I am about to write some words I conveying a thought I never thought I’d have for the rest of my life. Worthy, I think, of the strong and em tags I am about to use.
Fear Factory’s new record is incredible.
Unbelievable, right?! The Industrialist might be the best Fear Factory record since Obsolete. Holy living fuck, I know, I can’t believe I am writing those words either! It all started innocently enough with a series of IMs between me and my friend Deegan.
Deegan: Dude, have you heard the new Fear Factory!
Deegan: go listen
me: Does it sound like Fear Factory?
Deegan: sounds like demanufacture
me: Ah. I am listening now.
I never would have bothered with the record had he not used the magic word: Demanufacture. My love for that record knows no bounds. It literally made my brain explode when I first heard it in 1996. I remember when it was too. I was at home, after school during my freshman year of high school. As usual, I was listening to the afternoon metal show on Stanford’s radio station. It was always a nice place to find new bands in that pre-internet era. I learned about all sorts of great bands then, Fear Factory being one of them.
Gwar was coming around and they were having a contest to win a couple of tickets to the upcoming Gwar show at The Warfield in San Francisco. If you could name the Gwar song and record it came from that he played in the coming set and called in with the answer, you won the tickets. Well, during the set he played “Demanufacture” so I called in to find out what it was. I’d heard it a bunch of times, but never knew what the hell this magnificent piece of metal that sounded so unlike anything I’d ever heard before was.
Me: Hey man! What is that awesome “I’ve got…no more…god damn…respect!!!” song?!?
DJ: Yeah, it’s sick, right? That’s Fear Factory.
Me: Awesome! Thanks! By the way, the Gwar song you played was “Ham on the Bone” from America Must Be Destroyed. (Note: I figured at this point that someone must have already gotten the tickets. There’s no way people would have lagged on something that important, right?)
DJ: That’s right! You won the tickets!
Me: *head asplode*
Holy shit, just writing that story gave me the chills. That was honestly one of the best moments of my teenage years. It didn’t matter at all that I’d already purchased tickets to the show. Two more was nothing to be scoffed at.
But back to Fear Factory. Demanufacture became a huge part of my metal vocabulary and was directly responsible for introducing me to electronic music in all its myriad forms through a remix album Fear Factory did with Rhys Fulber from Front Line Assembly called Remanufacture. I think I’ve gotten into this elsewhere, so I’ll leave it at that for now.
During my last summer at camp in 1998, I remember vividly the ad for the then-forthcoming Fear Factory album Obsolete hanging by my bunk. I was counting down the days until I could hear what those dudes had in store for my metal-hungry teenage brain. Do you remember being so excited about things that you could barely handle it? I do, too. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like that about anything.
When I finally got my hands on Obsolete it was like a revelation. They had taken everything I love about Demanufacture and polished it, refocused it, into this pummeling masterpiece of industrial-music-informed heavy metal. My friends and I wore out our copies listening to the album over the next few years.
Then came Digimortal, which felt to me like a step further into the over-polished, over-produced realm. It happened subtly, but the record started to sound sterile, too clean. The ratio of screaming to Burton C. Bell’s always-a-half-step-flat singing (which I hate) started to tip toward the latter. No good. After Digimortal the transition became very clear. Dino left, the band struggled with its identity, there were side-projects, and things basically just faded out. I figured that, as a force in metal, Fear Factory were done. I could write them off in my book as a band that had put out a bunch of great records in the 90s, but then fallen aside as the metal landscape shifted and they were unable to keep up.
But, much like what happened with Machine Head, it seems Fear Factory just needed time to come back into their own. After listening to The Industrialist a few times today, I thought the album worthy of this text message to Deegan while I was still on the train on my way home from work,
I stand behind everything I wrote in that sub-160-character note to my friend. The Industrialist is Fear Factory’s return to form, their great rebirth from the darkened realm of mediocrity, a triumphant statement that 16 years after their genre-busting Demanufacture they are still relevant. Even Bell’s “singing” isn’t bothersome! Unbelievable. I never thought I would ever write that. The album sheds a lot of the production cleanliness they picked up over the years. It feels raw, but competent. It is a more consistent record than Demanufacture by a long shot, though I am not yet sure if its highest highs are as great as the older record, but I do know its lowest lows are not as terrible.
But don’t take my word for it. Listen to the record.
I know what I’ll be listening to tomorrow on the way to work.