This is a great album. Personally, I think it’s their best since Archetype. Its hits all the right Fear Factory notes with a little bit of formula tweaking here and there. No major changes mind you, this is still the FF you expect through and through, but there are some subtle things that mix it up a bit (just a tiny bit!)
Let’s start with a larger view of the songs and album as a whole. There is not a bad song in the bunch, which is nice. It does feel at times that they are consciously trying too hard to bring about Obsolete Ver. 2 though. Even the flow of the album/track order feels like Obsolete. Some of the choruses have interesting changes that catch you off guard for FF. They go up when they would normally have gone down, or they change the riff here instead of there. It’s nice to hear that in FF, even if it is few and far between.
The songwriting is definitely later era FF, echoing the last two albums. They’ve had a certain vibe since Dino came back which has been solid but never really quite hit the earlier heights of that magnificent run of Demanufacture through Archetype. The songs still don’t have the great cohesiveness or epic feel of that era, and it’s very obvious this is something former members Christian and Raymond helped a lot with since song structure and flow has been a problem with FF since they left. They are getting some of that back on Genexus but it’s not quite there yet.
Burton sounds fantastic on this album. It’s odd, but he sounds about 10 years younger. There is a vocal coach listed in the album credits, so maybe he FINALLY learned how to sing properly after shredding his voice for 20 years. Seriously, I’ve seen them live a couple times and he can’t make it past 3 songs before he craps out. You can tell he’s just doing it wrong and frankly, I am surprised he hasn’t seriously injured his voice yet. But I digress. He sounds great on this album. He is obviously pitch corrected to all hell, but that works with FF’s sound and the way Burton has always had his voice just swamped in effects anyway.
Onward to Dino. As I mentioned before, he can’t quite get his songs to gel like he could with all the original members. There are still some totally awesome riffs and grooves, but they feel like they are put together wrong sometimes. I will say that this album is the best of the latter era FF for that though, Anodized and Church of Execution being prime examples. Every album they put out, he gets a little more coherent.
Drums and bass – is there really anything to say about them on a FF album? I can hear the bass, which is all you can really ask for. Both instruments really just hit the same accents as the guitars in FF. This has never and will never change. I mean, they had freakin’ Gene Hoglan in their band and didn’t let him do anything! What a waste of a musician and an opportunity to expand. I also never understood why they got flak for using a drum machine on their last album. If there is any band that SHOULD be using a drum machine, its FF. Plus, all of their drums are triggered and quantized anyway, so it just sounds like a drum machine even if a live drummer is playing it. Ugh, metal fans. What are you gonna do?
Rhys Fulber does a great job on the production and keyboards. I love that the keys play a more prominent role on this album. It helps make up for the shortcomings in the song structures and is one of the subtle changes that really make this album work. His key parts are more varied than in the past and fill out the songs wonderfully. On the production side, everything is clear without being dead or too sterile. He manages to make it just sterile enough to be FF. That is a hard thing to balance and I applaud him for pulling it off so well.
All in all, this is a great album from Fear Factory. If the last few, from Transgression on, have disappointed you, I suggest you give this one a spin. I mean, if you weren’t a fan, this won’t make you one. It is Fear Factory, so it’s about man vs machine like it always is. It feels like it hits all the FF notes like you expect it too. However, it’s also a wonderful call back to their heyday and even if it doesn’t quite resonate with the same intensity, it definitely carries the FF flag proudly and leaves no doubt as to their ability to continue crafting cool music.