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“Demanufacture”, the second Fear Factory album, is one that introduced a number of significant changes to the band’s formula. The rough edges that defined “Soul Of A New Machine” have been traded in for a pristine sound in both writing and production. Along with a new vocal style also comes a greater sense of accessibility and more reliance on groove. It was the debut for Belgian bass guitarist Christian Olde Wolbers, although he joined towards the completion of the recording sessions. His influence wouldn’t be truly felt until the successor to this album. “Demanufacture” was the album to introduce Fear Factory to a wider audience. It remains the band’s most widely publicized and its most enduring release. To this day it is the standard to which all things Fear Factory tend to be measured. Its legacy is one that even the band that wrote it wasn’t able to live up to.

fearfactBurton C. Bell abandons his perfunctory growls in favor of a harsh shout similar to Max Cavalera’s on the divisive “Chaos AD”. In 1993 the band parted ways with early bass guitarist Andrew Shives. Belgian lead guitarist Christian Olde Wolbers, who cut his teeth in local thrash metal mavens Cyclone and some years down the line with Liège-based outfit Asphyxia, would at a later stage supersede him. The latter outfit would later briefly become famous for lending out its drummer Da Cardoen temporarily to Belgian black metal unit Enthroned for the studio sessions of its second record. Olde Wolbers arrived at the tall end of the studio sessions, only having some minor input on the title track and ‘Pisschrist’, which has nothing to do with the famed 1987 Andres Serrano photograph, but instead is a spiritual reworking to the track of the same name from the then-unreleased “Concrete”/pre-“Soul Of A New Machine” sessions. The same rings true for ‘A Therapy For Pain’, which was a reworking of a song called ‘Echoes Of Innocence’. The opening riff of the original song was used as a synthesized motif in its new form. Dino Cazares played bass guitar during the “Demanufacture” recording, despite Christian Olde Wolbers being credited as bass guitarist in the production notes.

There’s a notable evolution in terms of composition and performance when compared and contrasted with “Soul Of A New Machine”. Each of the songs is written with a specific objective in mind, and the flow of the record is far better paced. Dino Cazares has found his definitive tone, and his rhythm-only staccato riffs form the backbone of each track. The mechanical riffs play in syncopation with the high-precision drumming, which occasionally almost sounds programmed due to the triggering. Where a good deal of the “Soul Of A New Machine” songs tended to meander aimlessly, each of these cuts don’t waste time in getting their intended point across. All the songs have been trimmed and honed into perfection making “Demanufacture” not only better paced but also more compact on the whole. What it lacks in grittiness it makes up in more focused songwriting, and a truly phenomenal production job that is hostile in its clinicness.

One of the other fundamental changes besides the more compact songwriting is the introduction of a cover song, and a ballad to conclude the album. “Obsolete” would be structured nearly identical as this record, and “Digimortal” would merely smooth out the production. In fact the drum production is often criticized for sounding too digital, although according to drummer Raymond Herrera this was mostly due to the triggering of his kit. The band’s sound has become more streamlined, with big choruses and emotive clean vocal parts. Fear Factory is still aggressive, but the music is clearly targeted at a groove metal audience instead of a death metal one. Seeing how Fear Factory was never very convincing as a death metal outfit this was perhaps a wise decision on their part. The piano melody that concludes ‘Zero Signal’ is a nice touch.

The cover song, a first for Fear Factory at this point, is one by UK noise rock band Head Of David. While it is a nice change of pace from the constant battering of the original material, it doesn’t help selling Bell’s cringeworthy clean vocals, although these are significantly more tolerable here than on the rest of the album. ‘A Therapy For Pain’, the band’s first atmospheric ballad, does away with most metal components outside of the bass guitar and drums, next to showcasing Bell’s limitations as a singer. Some of his softer chants are quite emotive and enjoyable, but his strained cleans are flat out terrible. ‘A Therapy For Pain’ ends with an extended ambient electronic section that is highly atmospheric. It is unfortunate that the band never explored this avenue further until fairly late in its career. As before all music was written by rhythm guitarist Dino Cazares and drummer Raymond Herrera, with Burton C. Bell writing all lyrics.

Two singles were released to help push the album, the signature track ‘Replica’ and the Head Of David cover ‘Dog Day Sunrise’. Promos videos were shot for ‘Replica’ and ‘Dog Day Sunrise’. Additionally, the song ‘Zero Signal’ was featured on the “Mortal Kombat” movie soundtrack along with other notable metal bands such as Napalm Death and Type O Negative. The music video for ‘Replica’ was an unlockable in the game “Test Drive 5”, and controversial racing game “Carmageddon” (itself inspired heavily by the 1970s Roger Corman exploitation romp “Death Race 2000”, directed by Paul Bartel) featured three Fear Factory songs with ‘Demanufacture’, ‘Zero Signal’ (minus the piano outro) and ‘Body Hammer’. An instrumental version of the titletrack was also featured in the game “Messiah”. The album was the subject of a re-mix by various techno/dance DJs in the form of “Remanufacture – Cloning Technology”. The remix album was more of a labor of love on the band’s part, as they had toyed with the idea earlier in their career, and “Remanufacture” is of little importance to the main part of the band’s discography. To date, it was the only album to receive such treatment. In fact there was so much remix material that part of it was released with the “Hatefiles” compilation during the band’s original breakup, that also led to the release of the canned “Concrete” sessions.

