Originally written by Ian Dreilinger.
Fear Factory was smart to break up when they did, though they’d have been even smarter had they called it quits prior to releasing the atrocious Digimortal. My own disappointment in that album was tremendously heightened by the fact that their previous two albums held (and hold) some sentimental value for me. Both were some of my favorite albums when they were released and to see a band whose music did so much for me go straight to crap was like a slap in the face. That said, their reformation wasn’t something that thrilled me or something that had me feeling very optimistic. It could be nostalgia, low expectations, the fact that it’s just a quality album, or some combination of the three that’s left me so pleased with this new record, but whatever it is, Fear Factory have definitely returned to good form with Archetype.
“So”, you might ask, “is it up to par with their earlier releases like Demanufacture and Obsolete?” The answer to that is a resounding yes and no. At times it lives up to the high standards set with those albums, but where both of those records were consistently solid from start to finish, Archetype is not. That’s not to say there are bad songs, there are just some that are really good and some that I’d say are just all right, and one of the biggest flaws is the order in which the tracks run. This is a classic example of an album blowing its load far too soon by placing the strongest songs right at the beginning and rounding out the remainder of the record with songs ranging from uninspiring to sort of cool.
The songs used to begin the album do it so well that the ever so slightly lackluster rest is easily forgivable. Songs such as “Slave Labor”, “Drones”, and “Archetype”, are classic Fear Factory. None of those would’ve been out of place on Obsolete with their nice atmospheric keyboards, precise machine-like drumming, and their cold heaviness broken up by melodic choruses. Sure, it’s formulaic, but it works because the songwriting is very strong.
Unfortunately, the formula begins to wear a bit thin following song number five, the wonderful title track, but it never gets to the point where it’s so bad that you want to turn it off. The songs just become less distinguishable from one another and aren’t quite good enough to give the listener an active desire to hear them repeatedly like the first five songs. Bar a few choice cuts, the last half of the record is rather forgettable.
Otherwise, the album is solid. The production isn’t perfect, the guitar is a bit tinny, but the drums, bass, and keyboards all sound as they should. It’s not enough to impact the album’s overall quality negatively. Musicianship is a mixed bag really. The guitar and bass parts are often quite simplistic, but they’re handled very nicely. Ex-bassist Christian Olde Wolbers has transitioned nicely to guitar and the addition of Strapping Young Lad’s bassist is fully adequate. It’s Raymond Herrera who really shines here. His drumming is very fast and completely precise, though not always incredibly complex, always technically proficient.
This new Fear Factory is by no means mind blowing, but for anyone who had an affinity for the band around the time they released Demanufacture or Obsolete, this will be a surprising return to form and an overall gratifying listen. That I’m able to say that about it, that it’s so far better than I was anticipating, is quite pleasing. For nostalgia’s sake and because it’s simply very well done, this is a very enjoyable and worthwhile album.