Sunday, July 15, 2012

Fear Factory: The Industrialist (Review)

Way back in 1992 to 1995 Fear Factory were something to behold. Fast and hard metal riffs backed by some techno-industrial noise of the type that Trent Reznor would agree with, double bass throbbing drums, and alternatingly death and melody metal inspired vocals coalesced to give rise to some of the most harsh and at times frightening metal on the market. Now, Fear Factory, despite being all of those things still (in addition to once again being composed of its core members Burton C. Bell and Dino Cazares) is just a tad repetitious. That’s great if you are a Fear Factory purist, but for the average metal fan, repetition can be the touch of death…at least as far as sales are concerned. That being said, The Industrialist is probably the best Fear Factory album since Demanufacture, simply because this Fear Factory purist is quite happily reminded of Fear Factory’s glory days when listening to The Industrialist.

Soul of a New Machine (1992) and Demanufacture (1995) established Fear Factory as a dark fantasy/sci-fi fan’s favorite band. Musically anticipating hard R types of techno-industrial sci-fi/horror like The Matrix (1999), Fear Factory often dealt with dark lyrics that obliquely address the potential evils that mankind’s rampant abuse of technology might unleash upon itself as well as its machine children. The Industrialist delves most deeply into this long standing, and oft revisited, theme in Fear Factory’s music. Being a concept album, The Industrialist tells the story of an automaton (The Industrialist) that is slowly gaining sentience as it gathers more data and suddenly finds itself striving to live in opposition to the desires of its creators. Obviously there is much, much more to the story and its inherent metaphors, but no matter how interesting a concept album’s story is, if the accompanying music doesn’t deliver the story in a worthwhile capacity all is for naught. So how do Burton and Dino do putting the music together this time out after the decent but lacking reunion album Mechanize?

The answer is that The Industrialist, despite being a solidly composed and executed album, it suffers from the type of repetition that most of Fear Factory’s albums do. Dino plays the same lighting riffs over and over with the only varying factor in the composition being the speed at which he plays them (or so it often sounds). Again, like the story to The Industrialist, Dino’s riffs are a little more varied than that simple description, but honestly not that much. That’s where Burton’s growl come overdubbed harmony manages to make the music palatable after just a few songs. Also, producer/programmer Rhys Fulber rounds out the sound with some well composed and inserted industrial noise, beats, blips, and blats. Perhaps the most interesting thing about The Industrialist is that Burton and Dino jettisoned live drums for a drum machine. The change isn’t terribly noticeable at first, mostly because since their inception, Fear Factory’s music has been filled with machine and staccato like drumming. The various drummers that have been part of Fear Factory over the years have been nothing short of amazing practitioners of their craft, but with the advent of the drum machine, the beats and speed can be taken to the next level, albeit with a definite loss of the human factor in the music. 

Perhaps that’s part of the point here though as the story behind The Industrialist is about a machine that makes the harrowing journey into human like consciousness. The Industrialist himself is a spiritual cyborg, just like Fear Factory themselves are. Regardless, for dark sci-fi inspired metal, you can’t beat Fear Factory, and my guess is that you wouldn’t really want to try to.

Essential Tracks: “New Messiah,” “God Eater,” “Depraved Mind Murder”

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Industrial Beats

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