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A classic - 78%

immortalshadow666, February 27th, 2009

What we have in “Soul of a New Machine”, Fear Factory’s first-released full-length album (everybody knows the story of “Concrete”), is a recording that truly stood up against the test of time. The following album, “Demanufacture” is often talked about as being their best effort, where they struck it big and began to get serious mainstream success. More often than not, “Soul” is overlooked, which is why I felt it an appropriate time after all these years to give it another spin and review it.

“Soul of a New Machine” has to be one of the most original releases of its time. The fusion of death metal with industrial parts was something that had never been heard before. Even without the unique industrial sound, all the music found on “Soul” is very, very cutting edge for its time. Raymond Herrera is a master of the kit and keeps up an incredible pace, even with the ferocious intensity. There aren’t many blast beats on “Soul” but he still has quite a lot of work to do, and he does this with precision and remains phenomenally tight on the album.

The riffing however, is truly the high point on this album. There’s a little bit of everything scattered all throughout the songs, they’ve had a go at all sorts of things that were very cutting edge for their time. It’s not technical by any means, but boy it works. Rather than individual riffs that blow a persons mind, it’s more the tracks that stand out as a whole, when coming together, the atmosphere and intensity is realised. The bizarre time signatures in songs like “Lifeblind” are almost reminiscent of the early days of Deicide. Guitar harmonies can be heard scattered around as well, like in “Crash Test”, down to the fairly basic structures of the opening “Martyr”. Despite all this experimenting though, the album flows really well, and with subsequent listens, you’ll be finding new and fresh things around the album for a while to come.

Vocalwise, repetitive lyrics work well within the songs. Burton C. Bell’s vocals are certainly not intense in terms of the bands we hear today, but they are still full of atmosphere, and raw emotion. It’s easy to hear the change in pitch and sense his emotions when he’s singing the clean parts. With the heavier vocals, as well as all out growls, there are also time when Burton lessens the intensity to resemble an almost rock kind of style. There is much less subject matter about what made the band famous, the “Man vs. Machine” spectrum. On this release, the angry, hateful feelings of a young band starting out and finding out about harsh lessons and getting a raw deal in life and relationships are evident.

One part that I especially enjoy is the production. It’s a very heavy album for its time, and all the instruments shine through clearly. The drums hit through very powerfully and stand out, and though the bass is a bit weak, that can be forgiven due to the recordings age. The guitar is clear enough and riffs can be made out easily without any struggle like some earlier death metal recordings by other bands.

Something else that can be said regarding this album, is the phenomenal value for money. At 55 minutes of pure, good death metal, it’s double the length of your average modern death metal album (and in a lot of cases, double the quality too).

There aren’t many low parts to the album, but for those that are there, the only low light is that there seem to be a couple of filler tracks that just don’t hold my attention. The band seemed to have dropped the intensity and creativity on a few of the tracks and this deducts from the score. But, those are rare and the quality is present on most of the songs.

So here is a death metal album that I actually enjoy and is still good to listen to after 16 years of advancements in the death metal genre. A must have for fans of the genre, or of Fear Factory.