Archive for Fear Factory

Best Bands Worst Songs the Turd

Posted in Lists with tags , , , , , on June 12, 2014 by Lightning Slim

In which Fear Factory cover a pop song (OK) and then write a pop song (Definitely Not OK).

Fear_Factory_-_Transgression When a band puts out two albums in a year, you know that one of two things is happening: either they are filled to the brim with creativity or there’s some kind of record label shenanigans happening. So when Fear Factory followed up the April 2004 release of well-received return-to-form record Archetype with the August 2005 underwhelm of Transgression, a collection of lesser songs, experiments and covers united by a regrettable use of the much-maligned plinky snare drum sound from St. Anger, well, most fans quickly made up their minds what was happening there.

It’s not a completely hateable record, despite obviously being recorded without a single band member in the same room at the same time. One of the bright spots is a faithful cover of U2’s “I Will Follow”, which has some pep to it. The other cover (Killing Joke’s “Millennium”) is a bit too on the nose and leaves me cold. But things really go off the rails when the band decides to get their inner U2 on using their own material, and that’s where “Supernova” comes in.

The song jingles its way into your ears like the radio-ready single from a mid-90’s Rush album, which as I type it looks like a grave insult to Rush. Burton Bell’s vocal is something which would have been better kept on one of  his folk-ambient side projects. Dig those crazy whisper-echoes! And let’s be clear about something; this track wasn’t hidden in a corner. It is the official single of a heavy metal album.



Don’t that just make you want to slap some cat ears on it and call it Hello Shitty?

Happily, FF have gone on to bigger and better things, so their legacy is safe for now. Imagine this was the last thing they ever did?

Questions? Kudos? Hate something off Digimortal more (and who would blame you?) Hit the comments below!

Deals & Steals: Something Old, Something Older, Something Jurassic

Posted in Deals & Steals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 26, 2012 by Lightning Slim

  Weird selection from Second Spin  (and my local places) this time around, but oh so fun. We’ve got games, remixes, compilations and collaborations. The S-S prices are in $US, and the Second Spin folks took another $10 off the top, which basically covered shipping. Onward!

Original Soundtrack: Mass Effect $8.99. The Mass Effect universe has been as much fun for me to hang around in as Hogwarts or even Middle Earth. I gave a damn about these games (we can talk about sticking the landing later) and it was due in no small part to the music. Very well executed stuff by Jack Wall and Sam Hulick, and a brilliant end credits song by Faunts that truly makes you believe you have saved the galaxy. In the eighties!

Fear Factory: Soul of a New Machine (Expanded Edition) $8.99. This fills a long-overlooked gap in my collection, and does it in style by including some great retrospective liner notes and the Fear is the Mindkiller EP as well.

Negativland: These Guys Are From England And Who Gives A Shit $5.77. This “Official Bootleg” brings a bit of closure to one of the world’s longest-beaten dead horses, acting as a final word on Negativland’s feud/collaboration/fascination/lawsuit with the world’s biggest band and America’s best known radio DJ.

Jello Biafra with Nomeansno: The Sky is Falling, and I Want My Mommy $7.99. Don’t know why I held out so long before getting this. It’s a bit like I knew I liked peanut butter and I knew I liked chocolate, but I didn’t trust this candy hybrid. Fixed now!

  Rush: Chronicles $21.99. Big deal, you say. Anyone with half a brain knows Chronicles is the non plus ultra of best-of compilations, representing perfect track choices and sequencing.  Ah, but what if you had to replace your worn-out copy? What if you had a chance to do it with a version containing an extra DVD full of the band’s videos? What then, smart guy?

Super big deal: Last weekend I was in Toronto and saw this, still wrapped,  in a used record shop:


Yup, that’s the full series of The Shield encased in a coffee-table picture book. I was going to pay the $99 sticker price when the clerk told me it was 20% off. Madness. I love you, place I don’t remember the name of. It’s across the side street from The Rex, if that helps.

It gets better; I found this at my local Value Village for twelve dollars:


It was a good week for scrounging!

Album Review – Fear Factory “Digimortal” 2001

Posted in Album Reviews, FourFiveSix with tags , , , , on June 13, 2012 by Lightning Slim

  I recently reviewed Fear Factory’s newest record The Industrialist, and declared it pretty damn good, and in so doing I cast some negative aspersions on this outing, Digimortal. Feeling a bit guilty, I decided to give it another spin to see how it holds up as a complete unit after a decade.

Ouch. Digimortal is weaksauce, made worse by its unfortunate, trendy flirtations with nu-metal and hip-hop. “Linchpin”, “Invisible Wounds (Dark Bodies)” and “Memory Implants (Never End)” are quality tracks, but the rest of the songs are  just the packing material surrounding these nuggets. “Back the Fuck Up” has a Judgement Night – style bounce to it, but I think we can 100% chalk that up to guest artist B-Real. 

