Fear Factory


Demanufacture

Fear Factory - Demanufacture ©1995 Roadrunner
1. Demanufacture
2. Self Bias Resistor
3. Zero Signal
4. Replica
5. New Breed
6. Dog Day Sunrise
7. Body Hammer
8. Flashpoint
9. H-K (hunter-killer)
10. Pisschrist
11. A Therapy For Pain

My first taste with Fear Factory came during their opening slot on the 1996 Iron Maiden tour (yes, that pathetic tour featuring the "other" Iron Maiden vocalist) and their performance that night captured my attention. Fear Factory's precision (the aspect that tags them with the "industrial-metal" label on occasion) as well as Burton C. Bell's strong vocals were compelling enough for me to find their second release, Demanufacture, which in retrospect turns out to be the band's ultimate statement to date.

On this album, the motif of the band was at its strongest, as well as the songwriting muscle. The two most noteworthy aspects to the Fear Factory puzzle are the aforementioned vocals of Burton C Bell, who has the ability to roar as well as utilize a clean, Ozzy-tinged voice (though occasionally he wanders off key), and the extremely impressive drumming of Raymond Herrera. His double bass pedal mastery is nearly unparallelled, with perhaps the exception of Gene Hoglan. The songs are obviously written around his rhythm patterns, as guitarist Dino Cazares plays solely chunky rhythms in click with the drum patterns. Keyboards are tastefully sprinkled throughout the music, often adding a stirring dimension. Between that and Bell's varying vocal approach, the songs don't tend to bog down in samey-ness. The song structuring on "Self Bias Resistor" and "Zero Signal" is impressive and the raging aggressiveness of the band makes the music both intriguing and energetic. "Dog Day Sunrise" is a clean cover of the Head of David song and probably the quietest song on the album (in other words, they don't go insane on here). The latter half of the album is not quite as powerful as the first half, but still offers a good punch in the nose. The album closer is a bit more of an ambient number that almost, but not quite succeeds in their experiment to create a moodier track.

For the most, Demanufacture is the strongest statement Fear Factory could make working within their songwriting style. Aside from minor flaws and a letdown in intensity as the album wears on, it is easily the one Fear Factory album that should be checked by metal fans.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 07/2000


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Obsolete

Fear Factory - Obsolete ©1998 Roadrunner
1. Shock
2. Edgecrusher
3. Smasher/devourer
4. Securitron (Police State 2000)
5. Descent
6. Hi-tech Hate
7. Freedom Or Fire
8. Obsolete
9. Resurrection
10. Timelessness

When the only positive thing you can say about an album is that production is stunning, there could potentially be problems. And the biggest problem with great production is that you're briefly fooled into thinking, "Say, this is pretty darned neat." Then reality sets in and within two or three spins you realize there's little of merit or interest in the album. For the most part Obsolete follows in the footsteps of Demanufacture, except it lacks the spark that gave the latter album intensity. Generally slower and less amazing kickdrum footwork by drummer Raymond Herrera, Obsolete contains predictable structures and riffs...nothing you haven't heard before by this band. Admittedly Burton C. Bell's clean vocals are stronger than before. It's probably the songwriting itself that is lacking. It isn't until the ninth track "Resurrection" that things finally get interesting. That track is an orchestrated, moving and powerful piece of work that shows Fear Factory does indeed possess serious potential. It just happens that we'll have to wait another album before hearing it.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 01/1999

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Review #2:

Okay, Raymond Herrera is a great drummer, but what else ya got? Fear Factory's Obsolete (no, not the Raymond Herrera Band yet) is perhaps the most musically emaciated metal album I've heard since maybe Saxon's debut husk, or crapshooters Killer in Mausoleum's heyday. Which, of course is a bad reference point, but this is not to say it's utterly terrible. The attention to detail and finesse is admirable; the mix is cleaner than Tom Arnold's dinner plate. The logistics are all in place. But I've just never heard the drums as a lead instrument. At times it almost sounds like something one would record for a drum clinic to demonstrate rhythmic direction, or at worst, a demo dressed up with nowhere to go. Bell's lyrics and vocals are advancing nicely, but his band, those guys responsible for writing the music, are still hitting minor league singles. The bass and guitar are generally locked in sync with the drum track, making for a technically impressive but dull, two-fold affair. What were they thinking? Fear Factory have appeased their core audience, I'm sure, but progress has skipped town, and so have I, unfortunately.

