A creepy industrial noise followed by a cold piano and distorted mechanical voices erupts into soaring keyboards, crunching riffs and pounding drums as Fear Factory‘s ninth studio album kicks off in fine style in the form of first track Autonomous Combat System. Burton C Bell’s vocals sneer, growl and caress during this classic “Fear Factory” sounding piece ending with more than a hint of their old school whisper.
Their follow up to 2012’s The Industrialist and 26 years into a career which has seen more than its fair share of troubles, tensions, rifts and line up changes, Fear Factory return with an absolute blinder of an album. Throughout, it has that perfect mix of real heavy industrial grind and growling vocals mixed with their uncanny ability of using keyboards as an ingredient (rather than an afterthought) as well as utilising Burton’s massive vocal range.
Dielectric weirds us out with its horror style intro swirling towards punctuating guitar, growling, singing and smashing drums before sending us flying with a gorgeous chorus and finishing with a dash of deep electronic metal. Fourth track Soul Hacker highlights guitarist Dino Cazares’ honed skill as he overloads the song with a real deep thunderous sound throughout. It sways and bounces along with an amazing flow and menace, even managing to breaking itself up with an eerie guitar solo but keeping the ebb intact.
Title track Genexus is the heaviest song on the album and is all about the biting vocals spitting out words of slavery over a background of dastardly keys, thrashing drums and angry guitars with some Blade Runner (1982) samples thrown in for good measure. Regenerate, the eighth track, forms by contrast the other side of Fear Factory and could almost be labelled as pop (almost) with its groove and chorus you could happily skip along to. One of my favourite tracks follows, a very Terminator (1985) esque song in both style and sound, Battle For Utopia pounds away against a sultry keyboard and machine riffs, which ultimately contributes to yet another incredible chorus.
Then comes Expiration Date. Plodding, electric and sad, yet building into a sudden simple beat with sparse effects and chords. It could easily be argued as having the finest vocal performance of Burton’s career with a chorus to end all choruses – layered and clean. A sprinkle of slightly altered Blade Runner (1982) lines and an ending of drifting meandering sounds, piano and metal (literally) bring this amazing album to a close…although special mention must go to the two bonus tracks; a remix of Genexus by Al Jourgensen and Enhanced Reality, a real gem of pure programming by co-producer/keyboardist/sampler Rhys Fulber.
The tracks I haven’t gone into as much detail over are just as good. Anodized, Protomech and Church Of Execution are brutal, full of melody and power and lavished with that special dose of head banging material giving the two remaining original members, Burton and Dino, (and joined by drummer Mike Hell) an album that ranks up there with their absolute finest work. They are the band that got me into heavy metal and I have seen live six times (the first time being at Ozzfest ’98) with a seventh time coming up in December when they will play their masterpiece album Demanufacture in its entirety. I cannot stress the influence this band has had (and continues to have) on me and the path it set me on by opening my mind to the world of heavy metal and all its different wondrous branches, so it is a genuine pleasure and honour to be able to gorge on and marvel at their ongoing quality and passion.