Sound — 9
In 2002, portly guitarist Dino Cazares left Fear Factory. The band briefly broke up, only to reform sans Cazares, with bassist Christian Olde Wolbers taking over on guitar. Fear Factory, arguably one of the most over-achieving, extreme bands in metal, thanks to their cyber metal/industrial blend, released two albums with that lineup, and while Archetype and Transgression were quality albums, they weren't definitive, with the former being a bit more memorable than the latter. With Cazares gone, the band's profile and album sales fell. While that's also indicative of an ever-shifting music industry in the digital age, Fear Factory were not what they once were. Fast-forward to 2010: Olde Wolbers and Herrera, whose ammunition-like drumming is the backbone and hallmark of the band's sound, are out. Cazares is in. Indeed, Mechanize is more like 1998's Obsolete than any of the non-Cazares albums, so his songwriting influence is certainly felt upon his return. It's intense and, well, mechanized, with machine-like riffs that feel like bullets being popped off. It also keeps the Fear Factory tradition of futuristic metal alive; but in 2010, this style isn't quite so 21st century. It does sound a wee bit dated, but if your Fear Factory fandom runs so deep that it reached marrow, then the title track, Fear Campaign' and Christploitation' will remind you of classics like Pisschrist and Edgecrusher. The music manages to have that industrial sound without ever coming across as sterile or too cold. That was always Fear Factory's best trait and it's no different here on Mechanize. It is worth noting that the heat generated by Herrera's almost inhuman drumming is missed.
Lyrics — 7
Burton C. Bell barks with lungs and power that could rival any young turk half his age. He hasn't slowed down with age and it's not like he's struggling and croaking out his words. That could be a result of studio treatment, but he's surely robust. His melodic croon, which helped set Fear Factory about from other extreme bands and lent them an element of accessibility, is still here, as well, although not in as much abundance as his growling. Given the way Cazare's riffs mesh with Bell's singing, it's clear that Fear Factory work better with Cazares in the band than without. The lyrics follow the band's tradition of man vs. machine through and through; the sci-fi bend is still here.
Overall Impression — 8
Bell and Cazares demonstrate that there is still plenty of room left on the Fear Factory hard drive with Mechanize. It would be wonderful and please the fans to have Herrera and Olde Wolbers return to the fold, because imagine what a powerhouse they would or could be if reunited in full. No one is really talking about why Herrera and Olde Wolbers left and Cazares came back and if one caused the other. How that metallic drama unfolds remains to be seen, but if you have never moved on from Fear Factory's sound, which peaked in 1999-2000, then Mechanize will transport you to where you need to be.