Release Date June 18, 2021
In an industry where recycling, regurgitation and musical graverobbing have run rampant for the better part of three decades, one band has kept an eye firmly on the future, via the distorting lens of the present. After a six year gap between albums – the longest and most controversial in their history – LA industrial metal titans Fear Factory finally deliver their latest in an impressive run of records dating back over a decade, an effort surrounded by rumour, drama, mystery and intrigue.
Fraught with legal battles, social media barbs, name changes and even controversy with former bandmates, one might expect this latest offering to lack the usual cohesion and precision that are Fear Factory’s stock in trade. Thankfully, this is far from the case.
The history of the album’s production and execution alone are noteworthy. The title was changed, drums were tracked then re-tracked via crowdfunding, then leading to scam allegations from singer Burton C. Bell, who eventually departed after 30 years as the only constant member of the futuristic metal pioneers. Luckily his vocal tracks remain, and serve as a fitting cybernetic swan song to three decades at the helm of the machine.
Storytelling has always been central to this group, each new LP being at least somewhat of a concept album, all tying into signature, larger themes. Here the story is one of a resistance, both as collective and individual, perhaps a metaphor of sorts for the tensions within and around the band over the last few years. Indeed their are lyrics throughout that could easily be interpreted as shots fired, and as such it adds a more human element to what ends up being one the band’s more relatable works, the turbulence of the art and artists mirroring that of society in recent times – a sonic grenade lobbed perfectly over the frontline, amidst the smoke and tear gas.
After the considerable debate and hyperbole surrounding this oft-delayed effort, it’s ironic that it ends up being the most immediate work FF have done in years. Packed with strong vocal hooks, pummeling rhythms and Dino Cazares’ strongest riff work in years, there is a level of catchiness here not seen since at least the early 2000’s, but unlike that era, the catchiness is in the heavier sections.
The centerpiece, numerically and musically, is the Mad Max-inspired brutality of Fuel Injected Suicide Machine, possessed of a relentlessness on par with the band’s finest work – indeed, probably their best song of the last decade. While complex dynamics abound throughout the record, Collapse revels in crushing simplicity, delivering blunt force trauma without wasting a movement, as heavy as anything the legendary outfit has offered in years.
Most songs follow the heavy verse/clean chorus format, which can admittedly be a bit repetitive after a while, and certainly the last couple tracks lose some of the considerable momentum built up over the rest of the record. Even so, this is perhaps the strongest offering from the band in some time, and it’s a shame this lineup isn’t moving forward with more material, though a new one apparently will. It’s hard to imagine Fear Factory without their only vocalist so far, one of metal’s most distinct voices, and a master of thematic and conceptual resonance.
Let this then be a fitting finale to that era, one that drowns our the bickering noise around it with clinical conviction and execution. From Recode all the way through to parting shot End Of Line, all the hallmarks are here, the full arsenal deployed to lethal, occasionally breathless effect.