Fear Factory’s Latest LP Is A Mostly Successful New Offering

Courtesy: Nuclear Blast Records

Fear Factory has been in the news quite a bit this year.  Early last month, it was announced that founding member and guitarist Dino Cazares had joined Soulfly for its latest tour in place of Marc Rizzo.  That announcement was followed up with the release of the new companion piece to the band’s latest album, Aggression Continuum.  The companion piece in question is the isolated instrumental tracks from that album. Why the band would go that route is a headscratcher when audiences can hear the instrumentals just as clearly in the original album.  Speaking of the album, the 10-song record was released June 18 through Nuclear Blast Records.  The 48-minute collection is an interesting addition to the band’s extensive catalog.  That is due in large part to the album’s featured lyrical content, which will be discussed shortly.  The musical arrangements that feature alongside the album’s lyrical content make for more interest and will be discussed a little later.  The production that went into this record rounds out its most important elements.  When it is considered along with the album’s content, the collective items make the album maybe not the band’s best work, but still worth hearing at least once.

Fear Factory’s most recent album, Aggression Continuum, is a mostly successful offering from the band.  Not knowing whether the band will continue now that former front man Burton C. Bell (whose vocals are featured in the record) and founding member Dino Cazares was recently announced as part of Soulfly’s current lineup, it is a positive potential final offering from the band.  The album’s success comes in this record, primarily through its lyrical themes.  The lyrical content in this case is actually quite different from that featured in the band’s existing catalog.  While so much of the band’s catalog focuses largely on the issue of technology taking over the planet, this album seems less focused on that matter.  Right from the album’s opener, ‘Recode,’ the album seems more focused on general defiance and belief in self than on technology’s role in mankind’s fate.  Bell – again he recently parted ways with the band – goes so far as to sing in the song’s chorus, “Why deny life you dream about/Why deny your dream?”  Considering comments that Bell shared in recent interviews about his time with Fear Factory, audiences are left to wonder if these statements are somewhat autobiographical.  The mention of a generation being “left behind” and the encouragement to “open your eyes” serves even more, to bring about that sense of defiance.  It is a statement about taking control of one’s life.  That overarching theme continues through the album’s first few tracks just as clearly, too. 

On a separate note, ‘Manufactured Hope’ takes the band in another direction, though one that is still familiar within the hard rock and metal community.  In this case, Bell seems to take on the issue of religious hypocrisy.  This is inferred he Bell directly sings in the song’s chorus, “I am hypocrisy of faith/I will not believe/My mind will never be enslaved/I will not believe.”  His call of “ignore the facts in front of you/Deny the logic and the truth/Conform to mediocrity/You know it’s manufactured hope” in the song’s second verse serves just as much to infer the noted message.  He goes on to go so far as to note, “Faith is a weapon and a tool/Creating manufactured hope” makes the noted message seem even more the case.  Again, this is slightly new territory for Fear Factory, but not for the hard rock and metal communities.  That Bell and company would again, show that willingness to try something new at least for itself as a group, is welcome even in its larger familiarity.

‘End of Line’ meanwhile takes the band back to more familiar ground while also taking it in a slightly different direction again.  In this case, the song comes across lyrically as a sociopolitical statement about the state of the world today.  This is inferred right from the song’s lead verse and chorus as Bell sings, “Avoid the bloody streets/We’re living in domestic war/Gunmen in uniform/Murdering innocents at your door/This can’t be real/Assault on my senses/Depriving me of sanity/Fractured/Damned images/Praying for the final reckoning/End of life/End of time/End of line.”  The seeming message continues in the song’s second verse in which Bell sings, “Beaten to crush my soul/To silence me in shackled chains/Your lies like gasoline/Living every day in tragedy.”  All of this comes across as a commentary of sorts on police brutality.  That is just this critic’s interpretation.  It is inferred through the mention of armed gunmen at the door.  It conjures thoughts of what law enforcement officers did to Brianna Taylor.  The images being seen are in fact still damning.  It and so much more leaves many praying for the final reckoning.  The matter of being “beaten to crush my soul/To silence me in shackled chains” points even more toward the matter of police brutality, especially considering this year’s headlines.  Again, this is all this critic’s interpretation.  If in fact that is the case, then it is another example of how Fear Factory on this album, really strayed from its own norm and opted instead for something more widely accessible, lyrically speaking.  When it is considered along with the other lyrical themes noted here and the rest of the album’s lyrical themes, the whole makes clear why the album’s lyrical themes are so important to its presentation.  They are just a part of what makes the album interesting.  The musical arrangements that accompany the record’s lyrical themes are more familiar from the band and add to the record’s success.

