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The Future of Fear Factory - 100%

Stained Glass Assassin, March 22nd, 2019
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, Nuclear Blast (Limited edition, Digipak)

After Fear Factory made their second comeback with a very successful “Mechanize”, they followed the album with “The Industrialist”. Now, for the most part, “The Industrialist” scored well enough with fans and critics alike given that it sounded like “Mechanize” 2.0, which was not a bad thing mind you. With two albums under their belt since reforming, fans were excited to see that the band was preparing new material for what would be their 9th album (not including "Concrete") titled “Genexus” which released in August 2015.

When “Mechanize” was released, we saw the band revisit the sounds and formula of Fear Factory’s past. You could hear bits and pieces of just about every major release through the album, which was a nice way to kick off their comeback. Subsequently, “The Industrialist” followed suit, only rather the album seemed to stick to a tried and true formula that was more safe than anything else. That being said, with two albums playing true to the band’s roots, the band would decide that it was time to take the next step and put out an album that would not only retain the classic Fear Factory formula, but also reach new heights. “Genexus” is exactly what the band had in mind.

If Fear Factory was going to add a new layer to their sound, they were going to have to make some changes to their current formula and the state of their lineup. The first order of business was to go out and get a new drummer, which they did by bringing on Mike Heller from the brutal death metal outfit, Malignancy. Previously, “The Industrialist” saw a two-man act of Dino and Burton handling all the instruments, which required the drums to be programmed and while they were executed well enough, the human aspect was sorely missing. The other change that is not as widely recognized was the fact that, for the first time in his singing career, Burton decided to seek out help from a vocal coach to help him with a few issues he felt he was experiencing. As such, he began incorporating warm up exercises before live shows and recordings, which would ultimate allow him to overcome those concerning issues. It showed a new level of devotion towards creating the best music possible and it would pay off in dividends. With a new drummer and a new sense of dedication to their music, Fear Factory was preparing to put everything they had into “Genexus”, but intent is one thing, execution is another.

As for the execution of the music, I will say, confidently that “Genexus” is easily their most complete and sincere album since “Demanufacture”. I’m not saying that it is better than “Obsolete” or “Archetype” (which could easily be debated, but not now). What I’m saying is, when the band changed from a quasi-industrial death metal act into the cyber metal powerhouse we heard on “Demanufacture” it required a great deal of change, commitment and execution. That is exactly what has happened from the transition of “Mechanize” (and “The Industrialist”) into “Genexus”. You can hear how much time, effort and dedication they put into this album with each passing song. The emotion in the vocals, the energy put forth in each of the instruments, even the crew behind the scenes in the programming and electronics department put in a great deal of time and focus to create the fresh and genuine sound on “Genexus”. What we have here is not so much an album staying true to its roots, but an album that took everything in its 25-year history and combined all those elements into a showing of wisdom and mastery. It’s one thing to simply utilize elements from previous albums, but it’s another to take those elements and make them into something both familiar and unique.

Since beginning his consultations with the vocal coaches, Burton’s vocals have been elevated to new heights. Now, not everyone can sound the same at age 45 as they did when they were 20 (Although Rob Halford sounds pretty good for nearly 70), but Bell’s voice on “Genexus” reminds me more of his early “Demanufacture” and “Obsolete” days more than any other album. His harsh vocals are so much more prominent and sharp, more so than either of the two previous releases. He delivers more midrange vocals, which serve as a nice build up to his majestic cleans. The cleans on “Genexus” are some of the best he’s ever sung. They are high, clear and compelling on many of the songs that leave you simply in awe. The ending of “Regenerate” nearly brought tears to my eyes, as his soaring vocals left me completely floored. It’s impressive to actually hear the payoff of all the dedication Bell put into enhancing his voice after all these years.

With Dino on guitars, we know we’re in for some crunchy, groovy, chugging riffs. However, with the sense of a fresh sound, even Dino understood that just simply going back to the well would not be good enough. Yes, we still have those crushing riffs, but their sound on “Genexus” sounds almost as if Dino’s writing had been rejuvenated, as we haven’t heard such mechanical, cybernetic and pulsating riffs since “Demanufacture”. The power and energy on the guitars are far more intense than “Mechanize” and they actually add more rhythm than normal. Dino also mans the bass once again, which is nothing new, but with his renewed sense of guitar work, he would have to ensure that the bass did not lull into the background either. Now, I’ll say that the bass is not as front and center as it was on “Archetype” or “Transgression” for that matter, but the atmosphere on “Genexus” really doesn’t require an in your face bass. That’s not to say you don’t notice it, as many times the bass can be heard, bouncing along with the guitars creating a nice harmonizing flow. “Soulhacker” displays a heavy dosage of thick, groovy bass that enhances not only the guitars, but also gives a nice punch to the chorus as well.

