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Fear Factory released two albums previous to this that I thought were good but not great. Then this monster came along and totally realigned both my opinion and my spinal column while it was at it. This is, for me, the heaviest, best-structured, and most cohesive album FF released before they degenerated into nu-metal suckage and is my personal favorite of the lot.
The concept of the album is fascinating and intelligently-delivered, spinning a yarn of one man's (cyborg's?) search for freedom and independence in a post-apocalyptic scenario where individuality is devalued to the point of nonexistence (hmm...sounds kinda like the direction the USA is heading in politically these days...), and the intense struggle within and without he goes through to find it. During this story he questions everything including the existence of god and his own self-worth, and it is actually a pretty cool little story once you latch onto it. I find it really adds to the album's feel.
OK, but is the music any good? Hells yes, it is! Raymond Herrera, although I HATE his drum sound (triggers to the max), is one of the most precise drummers I've ever heard, anchoring every song with grace as well as perfect time and killer double kick chops. Witness the rapid-fire flurries of double kick he tosses into the bridge part of "Smasher/Devourer" right after the second chorus...oh, man, is he TIGHT. Sounds like three-round bursts from an Uzi.
Dino is, of course, the MAN in the riff department--his writing style really defined FF's sound in the beginning, with his crisp yet deep downtuned 7-string (down to A, but this ain't no Korn wussjob). He gets in a nice clean chorused part in the chorus of "Securitron (Police State 2000)" that really suits the shifting of gears to a more melodic feel on those parts, as opposed to the syncopated, Pantera-like verses and the absolutely devastating mosh part that immediately follows the first chorus with a machinegun-like riff that chugs along with gut-wrenching intensity. As if you can't tell, this is one of my favorite songs on this album.
Dino also really owns on "Edgecrusher" with its simple, ultra-heavy riffing that is perfect for the song, and guest DJ Zodok's scratching on that tune adds to the chaotic-ness of it. The title track will compress your head down between your shoulders with its odd-meter verses, frenzied segue riffs, and its chorus is great to scream along to at the top of your lungs ("MAN! IS! OBSOLETE!!! ERASED! EXTINCT!"). Bassist at the time, Christian Olde Wolbers, doesn't let himself fade away, either; he gets plenty of exposure in the excellent and appropriately chilly-sounding mix with a variety of tones--from deep fuzz to clear and resonant, to even a bit of upright plunking and strumming on "Edgecrusher".
My other two real fave tunes here are the last two, "Resurrection" and "Timelessness". The first one is unabashedly melodic and catchy and features some nice and unobtrusive string parts on the chorus that really make the song soar and seem hopeful as the hero talks about finding the courage to go on in the face of incredible odds. And the last track...well, it takes a huuuge set of cojones to end a staggeringly heavy album like this with a song that is nothing but soothing strings and Burton singing his heart out, and it achieves the feel of the title perfectly. Before FF disappointed us all with their "Descent" into suckage, this was their apex--get it, already!