While the lyrical content featured throughout Fear Factory’s new album finds the band seemingly move into new territory, the record’s musical arrangements keep the band in familiar territory.  From beginning to end, audiences will find that the arrangements pull from various points in the band’s catalog.  Right from the record’s outset, the band take audiences back to the sounds crafted for its 1998 album, Obsolete.  As the album progresses, the arrangements are more akin to works from The Industrialist, Genexus, and Archetype.  Simply put, the arrangements that are featured throughout the album are everything that audiences have come to expect from Fear Factory from one song to the next.  To that end, they will appeal easily to the band’s established audience base, and to more casual fans of the industrial metal realm.  Keeping that appeal in mind along with the interest that the album’s lyrical themes are sure to generate, the collective content goes a long way toward making the album successful.  Even with that in mind, there is still one more item to examine, that last being the record’s production.

The production that went into Aggression Continuum is important to examine because of how much is going on in each song.  The guitars and bass, each of which were recorded by Cazares, are so heavy and rich.  Bell’s vocals are just as powerful here as ever, too, as are the drums, which were handled by current drummer Mike Heller.  Considering the energy in each composition and the richness of each line, it would have been so easy for the songs to get bogged down in themselves, but thankfully that did not happen.  Rather, each line complimented the others.  The result is a record whose presentation succeeds just as much for its aesthetic value as for its content.  To that end, all things considered here make the album overall that much more certain of a success.

Fear Factory’s latest album, Aggression Continuum is a record that is certain to appeal mostly to the band’s established audiences, and just as much to casual industrial metal fans.  That is proven in part through the record’s lyrical themes.  The themes in question find the band seeming to go in a different direction at least for itself, than that for which it has been known.  By contrast, the musical arrangements featured throughout the record are more familiar from one to the next.  That familiarity, paired with the new direction taken in the song’s lyrical content, makes for plenty of interest here.  When the record’s production is taken into consideration, it puts the finishing touch to the presentation, ensuring the noted engagement and entertainment for the mentioned audiences even more.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the album’s presentation.  All things considered, they make the album a work that regardless of the band’s fate from here, is mostly a success.

Aggression Continuum is available now. More information on Fear Factory’s new record is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:

Websitehttps://www.fearfactory.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/fearfactory

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/fearfactory

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Numan’s New Album Is A Musical Masterpiece

Courtesy:  Machine Music USA, Inc.

Courtesy: Machine Music USA, Inc.

Veteran musician Gary Numan has shaken up this critic’s list of the year’s best rock and hard rock albums with the release of his latest album, Splinter (Songs From a Broken Mind).  Numan’s new record, his twentieth full length studio release, takes listeners once again into the ever darkening world that he has crafted throughout his more recent releases.  Numan grabs audiences right from the album’s emotionally desolate opener ‘I Am Dust’ straight through to ‘My Last Day’, which closes out the album’s dozen tracks and never lets go.  It may not be the most uplifting album out there.  But the sonic landscapes crafted throughout this near hour-long record make it worth more than just a couple listens.  As a matter of fact, that landscape makes this album a darkhorse candidate to be one of the year’s best new rock or even hard rock albums.

Numan made the completely right choice opening his new album with ‘I Am Dust.’  There is so much that can be said of this song.  The first thing that listeners will take away from this song is the different musical and vocal influences obvious throughout the song.  Numan’s own vocal style in the verses conjures thoughts of Tool/A Perfect Circle/Puscifer front man Maynard James Keenan.  However, when he reaches the choruses, there is almost a mix of Peter Steele (Type O Negative) and Burton C. Bell (Fear Factory) in his voice as he sings, “We are yours/We’re waiting for you/We are yours/We’re waiting for you.”  The Fear Factory and Type O Negative influences can also be heard in the choruses in the song’s musical side.  Numan’s nihilistic lyrics in this song echo that of Trent Reznor circa The Downward Spiral.  He sings, “We all pray for the end/For the God to take us/We were falling down/One by one/We were weak/And the fear/Was all around us/The machines screamed from moon to sun.”  The musical and lyrical combination along with the obvious influences from across the rock world collectively make this song the perfect introduction to Numan for those that might be new to his music and an equally impressive re-introduction for those that are more familiar with his music.

For all of the dark, brooding songs that Gary Numan includes in his new album, he also tackles relationship issues in his own way.  He tackles the subject in the very Nine Inch Nails-esque ‘The Calling.’  Were a person to hear this song on the radio without knowing it was Gary Numan, one might actually think it was Nine Inch Nails because of how close it sounds to Trent Reznor’s work circa The Fragile.  The string arrangements and electronics set against Numan’s brooding lyrics make this song one of this album’s key moments.  Lyrically, there is little to this song.  But even in its few lyrics, Numan captures the emotion of someone that realizes that he or she has been nothing but a pawn in someone else’s game.  He writes in the song’s final verse, “You don’t love me/You don’t know me/Is this some kind of game for you/Is that why you’ve called me?” This is a situation to which plenty of audiences can relate.  Not everyone has gone through the situation presented in this song.

