Wednesday 9th December will be a date forever etched in my memory. Not only did I see Fear Factory live for the seventh time but I got to see them play their seminal album Demanufacture in full. An album which set me on a path of discovery into the world of heavy metal and all its varied styles from industrial to death, to thrash, to techno. Its importance in my life is beyond words and the power it still emanates is breath-taking; it remains very much influential and way ahead of its time.
But first, onto the two support acts.
Opening up were a three piece Metalcore/Heavy metal band from Ireland called Dead Label. Full of energy and power, they ripped through their short set with skill and enthusiasm. Singer/Bassist Dan O’ Grady clearly in his element as he addressed the crowd several times expressing a genuine gladness in being part of the Fear Factory tour… a perfect start to the nights proceedings.
Next up were Once Human. Mixing gothic Cradle Of Filth production with Arch Enemy vocal work and Machine Head groove, this California based band were both visually and musically stunning. Vocalist Lauren Hart looks like an angel but sings like a demon with her mannerisms on stage a mix of theatre (during the singing) and girl next door (when addressing the crowd). Although, her vocal style is primarily the deep growly kind, there are moments when she sings beautifully, creating a perfect combination of awe and rage. Founded by former Machine Head/Soulfly guitarist Logan Mader, Once Human manage to have the crowd pumped and wanting more especially during their final track…a cover of Machine Heads Davidian!!
And so, the time came. Planted at the front of the stage in Manchester’s Ritz venue, and after seeing two excellent support acts, I await the mighty Fear Factory. Darkness, rumblings and the intro to title track Demanufacture kicks in and they are here. Original members Burton C Bell and Dino Cazares erupt on stage and plough through the song with a purpose and the crowd reply in kind. Backed by powerhouse bassist Tony Campos and machine-like drummer Mike Heller, the first three tracks are a messy blur of nostalgia and perfection. The combination of growl/clean vocals, industrial sounding drum and bass, crunching thick guitars and menacing keyboards has, in my opinion, never sounded so good or ever been bettered. Fourth track Replica is a live favourite but hearing it as part of the Demanufacture line up feels extra special during which there is plenty of moshing, swaying and bodies jumping in unison.
Then we come to tracks not generally played live during regular touring; New Breed has us all singing and throwing the horns whilst Dog Day Sunrise feels like a minor reprieve of sorts. Body Hammer, Flashpoint and H-K are delivered with the same level of force and joy as Dino and Tony continue to swap sides on stage and Burton proves his showmanship and vocal range of the highest calibre. A male fan shows his love for Dino by shouting out how beautiful he is, crowd surfers pass and tumble overhead and the thick atmosphere inside The Ritz is literally electric. A point made even more during Pisschrist as everyone, and I do mean everyone, joins in on vocal duties. Final Demanufacture track A Therapy For Pain is a nine minute mix of eerie and doom bringing everything to a slow dirge and the band exit the stage as the creepy keyboards end the song. Its unbelievable to think this album is 20 years old!
Returning with live classics Shock and Edgecrusher from the Obsolete album, a new even stronger energy is injected into both crowd and band as the floor is shaken to its very core from a sea of bouncing metal heads after which we get three outstanding tracks from their latest album Genexus. Dielectric is imbued with a glorious chorus, Soul Hacker has an immense rhythm and Regenerate is full of meaning towards band and fan alike; these three songs fit in perfectly with a set list of tracks decades older. Finishing with Martyr, the first track from their debut album Soul Of A New Machine, Burton reminds us that not only is it 20 years since Demanufacture but it is also 25 years of Fear Factory and we all celebrate the best way we can…by banging our heads, destroying our throats and stamping our feet.
Soaked in sweat, ringing in my ears, bone and muscle aching and a perfect night of music is done. I leave The Ritz with a smile on my face, youth in my soul, a new t-shirt, one of Dino’s guitar plectrums and the sense and true conviction that I just witnessed something incredibly special…