Originally written by Matt Longo
How much of an introduction does Fear Factory need? Not only are they cemented in the memory of the old guard as touchstones of the Industrial Metal genre (if not as its backbone), but also pioneered clean vocals in death metal when it was nowhere near fashionable. Burton C. Bell is not shy about reminding us of this fact, just as Dino Cazares is keen to correct the questionable influence of former drummer Raymond Herrera and bassist Christian Olde-Wolbers. (Having interviewed both Burton and Dino, I can back up these claims.) Admittedly, I never saw the ’90s lineup live, and maybe Raymond and Christian can totally whale… but c’mon: Arkaea.
And Mechanize was fucking great, remember? It may be true that Cazares programmed the drums for every Fear Factory album on which he’s appeared, but the presence of The Atomic Clock doubtlessly made some difference in the end; just listen to “Fear Campaign”, “Christploitation”, or the title track for those subtle accents. According to the man himself, Dino has been working with John Sankey of Devolved since Digimortal. That somehow escaped my notice, and then kinda bummed me out, because I wrote a less-than-favorable review of their debut/reissue album, Calculated.
Longtime collaborators like Sankey and producer/keymaster Rhys Fulber do return, but this is still very much “The Burton & Dino Show” here. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, and honestly, The Industrialist feels like a sibling to Mechanize. Both albums are way front-heavy—pretty much ‘Side A’ records, really—and each launch with vicious title tracks followed by a mixture of strong songs and straight singles. However, in one way or another, the flipsides are too scattershot to honestly recommend. Mechanize has “Designing the Enemy” to perk things up, and though ‘an overlong goodbye’ [my words], “Final Exit” stands on its own as a fitting conclusion; the same cannot be said for “Human Augmentation” on The Industrialist. There is not even the slightest hint of ‘song’ present, so what purpose does it serve? This isn’t some overly arty group with total sensory demand; Fear Factory hits on a more basic, visceral level.
This should have been a damned EP. They have about as many shorties as full-lengths out there—nine or ten, depending on how you count—but they’re always live or remixes. What the shit? Get behind the new album all you please, but the last eleven minutes is pure tedium, and I dare you to defend otherwise. Sure, argue about how it makes more sense with the art and lyrics in front of you, but the music should stand on its own. Chop the end off this album, and you have a heavy eight-pounder that could probably be trimmed closer to the 30-minute mark—lean, efficient, deadly, purposeful. Invite repeat listens with the shorter runtime. Offer the omitted end as an online companion piece, maybe with video. And don’t align with robber barons, dudes. Intentional or not, it’s a poor fit for the album. Burton has said the industrial element was missing over the past few albums, and while I didn’t bother visiting the Dino-less records, that’s a fairly true statement for Digimortal, and more so for Mechanize.
The Industrialist does hark back to Soul Of A New Machine, Demanufacture, and Obsolete, in the sense of theme—however twisted. But the merging of man and machine is such an old trope, merely switching to the perspective of a sentient robot doesn’t feel like enough. Sociopolitical mechanization with focus on metaphor helped last time, and I thought that undercurrent would still pull here. The Industrialist isn’t a bad album, only a safe one—just when I felt Fear Factory was dangerous again.