With Mike Heller on board, the human element lacking from “The Industrial” had returned. Now, I had heard a few Malignancy albums in the past, but they were before Heller’s tenure with the band, so I wasn’t sure of his capabilities. I figured if Dino and Burton were serious about injecting new life into the band and “Genexus” they would do their homework and find the right drummer to fill the void. My concerns were put to rest as Heller displays not only that he can handle the drums required to carry the Fear Factory sound, but provides more on “Genexus”. The song writing really comes through on the drums as you, can hear portions of the bands entire discography throughout the album. The power, speed, depth, tempo and intensity of each track takes elements as far back as “Soul of a New Machine” up to “Mechanize” and are combined to create the monstrous sound we hear on “Genexus”. Aside from their concussive force, the drums, as usual serve as a key component in creating the rhythms and directional force of the album and when they gel together with Dino’s guitar and bass, they form a wonderful harmony.

I mentioned that everyone involved with “Genexus” stepped their game up a notch and that held true to those in the programming and additional crew department. Most notably, Rhys Fulber, who adds his dystopian enhancements to every aspect of the album. From Burton’s vocals, to Dino’s guitars and Heller’s drums, Fulber’s touch can be heard consistently throughout “Genexus” proving why I’ve always considered his addition to be the “12th” man of the band. His magic behind the scenes is simply irreplaceable and I truly believe without his inclusion, the band would have never attained the sound they have accomplished.

“Genexus” was slated to be a step in the direction of a new future for Fear Factory. With the amount of preparation, dedication and emotion the band put into the making of this album, it’s no surprise that “Genexus” in my opinion, one of the best albums in Fear Factory’s long and celebrated catalog. With high expectations, the band exceeded those expectations and went above and beyond anything that fans were prepared for. This album is a testament to what can be accomplished when creative minds put their heads together, and put forth a massive amount of effort, while puting one’s heart and soul into an album. “Genexus” is simply a display of superb songwriting, excellent musicianship and the culmination of years of experience and maturity put onto an album. If this is the future of Fear Factory, the future is indeed bright my friends.

(Be sure to check out the digipak which contains two interesting tracks; "Mandatory Sacrifice" (Genexus Remix) and "Enhanced Reality")

Highlights: "Anodized" "Dielectric" "Protomech" "Regenerate"

Into the Abyss of Oblivion

Generixus - 78%

Torniojaws, October 13th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, Nuclear Blast (Limited edition, Digipak)

My expectations were fairly high following the awesome Mechanize and acceptable The Industrialist, especially considering Mike Heller making his album debut on drums. The initial release of Soul Hacker made me even eager to hear the album, even if it is a little bit of a rewrite of Edgecrusher sans the rap influences. All seemed well and encompassing all that I have enjoyed in listening to Fear Factory since 1997 on Carmageddon.

Then the album lands. It starts off so well and has all the checkmarks ticked, with some cool classic Fear Factory going on for the first 5 songs. The production is top-notch as is expected, merging man and machine in perfect unison. Crushing kick drum and guitar sync and futuristic synthesizers. But then something happens. Something I had yet to experience on an Fear Factory album except for the last 3rd of the overly long Soul of a New Machine and the second half of The Industrialist. It starts to sound boring and forced.

The second half of the album is utterly forgettable and sounds like a cover band attempting the style of the real deal. There is no inspiration and it all starts to blend into irrelevance. And then begin the funnily re-recorded quotes from Blade Runner, completely out of place. And then comes to jarring attempt at a radio hit by the numbers: Regenerate. Am I listening to Happy Factory? Well, skip forward and the finale of the album continues with the poor Blade Runner references and bland songwriting.

Now, I have the limited edition, which features one throwaway remix and... one of the best songs Fear Factory has done since 2002: Enhanced Reality. Man, that song is so simple but effective. It captures the futuristic nuclear winter vibe so well, that I have to wonder why it was left as a bonus track. Yes, it's not the classic Fear Factory, being a slow to medium pace power-ballad, but it works perfectly. It's like the big brother of the boring song that ends the actual album coming in to show how it is supposed to be done.

Overall, I do enjoy the first half a lot, but the second half is what brings the score down quite a lot. I wish they'd done it a bit differently and written maybe one more song of Pisschrist / Obsolete ilk and replaced Regenerate with it, and then use Enhanced Reality as the album ender instead of Expiration Date. Then this one could have been right up there with Demanufacture and Obsolete.

Better Than The New Terminator Movie - 82%

Larry6990, August 26th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, Nuclear Blast (Limited edition, Digipak)

The reunion of Bell and Cazares has been nothing but a thrill since the punishing "Mechanize" hit the shelves in 2010. That was a truly vicious record that heralded a triumphant return to form after the odd "Transgression". 2012's "The Industrialist" was something of a lap of honour, proving that they could still deliver the goods, albeit in a far less accessible way. However, 2015 brings with it good tidings of great joy in the Fear Factory camp. "Genexus" has arrived and, just like the 'new age of machines' the album (well, every FF album) describes, brings with it a new era for the industrial metal titans.

It's a good job Bell & co. make no effort to disguise their love of all things robotic and digital - because the atmosphere of "Genexus" is positively wrapped in cybernetics and circuitry. The two main factors that contribute to this electronic vibe are the expanded use of keyboards, and the rejuvenated guitar tone from Mr. Cazares. The former has become a more integral part of the compositions; carrying melodies as well as adding mechanical sound effects ("Lockdown complete!"). The latter feels like it has been put through a meat tenderizer - channelled in a more focused direction, whilst still retaining a beautifully buzzsaw-esque grind.

