Demanufacture got me through my senior year of high school. 1995 was an absolutely shit year personally, but it was incredible when it came to music. As a burgeoning teen metalhead, I was stuck between three worlds: the moshability of hardcore, the relentless speed and savagery of death metal, and the morose, downtrodden danciness of goth music. Even my fashion sense reflected that (scraggly but long goatee, bald head, Carcass‘s Heartwork t-shirt, leather pants). So when Fear Factory released Demanufacture, a concept album based on a man’s struggle against a machine-operated government, I didn’t expect to be blown away as much as I was as an impressionable youth back then. Needless to say, it’s held up remarkably well, and is still heralded as an absolute classic in the world of metal.
From the opening mechanical noises, Raymond Herrera’s laser-precise double-bass, and Dino Cazare’s vice-grip tight riffing, the title track barrels forth relentlessly with equal parts thrash precision and steamroller-level heaviness. But immediately, you realize Burton C. Bell’s vocal game changed significantly from their 1992 debut, Soul of a New Machine. Gone are the goofy death growls of “WHAT… A THOUGHT… WAS LAAAAAAARF…” (thank you, Tyranny of Tradition‘s Facebook Page, because I can never unhear that now), Bell adopted a more hardcore approach, and it fits without being any less visceral. When he spits out “I’ve got no more goddamn regrets/I’ve got no more goddamn respect,” there’s no dispute that he’s out for blood.
The entire album just bleeds rage and dissidence. Newcomer Christian Olde Wolbers did a damn good job laying down the back end on bass, as his presence is felt everywhere on here, matching perfectly with both Herrera’s frenetic double-bass attack and Cazare’s surgically precise riffs. “Replica” and “New Breed,” two of the slower numbers, were given added heft due to his playing. Still, Bell’s Good Robocop/Bad Robocop vocals elevated this album to levels unattainable to most mere mortals, including Fear Factory themselves. His Gothic Fields of the Nephilim-inspired cleans were dreamlike yet commanding, especially the closing half of “Pisschrist,” when he sounds like an angel assessing the damage left on our ravaged earth. But it’s their lynch-pin moment, the utterly uncompromising “Self-Bias Resistor,” where everything falls into place beautifully. The throttling drums, the machine-gun fire of Cazares and Wolbers, and the utterly trance-like, rage-inducing clean choral harmony at the end… face it, if you ain’t moving, you are dead. This was my anthem for many, many years and with good reason. It holds up so damn well, it’s downright remarkable.
The Rhys Fulber (Frontline Assembly, Delerium) production was just as cold and calculating as the music behind it. Mechanical, unforgiving, and quite inhuman, Demanufacture was the perfect marriage of hardcore rage, metallic savagery, and Gothic beauty. The album art reflected the dying of humanity against such an unfeeling mechanized regime, right down the the font used for the lyrics and album notes. Hell, even the band photo was incredibly bad-ass. I wanted to be Burton C. Bell when I was nineteen!
So folks, Fear Factory may not have reached the heights they deserved with the release of Demanufacture, but they left quite the impressive steel-toed boot print in the history of our favorite music genre. And while bands like Anaal Nathrakh have taken the unfeeling mechanical rage and dual vocal savagery to levels beyond human comprehension, Demanufacture no less deserves its spot in our hallowed Yer Metal is Olde! halls. Brutal, essential, influential, and life-affirming.