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I’m going to go right ahead and say it: this is perhaps the most intelligent thing that Fear Factory ever released. I make no secret of my detestation for ‘Demanufacture’ or my general shrugging in the direction of most of the debut, but ‘Fear is the Mindkiller’ at least helped to push the envelope a bit, even if it is some kind of masochistic flogging at the hands of a drum machine, a synth, and a death metal bassist. It’s not particularly death metal, it’s certainly not techno, and it only has its teeth latched onto industrial’s backside, but it has an undeniable surge of motion in its concrete grooves and a fair dash of menace in its dubby depths.
However, the odd thing about ‘Fear...’ is that it isn’t really a Fear Factory release, since they are not responsible for the new songs, only for the originals. On that head, Rhys Fulber and the rest of the remixers deserve a big hand, even more so because their contributions have been downplayed over the years. Always users of electronics in their music, Fear Factory never managed to attach the kind of atmosphere to a song that the soundscapes in ‘Self Immolation (Liquid Sky mix)’ achieve, nor would the song sound nearly as good without them. The pounding, one-dimensional death metal - gravelly bass aside - rarely changes track or mood, whereas the new elements give the song a subtlety and uncertainty that is far more interesting than mere grooves.
Picking a favourite song here is a little difficult, since the general rhythm and tone of the tracks are fairly uniform, plus Burton C. Bell’s vocals are not exactly a focal point due to the trimming of material for the remixes. His harsh delivery is still better than he would ever achieve afterwards, while his cleans do lend ‘Scapegoat’ another dimension, but the inevitable repetition of an industrial-flavoured release render some parts unsavoury - witness the two straight minutes of “suffer/ bastard” in ‘Martyr’ for your example. In the end, it’s the songs with a little more detail, like the aforementioned mix of ‘Self Immolation’, that slightly edge the rest, though they are best experienced as a whole, (mildly) atmospheric trip.
To say this recording confused a lot of people on its release is an understatement. After battering a jaded death metal scene with their debut album, Fear Factory then turned the scene on its head with heavy–duty techno remixes. The songs were not so severely deconstructed the originals were unrecognisable, but they definitely added a freshness to the sound, but sent death metal purists into a rabid anti–techno frenzy. The guitar crunch and bass grunt were retained, which is part of the reason this is so appealing. Besides Godflesh and Ministry, there was very little electronic music out there with any kind of guitar sound whatsoever when this was released.
Martyr is probably the standout track here, with its vitriol retained, along with a new driving electronic beat. This sort of thing would have cleared the dance floor in most nightclubs instantly.
Fear Factory have since lightened their sound and incorporated more and more electronic elements. This was an indicator of what might have been had they remained their harder, deathly edge.
The only disappointment was the lack of a remix of Leechmaster.