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After enjoying the hell out of their more death metal seeded debut, Soul Of A New Machine and their nearly flawless followup Demanufacture, this was an album I had not invested much time in it. I had heard a few of the songs individually but after learning that this was a concept album, I thought that this was one best bought and heard from start to finish.
Musically it seems to me that it was a further departure from their original sound, more-so than Demanufacture which could possibly be attributed to a slight streamlining for greater sales. Not that this is a terrible thing.
Shock and Edgecrusher have an obvious nu-metal type of groove, fewer riffs and changes and less of the rawness and attitude they began with but nevertheless are good choices to start with. Things improve a bit with Smasher/Devourer and Securitron with Raymond Herrera having a way of following the rhythm with the kick drum and clever placement of the snare. The chorus from the latter bearing resemblance to choruses that appear in Hi-Tech Hate and Resurrection which I assume is to be self-referential to keep with the concept.
Descent is a well written semi-ballad, using a melodic yet heavily distorted guitar (not a hint of clean or acoustic anywhere) in a song that has a downer feel to it, yet is heavy and metallic.
Freedom of Fire loses my interest as the buildup seems too overstated and drawn-out. The vocal effects attempting to emulate someone drenched in liquid (the story being someone dousing himself in petrol and self-immolating in protest) breaks the suspension of disbelief and a bit of a weak link in the album.
Obsolete starts out in a similar fashion with a "little-too-extended" intro and odd reverb effects until the chorus, which gives a decent up-beat thrashy chorus.
Ressurection has the best vocal work of the album and the riff is interesting. It starts as a typical catchy riff with the listener suspecting they could telegraph the next chord until it drops down to something a little different on the low string. The appeal does not last very long though, the previously mentioned recurring chorus is revisited and seems to wander along until the end.
Timelessness is the closer featuring Gary Numan pretending to be some kind of announcer. The song consists only of strings and Burton's dramatic vocals ending the story. In the right context for one following the story it could be somewhat of a Tear Jerker, but to me it's quite boring and nothing I could stand listening to for 3 minutes plus. It usually gets skipped.
The production of this album is very crisp and has a polished sheen which is to be expected from an album at this point of the bands career and expecting to sell as well as it did. The guitar tone is one of the best Fear Factory have had and is the last of Dino using his modified Marshall before he would later go digital. However the riffs are more basic than Dino has ever performed. Although it's rare for Fear Factory to do solos, some good leads that Dino is more than capable of would have really perked up my interest in this album.
The drums are of course very punchy and clear. Some of the main beats are quite clever but there are not very many fills or changes that keep up the appearances of Raymond's previous work. In fact by direct comparison, he's downright underplaying.
The bass has never been a standout part in Fear Factory and it is felt more than it is heard as it serves mainly to support the guitars. Occasionally it plays outside of the guitar in the form of riff tails as heard towards the end of Descent and Hi-Tech Hate.
The main vocal style is similar to the rasp heard on Demanufacture but is delivered in more of a spoken style than yells. The clean vocals are used more often and attempts at soaring clean vocal work can be heard on Resurrection whereas Descent and Timelessness have the softest in their discography.
There is not much actual industrial to be heard from the industrial movement aside from the few sound effect laden intros which are a constant for Fear Factory. Alot of the sound effects during the songs are closer to hip-hop and nu-metal than industrial, I was annoyed to hear DJ scratching in Edgecrusher.
In total, it's a decent album, if not a slight letdown. The tracks are at least listenable and some of the moments are fun to bang your head to.