Add to this a decidedly weak mix that underlines Dino Cazares’ phoned-in performance (songs often lack guitars in the verses altogether) and Burt Bell’s most inconsistent vocals to date and you have a mere collection of ideas, not a complete record. The B-side compilation Hatefiles would later bring to light some wildly different (but not better) mixes of this material that show a band flailing about for something to stick the landing.

Transgression gets a lot of heat from FF fans, but Transgression was a rush job. Digimortal is fully endorsed (at the time), band-involved product that happens to be awfully half-assed. It’s not the end of the world, but it does capture a moment in time where a band of one-time leaders took their foot off the gas and coasted. 4.5 out of 10

Album Review – Fear Factory “The Industrialist” 2012

Posted in Album Reviews, Sevens to Nines with tags , , , , on June 8, 2012 by Lightning Slim

  I think Fear Factory, with their man-machine interface obsession, would appreciate and concede that there are discernible patterns to their behaviour. Just as Demanufacture has its Obsolete, so too must Mechanized lead to The Industrialist. In each case the former revelatory document is followed up by something a little bit safer, self-mythologizing and deliberately conceptual. The Industialist has moments of brilliance (“God Eater” is fantastic) but doesn’t have quite the same punch as the last outing. 

FF fans needn’t worry in terms of sound, as their trademark unison riff+snare+kick still operate as a synchronized jackhammer. Production is lush and filled with spooky ambience, courtesy Rhys Fulber. The faithful can also take heart in the number of fist-pumping sing-along jams that occur, as these will translate well in the live show environment (if Burt and Dino have a band with which to tour; the album is credited solely to them).

 If you’re one of the weirdos connoisseurs who find Obsolete a more enthralling journey than the speedier Demanufacture, The Industrialist might be right up your alley. When shopping, I would give preference to the digipak version, which warmed my heart with its affectionate bonus rendition of Pitchshifter’s sludge-metal spectacular “Landfill”. 

Heavy, solid work from Fear Factory, The Industrialist still has just a bit too much box-checking going on to vault it to the top of the heap. Still recommended, although we can pray that further dilution does not grant us a second Digimortal. 7.5 out of 10   

Weekend Wrap-Up: Heavy MTL 2010

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 1, 2010 by Lightning Slim

I’ve had a week to decompress and collect my thoughts about the second edition of Heavy MTL. I think it was a tremendous success by anyone’s standards, featuring some great performances by a truckload of bands and the legendary hospitality of Canada’s hippest city. I initially tried to put everything into a coherent, travelogue-style narrative, but then I decided that would bore the pants off y’all. Here’s the meat of things: 

It's the one that you wanted.

Big Hit: Rob Zombie wiped the floor with the place. In these sorts of festivals, bands usually have enough time and presence of mind to  wander out, play a few songs and disappear again. Not so Mr. Zombie, who brought all the robots, pyro, costumes and video that make him the proper heir apparent to Alice Cooper (Cooper himself didn’t fare so well, conjuring up images of an elderly, croaking transvestite). All this stage mummery didn’t diminish the playing chops of Zombie’s band, who didn’t hide behind their makeup and treated us to a huge committed rock show filled with that thing metal sometimes forgets about: fun. It was interesting to juxtapose the maniacal stage personae with the perfect gentlemen signing autographs earlier in the day. 

Big Miss: Fear Factory, after delivering what might be the record of the year, fumbled their soundcheck badly and then went through the motions in a badly truncated set.  I went in looking for the icing on the tasty cake of FF’s return, only to find it was straight out of the tin. 

Skeletonwitch's Chance Garnette spends some time with Slim's crew

Great as Expected: Skeletonwitch, Testament, Halford, 3 Inches of Blood, Lamb of God and Slayer made the most of their stage time. All these bands have reputations for delivering consistent live performances, and they kept the faith in MTL. 

Pleasant Surprises: Airbourne, as the sole whiskey-rock band between two armies of Metal and Emocore, did much to lighten the mood and gave people their second wind for fun on Day 2. Hail the Villain conquered the crowd with self-deprecating humour and heavier versions of their radio sound, and In This Moment grabbed no small number of new fans with an arresting performance on the third stage. Speaking of third stages — 

Organization Bad: Three stages in competition. I’m old-fashioned, I guess, but I think that every fan should have the chance to see every band. Chimaira in one ear and 3 Inches of Blood in the other isn’t enjoyable for even the most indiscriminate fan. 

"Patches" was sad that he had to pick and choose 😦

Organization Good: Almost everything else! Polite security staff, almost-reasonable  concession prices, on-time performances, great selection of bands. Some might quibble that Day 2 was Emo Day, but I say if you’re gonna have this thing and you want it to thrive you should cram in as many bands as possible. I know that may contradict my thoughts on multiple stages, but it brings me to my next point: 

The Vibe: More important than any one performance or memory, Heavy MTL represents a gathering of the metal community. It puts like-minded folks together to bang their heads, have a beer and talk about the music they love in a safe, positive and party-like atmosphere. Canadians love (and play) metal as well as anyone else, and we need this festival to continue. It’s like our Wacken or Milwaukee, done in our smaller, more polite way. 


