Goddamn Fear Factory.
Goddamn, Fear Factory.
That’s the abridged, edited, and expurgated version of the thoughts that went through my mind while listening to Genexus. With a history that includes as many steps backwards as forwards, it was anybody’s guess which direction Fear Factory would go on this, their first album for Nuclear Blast. On the one hand, they have an impressive track record of first albums for new labels (the solid return Archetype for Liquid 8; the total rebirth of Mechanize on Candlelight). On the other hand, what are the odds that they – or any band, for that matter – would have another album of that magnitude in them at this stage in their career?
Well…this is where things get complicated. What is certain is this: Genexus is an absolutely monstrous album, with a huge sound loaded with all the sonic nuances that have brought them to this point, and a few that will help them move them forward. It’s a pretty amazing feat when you consider that the lineup has been overhauled once again. Joining core members Burton C. Bell (vocals), Dino Cazares (guitars), and producer/collaborator Rhys Fulber are bassist Tony Campos (ex-Static X/Prong) and touring drummer Mike Heller. Put it all together, and you’ve got an album that represents the past, present, and future of Fear Factory.
OK, so that last sentiment is pulled almost directly from the album’s press release, which also declares:
“Genexus is rooted in the struggle of man vs. machine and cyber vs. organic; the sound of man and machine having dreams and nightmares of electric sheep.”
There is a similar battle going on inside my mind to determine what exactly Genexus is as an album (beyond what was stated above). In that spirit, I’ve decided to give voice to both fan and critic, the analog and the digital, the warmth of one enjoying music and the cold of critical analysis.
Holy hell, this is impressive. Whatever The Industrialist was lacking is here in spades. Of course, that album’s biggest shortcoming may have been that it had to follow Mechanize, which was considered by many to be the proper follow up to Demanufacture. Aurally speaking, Genexus is flawless. The sound is crushingly heavy, the production is precise, and the songs themselves appear to have been designed perfectly to spec in order to maximize the talents of those involved. Bell mixes his mid-range bellow with clean vocals to paint the details of the dystopian landscape created by Cazares, Campos, and Heller, as Fulber drops the final touches into place.
Though not a concept album per se, the concept of man and machine is at the heart, whether in opposition or hybridization. “Autonomous Combat System” sets the tone of machine (“I am a weapon of human design”) turning against man (“There is only one path to peace – extinction”), and the battle is on. Man’s resistance to assimilation (“Anodixed”, “Dielectric”, “Soul Hacker”) proves futile with the onset of “ProtoMech” and the “Genexus” of a man/machine hybrid. The will of man cannot be contained, as they soon “Regenerate” portions of their humanity leading into the “Battle for Utopia” which culminates in their ultimate “Expiration Date”. Those last two tracks are almost perfectly epic, the dénouement and final conclusion that leaves us back at square one of mortal man.
Wow. That whole experience was something. Genexus immerses you in the sound and story, like you’re right in the middle of some sort of Blade Runner/The Matrix/Terminator future, experiencing all the tragedy and triumph of man’s fight to maintain their humanity in a world overrun by machines. The more I listen, the more I want to listen more. Truly a staggering musical achievement.
You know how some people always complain when a band makes a follow-up to a great album that doesn’t live up to said album? The most common response is, “What did you expect – [album name] Part 2?” And you know how some sequels are just so formulaic that they feel like a waste of time, retelling the original story and not bringing anything new to the table?
Well, ladies and gentlemen, meet Demanufacture 2: Genexus. This thing reeks of Demanufacture in almost every way. The production is a bit slicker, the tracks may not be as memorable, but goddamn. The similarities are maddening.
I’m not just talking about the industrial metal sound and dystopian themes – those are a Fear Factory trademark by now. No, it’s the overall feel of the album and the songs that comprise it. Opener “Autonomous Combat System” sets the tone just like “Demanufacture” did, and it sounds like they’re ripping themselves off, yet without sounding redundant. “Anodized” follows suit as it harkens back to “Self-Bias Resistor”; “Dielectric” is practically “Replica” in every sense of the word; “Protomech” practically steals a riff or two from “New Breed”. But perhaps nowhere is this idea more evident than in the two tracks that end the album. “Battle For Utopia” is structured similarly to and gives off the same musical vibes as “Pisschrist”; “Expiration Date” plays the part of “A Therapy For Pain”, a sprawling soundscape of quiet and loud.
At least “Soul Hacker” throws in a bit of djent to signal that yes indeed, the band is moving forward. Other than that, I can’t shake this feeling that Burton and Dino painstakingly analyzed Demanufacture and consciously set out to recreate the magic, perhaps not so coincidentally as they prepare to celebrate that album by performing it in its entirety on their upcoming tour. The more I listen to Genexus, the more difficult it becomes to not think of Demanufacture, and the more difficult it becomes to form a genuine opinion of it.
As usual, the truth must lie somewhere between the two extremes. In terms of sound and spirit, if Mechanize was the proper follow-up to Demanufacture, this is the proper follow up to Mechanize, bridging the gap ever closer to Obsolete without going for that full commercial sheen. But, in spite of how great it sounds, there is this pesky cloud of uncertainty hanging over Genexus: it’s either a good album, or an album that’s good at evoking memories of its legendary predecessor. If you can shake that cloud, this album just might blow you away; taken on its own, it’s just that impressive.