluxe Edition even mean? Why do bands do that?) I like it, and “Regenerate” could definitely appear on a best of 2015 metal playlist at least as some kind of token representation whatever we named the genre that Fear Factory spawned. But I didn’t need to know this album.
Really Like: “Protomech,” “Regenerate”
Like: “Autonomous Combat System,” “Soul Hacker,” “Battle For Utopia”
Meh: “Anodized,” “Dielectric,” “Genexus,” “Church Of Execution,” “Expiration Date”
Song Notes: After the jump
- Autonomous Combat System –
- Anodized – this just mostly doesn’t work. the sung chorus is weak and the barked verses seem to be trying to hard to be tough
- Dielectric –
- Soul Hacker – crunchier. “You’ll never take my soul”
- Protomech – heavy on the keys, upbeat, i really like it
- Genexus – the Ronald Reagan “That’s what it is to be a slave” really brings this down.
- Church Of Execution –
- Regenerate –
- Battle For Utopia –
- Expiration Date – almost nine minutes. and about four minutes of that is like fadeout.