Whilst the ethereal keyboards, machine-gun style drumming and bullet-precise riffs all hold their own throughout "Genexus", the vocals of the increasingly impressive Burton C Bell steal the show. His haunting clean singing is shrouded in effects, but for once I'm not complaining! After all, it only adds to the industrial atmosphere of the album. However, his vicious bark has neither softened nor waned in the past 25 years! For a man approaching 50, he is capable of sounding truly raw and brutal.

The album unfortunately is not structured well. Any one of these tracks could've been placed in any order (save for the ghostly "Expiration Date", but more on that later...). "Autonomous Combat System" doesn't quite pack as much of a punch as previous opening tracks such as "Mechanize" or "What Will Become?". However, following it up with the chin-wagging groove of "Anodized" was a stroke of genius. The most solid tracks can be found right at the heart of this album: "Protomech" brings back welcome speedy memories of "Powershifter". "Soul-Hacker" is an anthemic groove-a-thon that's guaranteed to start some pits! "Dielectric" brings back the more melodic stylings of the "Digimortal" era. But the jewel in the crown has to be the bombastic title-track. Such a powerful chorus combining Bell's enormous roar and a beautifully synthesized orchestra gets me pumped every time!

"Regenerate" can almost be described as 'fodder'. Despite the awesome "You can't kill me!!" section, it only succeeds in contributing to the slightly sluggish latter half of the album. However, all qualms are forgotten once the listener is immersed in the spectral sound of closer "Expiration Date". The fuzzy, airy, almost celestial atmosphere absolutely envelopes you - bringing "Genexus" to a mysterious and melancholy close. It's bizarre, but by God it leaves you begging for more!

Sure, there are minor faults, but I really couldn't have asked for more from Burton and Dino. This is quickly becoming my favourite Fear Factory album; gnawing at the heels of 1995's classic "Demanufacture" - hell there are even some moments that echo melodies from this very release! Running out of ideas, maybe? Who cares?! I excitedly await the next journey into machinery, robotics and song-titles which combine human and mechanical characteristics! Proto-mech, Die-lectric, Gene-xus, Robo-bone, Cyb-elbow... The factory is still in business!

"No soul!
You'll never take my control!
I dominate!"

The Machine Is Still Alive - 90%

schuler, August 8th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, Nuclear Blast

Since their hallmark ‘90s albums Demanufacture and Obsolete, Fear Factory have stayed afloat in the ebbing music industry with varying results; the band’s 2005 post-reunion album, Archetype, was met with critical praise, while its more experimental successor, Transgression, wasn’t so favorably received. Fans rejoiced at the reunion of vocalist Burton C. Bell and exiled guitarist Dino Cazares for 2009’s massive Mechanize, and the return to form felt so natural and celebratory that 2012’s The Industrialist almost felt more like a victory lap than a genuine attempt to further the Fear Factory sound. In 2015, if you were to ask what territory the band still had left to explore, you probably wouldn’t be alone in wondering. Fear Factory have answered with Genexus, quite possibly the best album they’ve ever made.

Every single right step Fear Factory have ever taken is present on this album, and where past “right steps” may have felt underdeveloped, the songwriting and musicianship on Genexus take the record all the way home. Songs like “Anodized,” “Dielectric,” and “Regenerate” retain the heavy/melodic duality that’s served as a cornerstone of each past Fear Factory release, while capitalizing on Bell’s vocal hooks and the lush electronics of longtime collaborator Rhys Fulber to push Genexus’s cleaner moments in bold and memorable new directions. Cazares’s riffs, as usual, are simply crushing; judging by the speed and precision of songs like the title track and sprawling opener “Autonomous Combat System,” the guy’s picking forearm has to be as thick as a thigh by now. His guitar and bass performances are backed this time around by programmed percussion on select songs, as well as the recording debut of Mike Heller, the band’s live drummer since the touring cycle for The Industrialist. Former Static-X bassist Tony Campos recently joined Fear Factory, but isn’t featured on Genexus.

While the instrumental performances are as impressive as anything from Demanufacture or Mechanize, Bell’s vocals and lyrics really take the spotlight on Genexus. His lyrics are always at their best and most relevant when he nails that perfect intersection between sci-fi symbolism and observations on the human condition; we hear those qualities in some of the band’s most powerful past numbers like “Resurrection” and “Final Exit.” But instead of being an album full of heavy music punctuated by occasional pensive introspection, Genexus is stacked front-to-back with the most significant lyrical substance Bell’s ever generated in the span of one record. The most stunning example is “Expiration Date,” a haunting treatise on self-awareness in the face of death, set to one of the most beautiful songs the band’s ever penned.

Fear Factory have outdone themselves. While no album is without its lesser tracks, the valleys on Genexus are surprisingly shallow, which is an impressive feat, given the soaring height of its peaks. As musicians are faced with maintaining passion in careers that began before part of their fanbase was even born, it’s reassuring to see bands as mature as Fear Factory still producing some of their most crucial material. Genexus is excellent. The machine is still alive.

(Review originally published on About Heavy Metal)