Similarly as with its debut “Soul Of A New Machine” Fear Factory initially worked with producer Colin Richardson. Originally slated to be recorded at an undisclosed studio location in Chicago the band reconvened at Bearsville Studios in Bearsville, New York when the booked facility wasn’t up to the required specifications for the sessions. During the sessions the band got noise complaints from the engineers of famed arena rockers Bon Jovi who were cutting their “These Days” album in one of the studio’s other rooms. Supposedly the loudness of the “Demanufacture” sessions was so severe that it was bleeding into Bon Jovi’s recordings. Producer Colin Richardson initially mixed “Demanufacture” but his guitar-centric mix was found to be unsatisfactory. Greg Reely, and Rhys Fulber were brought in to remix the entire album sessions amping up the electronic and synthetic elements in the process. Greg Reely and Rhys Fulber created the electronic sequences with additional input from Reynor Diego.

While the artwork of the previous album already tied into the man vs machine subject, the Dave McKean artwork that was commissioned for this outing is nothing short of fantastic. Symbolically representing man’s reliance on technology a human ribcage and spinal column are merged with a strip of barcode. Both have become inseparatable, and intrinsically linked with each other. Man’s reliance on technology will be his undoing. It is a powerful image that fits flawlessly with this being a concept album about man’s struggle against a machine-controlled government. That various atmospheric cues were taken from James Cameron’s “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” to introduce one or two songs fits the concept of the record rather well, and works wonders with the pristine but never sterile production. Aside from that there’s another reference to the Terminator mythos with the track ‘H-K (Hunter-Killer)’, which takes its name from the family of robotic aerial - and ground combat vehicles seen in the movie franchise.

“Demanufacture” is the key release of Fear Factory’s then-nascent career, and the standard to which all of the band’s later releases are measured. Its impact on the scene is undeniable, and its legacy is one that even the band that wrote it wasn’t able to live up to. The album spawned an entire subgenre, and a legion’s worth of imitators and copycats on both sides of the Atlantic. That the band made its one defining trait, Cazares’ rhythm-only staccato riffing, the center of its creative well is as much of a benefit as it is a detriment. All the songs are lively exercises filled to the brim with hunger and gusto, but the anemic riffing takes its toll especially towards the second half of the album. The limited riff palette in term forces Herrera, arguably the most talented member, into lukewarm patterns far below his skill – and technique level. Burton C. Bell’s clean singing, and some of the forced vocal lines that occur, would be better fitted for a more tranquil project. Despite all these reservations and critiques, it stands to reason that “Demanufacture” is considered a modern/groove metal classic for all the right reasons.

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The first Fear Factory album stands in stark contrast to the rest of its catalog. Mostly sounding as a groovier inclined version of Napalm Death circa “Utopia Banished” and “Harmony Corruption”, it is catchy and aggressive in equal measure. The dichotomy between extremity and mainstream accessibility is already present here. Yet on “Soul Of A New Machine” the rough edges are still present making it very different from the band’s later groove metal material. That Fear Factory was a one-trick pony is abundantly clear from the onset, although arguably this record is one of its more diverse offerings. That it is often ignored for its more readily accessible material only makes it more interesting, even though the record is horribly paced, and confused sounding.

Fear Factory was founded in 1989 in Los Angeles, California by Mexican transplant Dino Cazares (rhythm guitars) and noted video game fanatic Raymond Herrera (drums). The early version of the band was rounded by a trio of forgotten bassists, of which only Andrew Shives made it onto the production credits of the band’s debut, and frontman Burton C. Bell. Initially the band went under the more death metal sounding moniker Ulceration before switching to Fear the Factory, and not much later the abbreviated (and more memorable) Fear Factory in 1990. After an unsatisfactory demo recording session at Blackie Lawless’ Fort Apache Studio in Hollywood, California with producer Ross Robinson, the band relocated to a different studio with Colin Richardson overseeing the mix. Instrumental in getting the band its new record deal after Ross Robinson won the court case against his former clients was Brazilian national Max Cavalera (from South American genre hopefuls Sepultura), who brokered a contract for the band with Roadrunner Records, a label imprint that at this point was fully supporting the international death metal movement, only to acrimoniously abandon it a decade later.