Review by Lee Steadham

Review date: 03/1999

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Obsolete Digipack Version

Fear Factory - Obsolete Digipack Version ©1999 Attic/Roadrunner
1. Shock
2. Edgecrusher
3. Smasher/devourer
4. Securitron (Police State 2000)
5. Descent
6. Hi-tech Hate
7. Freedom Or Fire
8. Obsolete
9. Resurrection
10. Timelessness
11. Cars
12. O-O (Where Evil Dwells)
13. Soulwound
14. Messiah
15. Concreto

I'm really quite curious as to the thinking behind this reissue of Obsolete. The 1998 album for Fear Factory had only been out for a smattering of months before this new, digipack version appeared with five bonus tracks. For fans, that meant either they could do without the bonus tracks or shell out another seventeen bucks to buy the newer, supposedly superior version. Why this couldn't have been released as a five song EP at a lower price or originally released with all fifteen songs is a rather major question. This smacks of huge greed on the part of Roadrunner Records to put their hand further into their fans' pockets. There is no justification in re-releasing a product so quickly after the initial release except to double-pad their pockets with cash.

As noted in other reviews, Obsolete is a rather dry and overall unexciting album as it sounds like the Demanufacture formula on cruise control. With the except of the masterful "Resurrection", there is little of note on the album. The five bonus tracks are a mixed bag, further raising the question of how much one needs this digipack. The cover of "Cars" is actually more true to the original than one might suspect. The other four tracks aren't particularly exciting nor demanding of being bought solely because of their inclusion on this digipack. Although I would never promote piracy, the Obsolete digipack almost smacks of the need to be distributed via Napster and illicit online methods in order to show the record companies that this sort of blatant greed is intolerable.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 08/2000

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Digimortal

Fear Factory - Digimortal ©2001 Roadrunner
1. What Will Become?
2. Damaged
3. Digimortal
4. No One
5. Linchpin
6. Invisible Wounds (Dark Bodies)
7. Acres Of Skin
8. Back The F*** Up
9. Byte Block
10. Hurt Conveyor
11. (Memory Implants) Never End
12. Dead Man Walking
13. Strain Vs. Resistance
14. Repentance
15. Full Metal Contact

It seemed like only yesterday when many an industry pundit and pimple-ridden metal fan were projecting Fear Factory to be the next metal megastar. It almost happened. Relentless in its onslaught, the drill-like machinery of Demanufacture didn't just build on the promise of Soul of a New Machine; it raised the bar for industrial-metal hybrid bands to then unheard-of levels. And though diverse reactions were voiced regarding their subsequent release (I personally feel Burton et al. regressed with Obsolete), many felt there was much that could still be tapped from their collective mind, if they would only get off the couch, lose the beer guts, and put in a little more effort.

But now that their latest is under the belt, it appears now that Obsolete will not be seen as a bump in the road to glorious and splendid success, but as the herald of a dramatic failure in songwriting acumen, comparable only to perhaps Metallica's notorious fall. Truly, Digimortal is that bad. Trivial lyrics, pedestrian songs, and languid effort make for a disaster of an album, all the more striking considering the respectability of Fear Factory's earlier output.

Digimortal's fatal error, I think, lies not in its poor songwriting; in this instance, songwriting is only a part of what's fundamentally wrong. The members of Fear Factory never were great songwriters; to accommodate for their deficiencies, they relied heavily on sound and fury to carry their previous efforts. The crippler then, is a considerable lack of enthusiasm towards this recording, which in turn exposes the limitations of Fear Factory's songwriting abilities. And not only does the album lack genuine passion, it seems like the band spent a total of five hours writing these stupid songs. Coupled with an obvious shift towards more conventional (and pedestrian) nu-metal music, Fear Factory renounced the very qualities that made them somewhat interesting in the first place. For many longtime fans, part of the band's raison d'etre has always been to create music that's reasonably accessible but still, against the grain. Now they're rapidly losing their identity.

The best tracks on Digimortal pale in comparison to the songs on Demanufacture, and even most tracks on Obsolete. Their attempt at rap on "Back the Fuck Up" is a blatant and regrettable instance of jumping on the bandwagon, while Dino Cazares's guitar lines on songs like "No One" are downright pathetic. Burton C. Bell, admittedly, does get slightly better at singing with every recording, but these songs lack the right ambience for his voice to have any significant charismatic effect. Mostly horrendous, a few tracks like "Invisible Wounds (Dark Bodies)" are passably mediocre. But that's it. Avoid this album like the anthrax.

Review by Jeffrey Shyu

Review date: 10/2001

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