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What I thought was life, came to an end. - 96%

LeMiserable, December 21st, 2014
Written based on this version: 1992, CD, Roadrunner Records

It actually surprises me that I like this so much, because this falls pretty far away from the proverbial basket most of my interests are found in. Yeah, this might happen to be a death metal album, but the obvious nu metal influences that would become more and more prominent with FF's later releases are already pretty visible here, though I grudgingly admit that they do this album more good than bad overall. There's an immense charm to the material found on Soul Of A New Machine because of it which turns it into a masterpiece where it had all the papers to be a trainwreck more than anything else. This album is pretty awkward, very clumsy and perhaps a bit compromised in its weirdness, but it still manages to hold up well against more obvious death metal masterpieces of its time as well as before and after its release. To call this a nu-death metal album is overstretching it, but the use of clean vocals, tendency to groove and pretty terrible lyrics definitely hint towards a more mainstream sound, of course further materialized on later albums.

Yes, you read it right though, Soul Of A New Machine is a death metal album, and a very unique one at that. It has the nu metal influences, but there's also the obvious industrial elements that characterize the band's sound, but what's arguably even more unique is that there's actually a healthy dose of early grindcore found here as well. Burton C. Bell does a nice job at imitating Napalm Death's vocals with his growls and some tracks definitely use some of the foundations that they laid a few years prior to this. I have to say, the weird combination of both brutality and melody (including the clean vocals) actually works pretty fucking fantastic. Sure, this album is unintentionally somewhat pretentious and awkward as a result, but again, it's that charm that keeps the majority of the album very enjoyable. It's wholly confused at times and doesn't really seem to know whether it should go flat-out brutal on us or instead treat us with a clean vocal passage, but most of the time the result is great no matter what.

Still, at times it's inexcusable. Bell's growls aren't very exciting, they do their job at being 'death metal', but along with some questionable clean vocal sections and crappy lyrics there's definitely something to brag about. Like I said, the lyrics kinda suck, and his oftentimes simply mediocre vocals definitely hold the album back. The best examples are the opening 'speech' to "Big God / Raped Souls" (that's him, right?) and the inane chorus to "Self-Immolation" which -I am not kidding- has "Self-Immolation, Crying Out!" being repeated time and time again, with no alterations whatsoever. This becomes pretty fucking annoying at times, but luckily it isn't a very long song and apart from the crappy chorus it's actually a pretty good one nonetheless. It's clear that these lyrics are already full-fledged nu metal and the vocals also hint towards the genre, but that's basically it for the more obvious flaws.

I can only praise this album for its material, it takes a whopping 17 tracks covering 55 minutes to stop emitting sound, but I find that not a single second of it actively bores me even the slightest. The industrial elements used on this album definitely set it apart from more traditional death metal records at the time, because what really sounds like this? Fear Factory looked at death metal, and basically thought about how they could expand the genre, and I'm pretty damn positive that they did a fine job at achieving just that. Sure, clean vocals are sometimes featured in death metal, but this much? It's definitely a big risk to take, but Bell is generally a very good clean singer, he just tends to use it the wrong way from time to time. There are numerous clean vocal breaks on this album, but apart from a few they're all a joy to hear on an album that succesfully mixes so many genres together into 1 glorious piece of experimental glory.

Technically, this album gets the job done. It's not anything special as it's somewhat basic for death metal riffing standards, but Fear Factory made full advantage of their supreme knowledge of how to make simplicity work by creating what is hands down one of the catchiest death metal albums ever made. It's obvious that this doesn't need stark technicality or complexity to be good, as this isn't really a riff-dependant album, the fact that the riffs are pretty catchy is a nice bonus, but I feel the complete package of a band mashing as much as they could into basically every song here is largely responsible for what makes this such a joy to hear. Soul Of A New Machine is full of electronic effects, sound samples and unusual stuff for a death metal release that reveal this album's insanely interesting experimental nature. This is a work of immense depth, songs are somewhat clumsy but it's obvious that a lot of thought and care went into making each song awesome in its own right. The instrumentation is mixed, as I said the typical early 90's guitar doesn't have much to prove in terms of technicality, but the catchiness we get in return more than makes up for it, couple with that a genuinely great bass sound and an impressive drum peformance and you have something that simply works.

This is a really great album and, while definitely on the long side, proves to be one of the most recognizable and memorable outings of the 90's. I urge basically everyone to give this a spin, this album is just well-rounded and doesn't really lack anything it shouldn't lack. The mediocre lyrics can be blamed on the nu metal aesthetics already present here, but it's largely overshadowed by the immensely good chunk of material that this release contains. It's clumsy, awkward and probably not very self-aware, but it doesn't hold the album back more than strictly necessary. This is one of the most diverse death metal records ever, succesfully combining melody with brutality, and it sounds awesome. This is Soul Of A New Machine, experimentation done oh so right.