Splinter (Songs From a Broken Mind) is front loaded with more than its share of impressive new material from Gary Numan.  There is not one bad moment throughout the record’s near hour-long run time.  One of the highest of the records high points has already been noted here.  It isn’t the only of the album’s high points, either.  ‘We’re The Unforgiven’ is another of this album’s highest of points.  This song has a very obvious Nine Inch Nails influence both musically speaking and lyrically.  What’s so interesting about that is the contrast of the song’s musical and lyrical sides.  The song’s musical side is powerful to say the least.  That is thanks in large part to the manner in which each verse crescendos before dropping back.  That dynamic contrast alone would make this song work even without lyrics.  But set next to the song’s lyrical side, both the music and lyrics come together to make the song this album’s best song.  He writes about figures that were once great but are now pale shades of themselves.  He writes, “Once there was life/And we were strong/Full of pride/Once we bread fear/And we would take the flesh denied/Once we were gods/And all things knelt before our word/or died.”  Obviously, he is writing metaphorically here.  But the message is still the same. He goes on, writing in the song’s chorus, “Now we’re just a ruin/We were our undoing/We’re the unforgiven.”  This is a powerful statement.  And again, set alongside the song’s musical side, it becomes even more powerful.  Together, they make this song just one more of so many standout moments shared by Gary Numan throughout his new record.  Fans overseas in the Middle East and Europe will get to experience these songs and many more live beginning February 10th in Tel Aviv, Israel.  From there, Numan will make his way into Belgium and across Europe for the next leg of his tour in support of his new album.  Fans can get Gary Numan’s latest tour dates, news, and more online at http://www.facebook.com/GaryNumanOfficial and http://www.garynuman.com.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Fear Factory adds one more to the list of 2012’s best metal albums

Static-X, Rammstein, and Spineshank are all some of the bigger names in today’s world of industrial metal.  But if not for Fear Factory, none of those bands–or any other for that matter–likely would have become as famous as they are.  Fear Factory broke industrial metal through as an acceptable standard with the release of its 1992 debut album, “Soul of a New Machine.”  The band built a worldwide fan base from there on, with albums centered on stories of man versus machine.  Now two decades later, Fear Factory continues to pave the way as a leader in both the industrial metal community and the metal community as a whole despite both changes in labels and band members.  Fans will hear that loud and clear on June 5th with the release of the band’s eighth album, “The Industrialist.”

“The Industrialist” is one of Fear Factory’s best album’s to date.  Just as the band’s previous release, “Mechanize” has been compared to “Soul of a New Machine”, “The Industrialist” is easily compared to another of the band’s mega hit albums, “Demanufacture.”  The two albums are very similar both musically and lyrically.  While it doesn’t go the exact same route of man vs. machine, “The Industrialist” does take the route of man using machine to destroy himself and wipe himself off the face of the Earth.  Fans who pick up the special expanded edition of the album will get the full story written by frontman Burton C. Bell in a companion booklet.  The band’s website, http://www.feafactory.com also offers a trailer that explains the premise behind the album’s story.  It’s all the more motivation to pick up the expanded edition and get the entire story behind the album.

Musically, the album is just as crushing not only as “Demanufacture”, but as anything that Fear Factory has written.  The album’s opener sets the tone for what’s to come with its title track.  It’s clearly old school Fear Factory.  From the guitars to the bullet sharp work of new drummer Mike Heller, this track alone will bring out fond feelings of nostalgia among all Fear Factory fans.  As precise as his drumming is here–and throughout the album–one wouldn’t even know that Raymond Herrera wasn’t the man behind the kit.  Another of those moments comes in ‘Depraved Mind Murder.’  Heller’s work on the drums is just as tight on this song.  Of course, he isn’t the only one who impresses.  Vocalist Burton C. Bell and guitarist Dino Cazares have seemingly mended their fences.  And the pair are a force to be reckoned with.  Bells vocals are as strong as ever on ‘Recharger’ and ‘Depraved Mind Murder.’ 

“The Industrialist” is a top notch album from Fear Factory.  The entire band works like…well…a well oiled machine (yes that’s a bad pun).  However, as great as the band works together, the people behind the glass played a hand in the album’s creation, too.  Back on board again is long time producer Rhys Fulber (Frontline Assembly).  Fulber has had his hand on nearly every one of Fear Factory’s records.  That familiarity with the band obviously played a major role in how impressive “The Industrialist” turned out.  Greg Reely (Paradise Lost, Machine Head) mixed the album.  The combination of two such accomplished individuals made for quite the expectations from this album.  And the album more than lived up to said expectations.  Add in the album artwork of Anthony Clarkson (Devin Townsend), and long time fans of Fear Factory will have on June 5th, what is some of Fear factory’s best work to date.

The band is currently on tour in support of its upcoming tour, alongside Shadows Fall on the “Noise in The Machine” tour.  It will be in Winston-Salem tonight at Ziggy’s.  Fans can keep up with the band’s full tour itinerary and more on the band’s website, http://www.fearfactory.com, its Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/fearfactory, and on its Twitter page, http://twitter.com/fear_factory.