Album Review: Fear Factory – The Industrialist
When Fear Factory released Soul of a New Machine in 1992, they began an interesting journey; one that would explicate man versus machine and machine versus man. The concepts surrounding their following albums spoke for themselves. You didn’t have to read between the lines to understand vocalist Burton C. Bell and guitarist Dino Cazares’ view of man’s reliance to machines/technology and its potential consequences. Their interpretations are something right out of science fiction…or were they? If we rely on machines too much do become dependent on them in such a way that it could possibly lead to the eventual destruction of humankind? Though most of that theory seems far-fetched, it needn’t take a rocket scientist to look around some see some validity is what they sang about. As a society, there is no doubt we are reliant on machines and technology. The ironic thing about these concepts is that on Fear Factory’s new album, The Industrialist, Burton and Dino opted for a drum machine instead of a person of human tissue, thought, and emotion.
Initially, I was disgusted that a band of Fear Factory’s stature would opt for a drum machine. It’s not like they can’t afford to have a superior quality drummer ready and willing to hit the skins on 12 songs. The go-to guy of heavy metal drumming, Gene Hoglan, was ready to fill this void, but was unable. So, instead of seeking assistance from some other percussionist, they used a computer. Now that I think about it, the funny thing about this whole situation is that Fear Factory would be the one to do this. After listening to the album several times, I do not hear anything in the drumming that would lead me to believe that it was implanted beats. It does sound like Fear Factory standard drumming. Perhaps that’s part of the problem…it’s too mechanized…no pun intended ;)
Ok, let’s set aside the future hologram drummer for now. The album is better than anything Fear Factory has done over the years. It doesn’t match the Thrashterpiece of Demanufacture or the ferocity of Soul of a New Machine, but it is probably the best thing since Obsolete. In many ways, the album is a pretty good throwback to some classic Fear Factory Thrash. That is one of the first things I picked up on before I knew Max Headroom was drumming. Burton’s growls and clean vocals are as good as they have ever been. The riffing from Dino is tight, nothing new, but still quite ferocious. Matt DeVries, formerly of Chimaira, is on board with bass duty and holding his own.
The overall feel of the album exemplifies its title, The Industrialist. There are more industrial effects going on with this album than in previous efforts. There are a few songs that stand out for me. Recharger is an all-around great Thrash song and very representative of classic Fear Factory. Virus of Faith has a nice gallop and a few sections where Burton’s clean vocals are stellar. If you listen to this song with ear buds, there are a couple of parts where the riffs alternate earpieces…damn near threw me off-balance on the treadmill. Difference Engine is shorter than most songs on the album and packs a brutal punch – signature Fear Factory riffing, speed, and tempo. I am not sure what they were thinking with Human Augmentation. It’s over 9-minutes of musical junk – basically sounds like riffs, bits, and pieces they didn’t use. The only problem is when they put it all together there is no flow and it isn’t something I would ever listen to again…ever. Blush Response is basically the same thing except it’s a little more coordinated. So, we have about 13 total minutes of wasted space. Landfill was more of an instrumental closing piece. It had very little lyrical content; therefore, I would consider it an instrumental. It was heavy, but again not something I would look to listen to.
The concept of the album revolves around the machine’s view of man…the point of view of the machine. It’s a pretty cool concept to tackle and I think Fear Factory did a great job around that topic. There are 8-listenable songs of which most of them are good to better than average. Actually, I was expecting meh, but was pleasantly surprised. I like the “almost” return to form vibe from this album. I was and am a big fan of Demanufacture and The Industrialist brought a bit of that vibe back. Overall, there isn’t anything ground-breaking about this album, but based on the fact that Fear Factory is back and is still vicious is good enough for me. Long-time fans might appreciate this, but just keep in mind it says 12 songs, but really you are going to get 8 Thrash songs. The rest is filler crap probably made by a damn machine…