||SCOTT ADAMS: TERROR AUSTRALIS
Release date: August 7th 2015
I remember standing in the wings onstage at Castle Donington's famed Monsters of Rock festival in 1996, watching Fear Factory opening up proceedings in front of 50,000 headbangers and feeling genuinely excited.
Not just experiencing the frisson of experiencing one of your favourite bands in the flesh you understand, but in the grip of a genuine feeling that what I was watching, as the band thundered through a faultless version of 'Self Bias Resistor', was a glimpse of the future of Heavy Metal.
Fast forward twenty years and Fear Factory are still going strong it would seem. The first track of their newest effort, 'Genexus', 'Autonomous Combat System', is a glorious look back to the band's halcyon mid-nineties heyday. It's construction, execution and concept all wreak of 1995s 'Demanufacture' opus, and to these ears at least that's a splendid thing.
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Indeed perhaps the best calling card 'Genexus' can offer is that it's the band's most 'Demanufacturish' album since 'Demanufacture'; 'Anodized' carries the classic template too – thrashing opening, gruff Burton C Bell vocals building to ethereal, clean-sung earworm refrain come chorus time... you know the drill.
And that's the problem. Fear Factory in 2015 seem to have bypassed their own self-reference resistor, content to hammer out the same old rigidly-formatted sturm und drang with little real attempt at updating or upgrading their weapons systems. What was once a glimpse into the future is now a rather quaint, welcome blast of nostalgia for the ears, and though 'Genexus' is never less than a pleasant listen, it must surely only appeal to those for whom Fear Factory are an already established listening highlight.
'Dielectric' features one of the best choruses on the album, bringing to mind the mighty 'Resurrection' from 1998s 'Resurrection'; Bell is at his most connected here, really driving the song along with a fine performance, and this song is proof enough that there's life in the old dog yet; Elsewhere 'Expiration Date' continues the band's now traditional thread of ending with an epically-lengthed ode to death. It's not quite up there with their magnum opus of songs of this type, 'Final Exit 9' from 2010s 'Mechanize'), but it'll do in the circumstances.
'Soul Hacker' is more lightweight, even going so far as to feature a short guitar solo from Dino Cazares, whilst 'Protomech' rattles along in rousing style, but beyond that... Really I could write the same description for every one of the songs on the album that I haven't already mentioned.
'Genexus' is a strong Fear Factory album, but as the band becomes less of a standout in the general background noise of modern-day Metal you get the feeling that they need something just a little more than that to really standout. This is less about forging a new future, more about clinging on to what's already been achieved.
More Scott Adams right here.