Fear Factory - Genexus
Released 07/08/2015

Fear Factory - Genexus

Fear Factory burst onto the heavy music scene two decades ago with their debut album Soul Of A New Machine, which was as heavy as concrete. However between that and their second album, Demanufacture, something strange happened. From out of nowhere the band provided us with one of the best contemporary metal albums of the last twenty years. Roping Front Line Assembly's Rhys Fulber to produce and add keyboard textures Demanufacture was a gleaming industrial cyber-metal beast that sounded like nothing else. And Burton C. Bell discovered he could sing just as well as bellowing like a wounded bull elephant.

The problem was Demanufacture was so good the band have spent virtually their entire career trying to live up to it and never quite succeeding... until now. Seemingly hampered by too many line-up changes and albums of varying quality the thought of a new Fear Factory album didn't quite excite the same way it used to but right from the start you can tell this is a band reinvigorated. Opening with Autonomous Combat System the band, after a suitably short spoken word/electronic intro, fire up their shiney, turbocharged engine and put their foot firmly to the floor, where it remains for most of the ensuing 59 minutes 14 seconds. The jackhammer drumming, thunderous bass, razor sharp riffs and swathes of keyboard are all present and correct, colliding in a maelstrom of 21st century noise. And over the top of it all Burton C. Bell barks out his vocal lines with real venom.

Anodized is slower but no less furious, Bell's rasp sounding like he's been gargling a mixture of sandpaper and battery acid until the chorus when he switches to that glorious singing voice. Anyone who has heard Fear Factory already knows Burton's huge range and he puts it to good use throught the album. Dielectric follows and is heavier than a very heavy thing but is so very catchy as it rattles along at warp speed. The song, like many on this album, is swathed in electro-atmospherics; a great counterpoint to the other instruments.

Soul Hacker is so dense you can hear the bottom end distortion underneath Dino's staccato riffing which resolves into a nice mini-solo before collapsing in on its self. Protomech is carried by crisp drumming and more waves of keyboard, recalling Demanufacture's Self Bias Resistor and the title track, Genexus is even more keyboard-driven, giving a sheen of polish over the fury of the other instruments. Again Burton's vocals flip between angry roar and soaring melody.

Musically the band are on fine form. Guitar monster Dino Cazares also plays bass on the album. A mixture of human drummer Mike Heller and a drum machine propel the songs forward like matter heading towards an event horizon. For the most part Dino is content with creating a dazzling array of riffs while allowing the keyboards to provide melody and atmosphere. Burton barks, screams and sings with a fervour and a corybantic passion that puts many singers half his age to shame as he weaves his familiar apocalyptic tales of Man succumbing to machines.

The album continues in much the same vein with huge swathes of electronica giving the songs a huge commercial edge along with Burton's clean vocals, leading us into the slow clatter of Battle For Utopia, one of the best songs Fear Factory have written. The song gradually gains momentum as it hurtles towards oblivion. There is finally respite from the pummelling with the haunting Expiration Date, a song based on the plight of Blade Runner's Replicants. The song uses dialogue from the film to add credence to the tale of androids fearful of their own end. Few bands can slow a song down, be this heavy and still sound so gloriously accessible. As the song heads towards its conclusion on a simple piano refrain which echoes Vangelis's soundtrack, Roy Batty's final words ring out... "Time to die".

This is a fine way to end the album unless, like me, you have the special edition which includes two extra tracks; Mandatory Sacrifice (Genexus Remix) and Enhanced Reality. The former is probably the heaviest song on the album, stuttering epilepticly along its course and the latter another brilliant slow song with an electro beat and eerie, echoing vocals.

Genexus doesn't break any new ground for the band. The lyrical themes of man vs machine have been a path well trodden before and much of the music follows Fear Factory's tried and tested battering ram sound. What makes this album stand out as their best for well over a decade is the songwriting. The band sound reinvigorated, giving each track its own unique identity - this is an album brimming with ideas proving there's life in the old cpu yet!

Produced once again by Rhys Fulber (who also provides keyboards and samples) and mixed by Andy Sneap they have done a great job of capturing the band and layering the music. Many of the songs are complex and impenetrable but there's a superb clarity at work, each instrument easily distinguishable in the avalanche of sound. The cover art looks suspiciously like the female Terminator exoskeleton from T3, although this somehow seems appropriate. It appears that Burton and Dino have stripped their musical selves down to the bare bones in order to rediscover what it was that made them so special and then built Genexus from the ground up. The fearsome Terminator is also a good analogy for Fear Factory themselves; no matter what obstacles are in their path these purveyors of thoroughly modern metal keep coming, relentless and unforgiving.

I'm pleased that a band I love, who have been living in the shadow of a monumental previous release, have finally managed to throw off their shackles and step blinking back into the light of the apocalypse. The machines have indeed risen... and they are coming for you all!

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