FEAR FACTORY: Mechanize (2010)

–FEAR FACTORY: Mechanize (2010)

“Slave to the industry, faceless in the machine

You do not realize you’re dehumanized

You cannot survive, unless you comply

I built it to break it down

We become mechanized”

Fear Factory’s vision of humanity is bleak. It always has been. As long as human society remains broken, rife with corporate and governmental corruption, rampant immorality, pandemic disease, religious superstition, and blind fear superseding individuality, Los Angeles, California modern thrash monsters Fear Factory always will have something to protest. In the past, the lyrics of Burton C. Bell, Dino Cazares and co. have highlighted the tenuous relationship between man and machine, a Terminator-like sci-fi scenario in which the technology eventually overpowers and dominates its creator. Now, Fear Factory circa 2010 needs no dark imaginative visions to fuel their industrial metal machine. All they require is real life.

The recently-reconfigured Fear Factory have taken this newfound inspiration to unparalleled heights on Mechanize. This, the band’s the band’s seventh full-length release, and the first since co-founding guitarist Cazares rejoined the fold in 2009, is a triumph of decimating proportions. Mechanize may just be FF’s most brutal release since 1998’s Obsolete, with the ultra-precise technical rhythmic crunch on prime display. But it’s also a truly balanced piece of work, and that sonic equilibrium creates a stunningly memorable listen. As with all of FF’s material, Mechanize alternates Cazares’ heavy thrash riffs and Bell’s aggressive shouting vocals with melodic choruses and haunting clean singing. They were among the first bands to juxtapose the ultra-brutality with sublime melodicism, and Mechanize might be their crown jewel.

Alongside Bell and Cazares, FF retained bassist Byron Stroud from their previous two CDs (2004’s Archetype and 2005’s Transgression) and are joined by ex-Death drummer Gene Hoglan. Former drummer Raymond Herrera and ex-bassist-turned-guitarist Christian Olde Wolbers have gone on to form their own group, and they dispute the legitimacy of this current FF lineup amid conflicting reports from both camps. No matter, Mechanize sounds like Fear Factory, the lyrics read like Fear Factory and the record destroys just like Fear Factory albums always have. The musicianship on display is top-notched too, with the double-bass-driven, machine gun blast of a rhythm section offering no audible step down from the original Herrera/Wolbers lineup. Production-wise, this is one clear, powerful and crunchy mother, sort of like standing directly in front of a wall of P.A. speakers without hearing protection. The synthesized industrial-type sound effects are still present in small doses also, infusing the sound with a futuristic effect not unlike a mechanical monster.

Still, the songs are the most important thing, and Mechanize delivers some of the greatest pieces of music in FF’s 21-year career in metal. FF consistently and brilliantly alternate between mechanically-precise heaviness and speed with divine melodies in the infectious choruses. Words do not come close to doing the songs any justice at all, and every song’s a bonafied winner, so I won’t bother delving into a song-by-song rundown. But let’s just say that if you’re having some hard times, if you need an motivational and exhilarating soundtrack to a frustrating life, or if you just want to hear a crushing metal album that kicks arse and takes names, look no further than Mechanize.

Oh yeah, if there’s a more moving, gorgeous and eerie metal ballad in existence than “Final Exit,” I will eat this review (as long as Fear Factory is still blasting in my ear drums.)

P.S. The deluxe dig pack CD edition also features “Crash Test” as a bonus track, and the band’s 1991 three-song demo.–Jonathan Kollnot

–Tracklisting: 1.) Mechanize 2. Industrial Discipline 3.) Fear Campaign 4.) Powershifter 5.) Christploitation 6.) Oxidizer 7.) Controlled Demolition 8.) Designing the Enemy 9.) Metallic Division 10.) Final Exit 11.) Crash Test (bonus) 12. Big God (bonus) 13. Self Immolation (bonus) 14.) Soul Wound (bonus)

“Contemplate your last breath

As you see the face of death

Contemplate your last breath

Breath, slowly breath

Goodbye”– Fear Factory, “Final Exit”

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~ by jonnyboyrocker on July 2, 2010.

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