In 1995, I discovered Fear Factory. As one of the songs featured in the Mortal Kombat film, Zero Signal from their Demanufacture album sucked me in. I owned the soundtrack to the film, and the one song that I kept coming back to was Zero Signal. At the time, this was by far the heaviest thing I had ever listened to. A strange amalgamation of clean vocals, extremely guttural growls, brutally heavy guitars and drumming, and an eerie ’80’s synth track that sounded straight out of The Terminator, I was hooked. Twenty years later, Fear Factory have released their ninth studio album, Genexus, and their formula hasn’t changed a bit. For good or ill, you know Fear Factory when you hear them.
I am going to say this right out of the gate. This is not the best album these guys have released. For Fear Factory, this is middle of the road stuff. Middle of the road, though, is still better than most other bands can even hope to release. They have found their sound and their niche as a futuristic metal band and they do not deviate from the same formula they used on their breakout album Demanufacture and every album since.
The guttural growling of vocalist Burton C. Bell channels an anger towards either humanity or machines on every track. He then infuses clean vocals amidst the striking sonic landscape laid down by guitarist Dino Cazares. As a band reaching the 25th anniversary of their breakout album Demanufacture, this is still as striking a sound as ever.
Fear Factory have had a long and storied career in the metal world, and within the last few years had been written off as has been band. While Demanufacture and Obsolete are considered classic metal albums, Digimortal was trying too hard to be a radio album. The band was signed to RoadRunner Records at the time, and RoadRunner was certainly forcing bands to try to come up with radio material (see Machine Head‘s The Burning Red and especially Supercharger). This most certainly wasn’t Fear Factory‘s strength. They were and are a metal band, with no need to have singles on modern rock radio.
In 2004, they returned with Archetype, but now they were missing founding member Dino Cazares. This album is divisive among fans, but I adore it. Transgression and Mechanize (Mechanize featured the return of Dino) followed and these are the two weakest links in Fear Factory‘s catalog. In 2012, though, they released The Industrialist, which is a damned good album and still gets play from me. And now we have Genexus.
While Genexus is more of the same from Fear Factory, more of the same isn’t always a bad thing. You know what you are getting and if you like it, well, it’s the bee’s knees. Just look at Iron Maiden. They have been doing the same thing since the early ’80’s and people are eating up every release. Look what happened to Metallica from the black album through St. Anger. Changing your sound is usually a death knell for a band. Metallica came back strong with Death Magnetic, but they are the rarity. Most bands cannot return from that grave.
Genexus is a solid release from Burton C. Bell and Dino Cazares. While it is not their best album, it most certainly isn’t their worst. I have been spinning this for a couple of weeks now (I did not receive a review copy and had to purchase my own), and it is definitely worth a listen or twelve. It doesn’t break the mold that Fear Factory have created, but, goddammit, I wouldn’t have it any other way.