(Nuclear Blast Records)
I‘ll be the first to admit that my initial experience with Industrial Metal pioneers Fear Factory was less than satisfying. Having inadvertently received a copy of Demanufacture (1995) via the now-defunct BMG Music Service (courtesy of my failure to return the ‘Selection Of The Month’ card), I found myself confused and perhaps even mortified by their mechanized auditory assault. Despite this, I was soon able to set aside my more-than-considerable misgivings and, with the release of Remanufacture (1997) and, to a lesser extent, Obsolete (1998), wholeheartedly embraced them. As I’m sure you have already deduced, this would lead to the start of what has become a long and unnervingly obsessive exploration. Now, over twenty-five years later, with the release of the long-overdue (i.e., their first all-new release in over half a decade) Aggression Continuum, their latest–and quite possibly greatest–offering to date, the group seems destined for the career resurgence they so rightfully deserve.
On the brilliant Aggression Continuum (2021), an expertly assembled ten song collection of Industrial and Thrash-infused Heavy Metal, each track, beginning with the relentlessly pummeling, orchestra-laden “Recode” and the menacing first single “Disruptor” (view the NSFW Riivata Visuals video here) immediately commands the rapt and undivided attention of even the most jaded and unimaginative of listeners. Undoubtedly attempting to capitalize on the momentum initiated with the release of the woefully-underrated The Industrialist (2012) and Genexus (2015), the group fires on all cylinders early and often, forever silencing those doubtful of their ability to forge ahead after such a prolonged and tumultuous absence. The resulting initial sonic excursions, while not necessarily groundbreaking and certainly far from revolutionary, find the oddly resilient quartet operating amid what can only be described as a creative renaissance that serves as an ideal showcase of their inevitable re-birth.
Continuing with the relentlessly pummeling–albeit oft-thought-provoking–“Fuel Injected Suicide Machine” and the thunderous, barbed melodicisms of “Manufactured Hope”, the newly-rejuvenated combination of now ex-vocalist/lyricist Burton C. Bell, guitarist Dino Cazares, Ministry, Prong and Static-X bassist Tony Campos (while listed as a member, Cazares again handled all bass duties) and drummer Mike Heller steamroll ahead like the well-oiled machine they’ve so obviously become. Driving home each key focal point via a seamless, multi-dimensional barrage of the soaring vocals, razor-sharp fretwork and imaginatively punishing rhythms that have personified their finest moments, the group wastes little–if any–time re-establishing themselves as a bona fide creative and commercial force. Simultaneously reminiscent of the most abrasive and commercially accessible offerings of their chronologies while remaining starkly unique, making this a potential career-defining occasion.
Produced and Engineered by Damien Rainaud and Mixed by the legendary Andy Sneap (Killswitch Engage, Megadeth, Trivium), other standouts, including the blistering–yet hook-laden–lament “Cognitive Dissonance” and the eerily prophetic, highly-effective closer “End Of Line”, ultimately serve as a much-welcomed reminder of the improbably long-running group’s continued potency. Having at last re-emerged from a not-necessarily self-imposed exile, the group now appears even leaner and meaner than ever before, a factor that makes their return even more satisfying to those that have been so patiently waiting. Undeniably their finest post-Archetype (2004) offering to date, what separates the delightfully over-the-top Aggression Continuum from it’s well-heeled predecessors (the previously-mentioned Demanufacture and, to a lesser extent, their Candlelight Records swan song The Industrialist, 2012) is an impossibly long-overdue return to pristine brutality of their prototypical past.
But what can you really expect? Even more of the Fear Factory you already presumably know and love. An absolute must-have for any genuine and sincere Fear Factory enthusiast, the majority–if not all–of the relentlessly pummeling wares contained herein only reinforce their already well-deserved reputation as bona fide pioneers of the genre. Even if you somehow find yourself less than enthralled with the departure of the seemingly irreplaceable Bell (particularly when a replacement, touring or otherwise, has yet to be announced), one must, at the very least, sincerely admire the group’s undeniably ceaseless dedication to boldly forging ahead despite the most dire of circumstances. Needless to say, if you’ve once again found yourself in search of an authentically brutal alternative alternative to the insipid Pop and Hip Hop drivel that is so often force fed en mass, then this, my friends, might just be the high-octane salves for what it is that ails you. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.