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I want more life, fucker - 94%

Leechmaster, August 16th, 2008

“The light that burns twice as bright burns for half as long.” - Eldon Tyrell

In case you were wondering, the aforementioned quote is from Blade Runner, arguably the most acclaimed science fiction film of all time. Set in the post-apocalyptic Los Angeles of 2019, the film depicts the decadence of western society into an inhumane, industrial waste land full of darkness, acid rain and decay. Now, you’re also probably wondering what the hell this has to do with Fear Factory’s debut album Soul of a New Machine, so let me try and explain. Like the city of Los Angeles in Blade Runner, Soul of a New Machine is a harsh, technology dominated realm; a death metal machine infused with various industrial and electronic elements. Such a unique fusion of raw, inhospitable death metal with industrial and electronic subtlety was completely unprecedented at the time, and still to this very day, few have been able to match the machine.

With its cold, calculated gears all meshing together for just under an hour, Soul of a New Machine has a lot to offer. From the grating, Godflesh influenced riffing and melodies on “Leechmaster,” to the abrasive, up-tempo chaos of “Flesh Hold,” this album is loaded with many, memorable tracks. However, “Flesh Hold” is more than just an aggressive slab of Napalm Death inspired insanity. It was actually through this track, that I began to draw the similarities between Blade Runner and Soul of a New Machine. Amidst the hammering, double bass and ferocious tremolo picking, is a sample taken from one of the greatest scenes in the film where Roy Batty, a genetically manufactured human being, a machine, demands for more life, “I want more life, fucker.” This is just one of the many samples infused into the machine which really enhance the harsh, mechanical atmosphere of the album. The early 90’s production job also heightens the mechanized, synchronized feel and while the members themselves believe the poor production value didn’t help the sound of the drums, I feel everything fuses together brilliantly. Raymond’s barrages of double bass, hammering grooves and blast beats have been given a real industrialized tone to them as a result of the production as well as the use of drum triggers. Overall, his drumming isn’t that complicated or the most technical and he usually just sticks to playing fairly standard beats and rhythms as well as lots of single stroke double-bass work and fills.

The duel strains of ruthlessly executed old school death metal and industrial merge together perfectly in “Scumgrief,” my personal favourite track. The song opens with a crushing chord progression injected with short, intense bursts of double kick and tremolo picking. Natural and pinch harmonics are later added to the mix giving the song a refreshing melodic touch, which are layered together with Dino’s scathing guitar work. “Scumgrief” also displays excellent dynamic variation both instrumentally and vocally, with Burton alternating between aggressive, raspy grunts and growls and softer, clean vocal passages. His clean vocals, despite becoming a little repetitive at times are executed really, really well; I can’t stress that enough. Tracks like “Martyr,” “Scapegoat,” “Lifeblind,” and “Big God/Raped Souls” achieve a well-balanced mix between Bell’s twin vocal abilities and add an energizing burst of melody to their harsh, industrialized soundscape. “Crash Test” has also been given an intense melodic flare with long, harmonized tremolo picking sections followed by a crushing, half-time groove. This is one of the few, more memorable riffs found throughout the album as I find it is the songs as a whole that stand out rather than individual sections.

Another stand out is “W.O.E.” another brutal, grindcore influenced track characterized by the opening section of eerie, discordant guitar leads, raw, extreme tempo grinding and another sample. The song is structured solidly and features various shifts in tempo and time signature as well as excellent guitar work. Dino shows great variation between haunting leads, brutal palm-muted chugging and vicious tremolo picking onslaughts and is one of his strongest performances on the album. These traits are found throughout most songs as well as brutal, heavily distorted bass lines also provided by Dino, which give songs like “Crisis” and “Suffer Age” a massive crunch to them.

Despite becoming a bit repetitious at times and being a bit long-winded in length, Soul of a New Machine is overall, a truly excellent album. This is Fear Factory at their most raw and ruthless; this is the machine when all its gears and pistons synchronized together perfectly; this is when, they were “burning twice as bright.”