Sound — 8
Fear Factory formed in 1989, with their first album, "Soul of a New Machine," releasing in 1992. They personally caught my attention, as well as the attention of huge segments of the metal community, with the release of their second album - "Demanufacture." The band was extremely successful during this era, and essentially coasted for the next few album releases - solid work, but nothing really raising the bar. Things started to fall apart with tensions between Dino Cazares and the rest of the band in 2002, resulting in a brief split of the band. Soon, Christian Olde Wolbers and Raymond Herrera got together and recruited Burton C. Bell back to the band, but did not bring Cazares back into the fold. Byron Stroud of SYL was brought in to replace Cazares on guitars. The band went on to release "Archetype" and "Transgression" without Cazares, but Bell reconciled with Cazares while Fear Factory had been on hiatus. They announced themselves as Fear Factory, but stated that Wolbers and Herrera were no longer members of the band. This led to some media drama as each camp claimed they were the "true" Fear Factory. Soon Cazares and Bell were releasing new material and touring as Fear Factory, which ultimately decided the issue. Byron Stroud stayed on bass with the band to record "Mechanize" and "The Industrialist," though Stroud left citing personal issues while Cazares made statements to the media criticizing Stroud's ability to perform the bass parts of some of the new material. Drummer, Gene Hoglan, left the band shortly thereafter, claiming he wasn't allowed to be part of "The Industrialist." They brought Mike Heller in to replace Hoglan on drums.
Cazares and Bell began recording "Genexus" in late 2014, with Cazares recording both bass and guitars and Bell on vocals. The drumming is primarily programmed, though Heller did play a few of the songs in the studio for the album, to give some songs a more "live" feel. Deen Castronovo has also been credited with some of the drums on the album. Tony Campos of Soulfly and Static-X was announced as the new bassist during the recording of "Genexus," but it isn't clear if he took part in the writing or recording - Cazares has claimed credit for writing/recording both the guitar and bass parts for the music at this point. The album has 10 tracks with an approximate runtime for the album of 48 minutes. There have been no official singles from the album, though the band has released lyric videos for the tracks "Soul Hacker," "ProtoMech," and "Dielectric." If you haven't guessed by the song titles, the band is back on the kick with their "man vs. machine" or "man turns into machine" imagery and concept. The album will be mixed by Andy Sneap, and, of course, will be produced by Rhys Fulber.
The album opens with "Autonomous Combat System," which is a fairly good representative track of the album, though it is a little slow to get started. "Anodized" is the second track from the album, with some seriously dialed in drumming and a mix of screamed and soaring, clean vocals. Cazares has a knack for putting together engaging guitar riffs that lock in with the drumming perfectly. "Dielectric" starts out with a little synthesizer-produced melody, which is soon joined by a slightly overdone guitar riff. The vocals are, once again, a mix of clean and screamed vocals - which is pretty much standard for the band. "Soul Hacker" has a pretty strong opening with the line "You'll never take my SOUL!" morphing into a very groove metal type of song with a slow tempo that kind of churns in a pleasant way. "ProtoMech" has a little bit more of a modern feel to it - it doesn't sound metalcore, but when I hear it I keep picturing a metalcore guy with skinny jeans and hair in his eyes screaming into a mic, while rocking a backwards baseball cap. Next up is the title track, "Genexus," which opens up with some fast gallop-style riffing going on while synched up with (almost certainly) programmed drums. Bell's vocal style works really well on this track, making it one of the stronger tracks by my estimation. "Church of Execution" has a slow build up, but manages to sound really catchy without trying too hard. "Regenerate" has some interesting interplay going on between the guitar riffing and the synth/keyboards - and has an almost major key feel to it - at least during the intro and choruses. "Battle for Utopia" opens up with some intense drumming and keyboard/synth and some lightning fast galloping or triplet rhythms on guitar - the lyrics come in with an interesting cadence that does a lot for giving this track its identity. The album closes out with the track, "Expiration Date," which is by far the longest track from the album at over 8 minutes. It has an awesome intro with some crazy fuzz-laden melodies on top of some keyboard and vocals and drums straight from some weird, dark, new wave purgatory.
Lyrics — 8
Burton C. Bell provides the vocals on the album, and is the only member who has stayed through the long haul and is included on every single album. Bell seems to be defying the odds and actually recovering some of his vocal range he had previously seemed to have lost with age. Bell has perfected, over the past 25 years or so, execution of his particular vocal stylings - which primarily includes a great clean vocal, and a good screamed vocal that isn't quite a growl. There are no complaints from me in this department. The lyrical content was pretty satisfying as well, as I've always enjoyed the lyrics revolving around man vs. machine, or man becoming machine - or maybe just man's relationship with technology and making sense of it. Here are some samples of the lyrics from the track "Soul Hacker": "The next generation in synchronization/ devoid and astray/ Burned and defenseless against the relentless hacking machine/ We're disconnected as one, soulless nation/ We're disconnected as one, devastation/ No soul/ gotta have all control, before I break/ No soul/ You'll never take my control, I dominate/ Contamination, severe violation of all that I see/ Breaking down defenses, devouring access, decoding their dreams."
Overall Impression — 7
I can't help but feel nostalgic about the "good ole days" of listening to "Demanufacture" on cassette, the band was still all the original dudes and they were getting along as far as I knew. That being said, Cazares and Bell are outstanding together, and the new guys seem to be doing a passably good job. My favorite tracks from the album are "Autonomous Combat System," "Soul Hacker," "Church of Execution" and "Expiration Date." The last one only because I'm a sucker for new wave sounding sh-t - especially when it is a little bit creepy. This isn't the band's best work ever, but it is really solid and worth a listen.