Fear Factory was pretty revolutionary back in their beginnings. Soul of a New Machine had a sound that was fresh, unusual, even disturbing. That heavy, quasi-industrial sound, those staccato riffs and the mix of death vocals with haunting, clean choruses made quite an impression on me and many of my friends. There was something catchy but threatening in the way the album felt and I was drawn back to it again and again for years. Demanufacture was also impressive and took their sound into interesting new spaces. Despite my love of those albums, I totally lost interest in them by the time the ironically titled Obsolete came around. I just had no further headspace for their style and sound. Reflecting back over the years, I’ve come to believe they were partly to blame for the rise of metalcore and deathcore. I don’t hold it against them though, and I still look back on the early albums fondly. Now we get The Industrialist, the second album with the original team of Burton C. Bell and Dino Cazares reunited. Before even getting into the music or merits thereof, I want to point out that, for whatever arcane and mysterious reason, drum demigod Gene Hoglan has been replaced with a drum machine. That’s akin to replacing filet mignon with horse shit, and while the reasons behind that decision are unclear, it’s not a positive development by any stretch. Musically, there are no surprises and The Industrialist sounds like old Fear Factory. While that’s a good thing, it’s also boring and has a feeling of “been there, heard that, got the shirt.” It’s isn’t putrid but it isn’t good either, just somewhere in that grey zone of meh.
With the title track, comes the familiar, comforting sound of the Demanufacture era. It could have been slotted right in next to such classics as “Zero Signal” and “New Breed.” It’s nothing new but it’s a ripping, heavy song and Dino and Bell sound as good as always. The same can be said for “Recharger,” “New Messiah” and “Virus of Faith,” which all sport essentially solid (if not overly typical) riffing and fairly catchy, clean choruses by Bell. All remind me why I liked Fear Factory back in the day.
Unfortunately, they can’t keep that level of material going and the rest of The Industrialist suffers a significant drop off. Tracks like “God Eater” and “Different Engine” have good ideas, but get bogged down in too much generic, mechanical riffing and unimpressive shouting. Numbers like “Depraved Mind Murder” and “Dissemble” don’t have as many good ideas, and “Human Augmentation” is nine minutes of pointless techno/ambient noise, with no metal to be had whatsoever.
In some ways, this feels like an incomplete and rushed affair. More than half the material feels undercooked and incomplete. What really drags things down is the rote, predictable, zero-variation riffing Dino is known for. It’s one of the reasons I ended up losing interest in Fear Factory and the same problem presents itself here. Bell sounds fine at times and his singing is the same as ever, but his death roars often feel watered down, weak and uninspired. Add to that, the dumping of Hoglan for a computer, and things just don’t come together well. While this is a concept album described in the press release as a “futuristic tale of an automaton, striving to survive by fighting for its existence within a desperate world,” the lyrics didn’t enhance my enjoyment of the lackluster songs comprising over half the material. They should have called it I, Borebot.
Parts of The Industrialist are respectable, but I was hoping for more and doubt I’ll be returning to this much in the future, if at all. For hardcore Fear Factory fans, something is better than nothing, so add a point. For the rest of us, it’s probably better to just revisit their early stuff and enjoy the glory days of a sound that really didn’t age well.