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Not that this is techno… but it is Fear Factory. The typewriter drums of this band have always perplexed me. Too perfect, seemingly, but after seeing these dudes live with drummer Raymond Herrera I can rest assured that it’s real. That was 2001, on a tour for the rather sub-par Digimortal, but despite the weak album, the live performance was aggressive and flawlessly executed.
“Shock” is exactly fucking that, a perfectly named and heavy as fuck opener to a brutal cyberthrash journey into the ionosphere. Here’s the thing with Obsolete, the only real downfall, which indeed becomes apparent within this opening track, is repetition. Coming off the success of Demanufacture, Obsolete finds Fear Factory at a creative plateau; this album may well be the peak of this band’s potential, it’s angry yet polished, but at any rate, probably the darkest and most hateful of what this band would go on to do. Let me reiterate that Herrera is an absolutely crushing drummer. He and Dino seem to be locked into a formulaic system of composition for Obsolete, which lends to this conceptual album its needed feeling of continuity. The synchopated 32nd note machine gun riff of “Securitron” is jaw-dropping in its pin-point accuracy. The soaring clean vocals of Burton C Bell spellbind the listener with Om-like vibration. Say what you will about the ‘uplifting’ melody of the single “Descent,” but the utterly nihilistic lyrics make for an aesthetic dichotomy. This song fucking rules. Fuck it, I don’t care how poppy it sounds, there’s no way I can keep from screaming “NOOOO-THING” when I hear it.
“Freedom or Fire” is where things start to get nice and heavy. Can you say drum 'n' bass? Despite the dancy groove, this shit is fucking heavy, and as much as I hate this fucking word, the ‘breakdown’ that begins at 2:55 is absolutely ball crushing. The schizophrenic and thrashing chaos of the title track will fuck you up. “Obsolete” flows flawlessly into the operatic grandeur of “Resurrection,” a sci-fi disasterpiece that resolves itself in that weirdly uplifting feeling that is recurrent throughout this album.
“Reach for the sky, touch the sky. Reach for a hope for mankind.”
Such is the refrain of “Resurrection,” which is at once an atheistic proclamation as well as a triumphant destroyer of conditioned boundaries. This is a great album. It’s intellectual and catchy. It’s well orchestrated and abrasively heavy. The closing piece, “Timelessness” is a brilliant rendering of the talented Burton Bell. An ambient end to a violent album, but conveys a feeling of closure nonetheless.
Obsolete also comes in a quite worth-it extended version with five additional tracks. A guilty pleasure, yeah, so what, but Fear Factory’s cover of Gary Numan’s “Cars” is a total feel good rock and roll song, which is great if you feel good, and its waaay better that the original. Wiseblood tribute“0-0” is just plain evil, and very tastefully done, truly scary in its stark and sinister delivery. The other three tracks are FF originals, with “Concreto” being a particularly devastating beast.