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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Fanfare For the Thinking Automaton

Fear Factory - The Industrialist
2012 Candlelight Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Let me say this about Fear Factory:  there is perhaps no more exhilirating band you can crank down a lonely stretch of highway at 4:00 a.m.  The seismic flush Fear Factory has always projected in their massive history is served best through wide-open channels where nothing impedes the portals to their grinding digi-euphoria.  To slip on a Fear Factory album is a commitment to hyperspeed, thus an open road is your best friend with these guys weaving triplicate-happy mechanized mayhem amidst empty double lanes.

Empircally proven by this writer between two ultra-early morning drives with Fear Factory's 1995 mechanized opus Demanufacture and followed by their latest offering, The Industrialist, there can be no doubt a giddy co-habitation exists between four-wheeled horsepower and four-stationed tech metal hydraulics.

Dino Cazares is back in the Fear fold alongside mainstay growler Burton C. Bell.  That's the main headline to The Industrialist aside from this album being a full-fledged concept album about artificial intelligence taking over an unjust world it has judged and sentenced from its advanced microprocessors.  Of course, there's a familiar charge and grandiosity lending textural grace to the smartbomb messiah Bell and Cazares wind to life for Fear Factory's eighth album.

 The Industrialist is a strict hearken back to Demanufacture and Obsolete.  Period.  The title song, "Recharger," "Virus of Faith," "Depraved Mind Murder" and "New Messiah" all slip into retro-minded shredfests which immediately put their longer-term fan base into a happy place.  On "God Eater," however, there's a tread into the less quickened arena of Digimortal.  Yes, Fear Factory's more recent albums Archetype, Transgression and Mechanize have steadily brought the band back into the good graces of the metal community, yet The Industrialist makes no pretentions that tried and true wins the day.

While Fear Factory has now stood to be judged on the merits of only two original members coming into The Industrialist, Christian Olde Wolbers and Raymond Herrera must be puzzled how their replacements Byron Stroud and Gene Hoglan have been so effectively assimilated into Fear Factory.  It's not unfair to consider the latter constituents as replicants, or at least proficient blade running shredders who convincingly play into Bell and Cazares' hefty mathematic schisms.  Thus The Industrialist becomes a snug fit amongst the band's vintage catalog.  This album is escalated by the smartness of its primary principals and their willingness to give the headbanging core that supported this group when they busted into the first Mortal Kombat film precisely what it wants.

Granted, this is not doing much to move Fear Factory forward, considering they were once viewed as the most progressive metal act in the land.  The Industrialist settles more for crowd-pleasing than actual evolution.  Worse, the laborious coldwave-gusting finale stretching out of the prolonged outro of "Religion is Flawed Because Man is Flawed"  into "Human Augmentation" ends up being a bit of a downer after so much galvanized fun beforehand.  Artistically-speaking, you get what Bell and Cazares are up to by having their robotic muse methodically overthrow homo superior, but it's far too reserved, morose and uninteresting to leave a proper impact.

Prior to this hapless slow plunge into a dystopic hellhole, at least Fear Factory pounds, maims and ejects as fastidiously as they ever have.  Entertaining for the most part, breathtaking in portions, The Industrialist is a somewhat satisfying, mostly cautious return to the real which will appeal to many, if not all. 

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