So when Heavy MTL 2011 comes around, I won’t be going for any particular band, although I have a ton of suggestions if anyone’s listening. I’ll be going for the good times, good company and that rare chance to be amongst one’s own. 

That’s all for now – I was always taught not to over-analyse anything good. \m/ \m/! 

Don't recall it being "metal -on- your ass", but a'ight.

Album Review – Fear Factory “Mechanize” 2010

Posted in Album Reviews, Sevens to Nines with tags , , , , on February 13, 2010 by Lightning Slim

It’s as good as you’d hoped. FF aim to please with their swaggering spiritual sequel to 1995’s breakthrough Demanufacture. That record helped invent cyber-metal, and if it can be considered Fear Factory’s Ride the Lightning, then this release is their Master of Puppets, the remake/sequel/continuation, about a dozen years late.  In between there were only brief flashes of brilliance, and although Archetype came close, they didn’t have a full album’s worth of sustained high level material until now.

It’s also worth noting that Mechanize proves that the essential configuration of parts (and they’ve tried them all over the past decade) is the Burton Bell/Dino Cazares team. Arkaea isn’t this good. Divine Heresy isn’t this good. Fear Factory minus Dino was okay, but not this good. Ascension of the Watchers is good, but it’s not metal. Bonus points for Rhys Fulber for choosing no sides and driving his world-class keyboard skills around like a Red Cross ambulance during these conflicts.

If you have to narrow it down to one element, it’s really Bell that makes the difference. Imitators he has many, but none of them could deliver the anarchic menace of “Mechanize” and in the same session create the perfect heavy/catchy balance  of “Powershifter”, an early leader for arena sing-along favourite of the decade. Bell’s enthusiasm is matched in the instrumentation, as Cazares plays heavier and faster than ever before, making the choice of seasoned pros Gene Hoglund and Byron Stroud as rhythm section as clever as it is necessary.

You’ve heard it on YouTube; you know it’s good. Just go get it. 9 out of 10

Album Review – Divine Heresy “Bringer of Plagues” 2009

Posted in Album Reviews, Sevens to Nines with tags , , , , on January 27, 2010 by Lightning Slim

I had big plans to play this review off the one I already did for Arkaea’s Years in the Darkness, make some lame jokes like “Begun, these Fear Factory Wars have” and build in a lead-up to an eventual review of Mechanize.

Divine Heresy put the kibosh on that by delivering something other than the expected guitar/drum blasts in cybernetic lockstep. Sure, Bringer of Plagues has the jack hammer rhythms, but the tones often roam far and wide, occasionally reaching as far as the Middle East. Swap out Travis Neal’s screamo for something more guttural and you’re approaching Behemoth territory. Despite the urban industrial pedigree, DH 2010 are pushing some Black Metal. Neal uses the better portions of his parent style to inject a youthful Anselmo-like energy into the proceedings, and the results are quite pleasing even if it doesn’t have the magic of Fear Factory’s heyday or their ability to explore the mid-tempo or drop a hook into the chorus.

 Bleed the Fifth was never a big listen for me (it was always a bit too Life of Agony on speed), but Bringer of Plagues marks a considerable upgrade to the talent and the possibilities of the project. 7 out of 10

Album Review – Arkaea “Years in the Darkness” 2009

Posted in Album Reviews, FourFiveSix with tags , , , , on December 16, 2009 by Lightning Slim

Let’s face it, this album is tainted by its associations. The band contains two founding members of Fear Factory and two others from the better FF clone Threat Signal (sorry, Divine Heresy, but it’s true). They’ve even admitted that half these songs were meant for the FF reunion. However, we must move on, children – Fear Factory love you very much but they can’t be together anymore. It’s not your fault, and you can still visit them in the past or hang out with cousin Mnemic. 

Arkaea and Strapping Young Factory now have joint custody of the industrial speed metal pocket genre. Which one is Daddy? Will either one rise to the Sabbath II position of step-band? We’ll have to wait for Mechanize in 2010 to judge Dino and Burt, and deal with Years in the Darkness first. 

Meh, it’s all right. Threat Signal with better drumming. Jon Howard can turn the harsh/clean on a dime, but that’s his only trick. There’s little variety or passion in the delivery or the timing. Opener “Locust” and the title track show definite chops but little spirit. I knew they were in trouble when I found myself concentrating on Raymond Herrera to the exclusion of all else; he’s drumming like a fiend, bashing the skins faster than ever in an attempt to go back in time and stop Transgression from happening. 

It may not be fair to pin Threat Signal’s failings on Arkaea, but, well, I am. I’ve always been waiting for TS to show me something better or take it to the next level, and if these guys can’t do it with Herrera’s help maybe they just can’t do it. I haven’t heard the new Divine Heresy yet, but I may owe them an apology. 

Years in the Darkness isn’t a bad record, it just has more value in its ability to add a curio to your complete Fear Factory collection than as a visceral listening experience. More consolation prize than side project. 6 out of 10

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