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Even at its heaviest Fear Factory was a decidedly hook oriented outfit, which wasn’t uncommon for the style itself but lend itself for cross-genre appeal. It seems that for every heavy or blast section there’s a sugary clean section, or a stomping groove part. The duality between extremity and accessibility is what reduces the middle section of the record to a test of patience. The first three songs (and ‘Scumgrief’ a bit later) are exceptional in the way they combine clean vocal hooks with bludgeoning death metal. Even though Fear Factory was obviously commercially inclined with its thick grooves and (sometimes contrived) clean-harsh vocal dichotomy the band’s sound is only partially formed on its debut. The repetitive riffing, and mechanical rhythm sections are in place, but Dino Cazares’ staccato, rhythm-only playing is still shrouded in early UK/US death metal stylings and techniques. The album is notably bass-heavier than anything that would succeed it. The bass guitar has that thick, murky sound one associates with Napalm Death circa “Utopia Banished” and “Harmony Corruption”. The bass guitar itself is also integral to many of the songs as in various spots it gets a solo break, or two.

fear-factory1It is not until ‘Scumgrief’, and the instrumental percussion track ‘Natividad’, which was dedicated to the memory of Cazares’ mother, that the record picks up pace again. “Soul Of A New Machine” continues with a number of meddling, directionless and confused sounding cuts until at long last arriving at the final third of the tracklist. The last third of the album is the most conventionally death metal sounding, and the least adventurous in terms of composition. Deriving most of its sound from Napalm Death these cuts operate at a breakneck pace, and spent little time on nuance and subtlety. It is the kind of consistency that the rest of the record lacks. Had the entire middle half been left on the studiofloor, and recombined with the earlier mentioned four signature tracks (along with the instrumental interlude) of the record’s first third, it would have been far more concise and memorable in the long run. Now the album is just long with no payoff.

The album is supposedly a loosely conceptual record about man’s creation of a machine that either could be technological, or governmental. The lyrics haven’t yet zoned in on and fleshed out the man vs machine concept that would come to define the band’s prime era material, although the rough outlines are already accounted for. There are variety of subjects tackled on this album including personal relationships (‘Martyr’, ‘Leechmaster’, ‘Scumgrief’), introspection (‘W.O.E.’), animal lab testings (‘Crash Test’), socio-political dismay (‘Arise Above Oppression’, ‘Escape Confusion’, ‘Manipulation’), global conflict (‘Crisis’), faults of the criminal justice system (‘Scapegoat’, ‘Flesh Hold’) and religious hypocrisy (‘Lifeblind’, ‘Big God/Raped Souls’, ‘Self Immolation’). The industrial component of the band’s sound comes mostly from the mechanical rhythms, and the usage of samples (including “Full Metal Jacket”, “Blade Runner” and “Apocalypse Now”) along with the sparse use of studio effects. Much of it reads like a work-in-progress.

Burton C. Bell’s hoarse grunt is a commendable Mark ‘Barney’ Greenway approximation, but his clean vocals are terrible at best – even though the combination of both was novel at the time, and would later be famously adopted by Robb Flynn (Machine Head) and the metalcore scene at large. Being the last of its kind Bell would trade in his grunt for a harsh shout, and he would increasingly put more focus on the clean vocal hooks that first surfaced here. In totality this is Fear Factory’s most aggressive, and heavy release – and it is the culmination of its first phase after the aborted “Concrete” sessions of which the majority of material (albeit rewritten) is lifted. The core trio is in its designated place, yet the bass guitarist slot had yet to be permanently manned. Due to this rhythm guitarist Dino Cazares played bass guitar during the recording, despite Andrew Shives being credited as bass guitarist in the production notes. Andrew Shives was a glorified live member at best, as he doesn’t appear to have had any significant input in the writing of any of these songs, all of which were written by the Cazares-Herrera axis.

“Soul Of A New Machine” was recorded at Grand Master in Hollywood, California with producer Colin Richardson manning the console. It is a rather typical production for the time with thick, crunchy guitars, murky reverb-laden bass guitar tones and an earthy drum production that squarely focuses on bottom-end heaviness. For its debut the band worked with graphic designer Karl Kotas. “Soul Of A New Machine” is dedicated to the memory of Dino Cazares’ parents. In totality “Soul Of A New Machine” is a worthwhile effort for a young band still finding its sound and identity. It certainly isn’t the best of its kind (Napalm Death just did this sound earlier, and well, better), and it is a pity the band didn’t explore this direction on future output. Given some trimming, and more focus Fear Factory could have been an interesting death metal band. Afterwards the band would opt for a direction change while keeping its base elements in place. At least Fear Factory would be able to write its signature album, and a worthy follow-up. Its career path afterward is somewhat bumpy due to industry pressure, interpersonal conflicts and the want to recapture a thing that wasn’t exactly stellar to begin with.