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Sunday Old School: Fear Factory

Photo of Fear Factory

Band Photo: Fear Factory (?)

It has been well documented that the nineties were not particularly kind to heavy metal. Many bands from the once popular thrash era such as Death Angel and Vio-Lence, disbanded before the decade reached the half way point and others such as Megadeth and Anthrax kept their name alive by changing their style. Of course, there a few metal bands who were able to defy critics, trends and commercial pressures and become stars of their time such as Pantera, Machine Head and Sepultura, as well today’s featured band, Fear Factory.

The group began life under the name, Ulceration in 1989, though they adopted their now familiar moniker the year after, following the more extreme style that they had taken on, culminating in a mix of death metal, grindcore and industrial influences, particularly Godflesh. The band, whose official lineup consisted of drummer Raymond Herrera, singer Burton C. Bell and guitarist, Dino Cazares, performed their first show on Halloween in 1990 and soon afterwards recorded a demo album, "Concrete," which saw Cazares handle both guitar and bass duties. The band were unhappy with the result but producer Ross Robinson saw no problem, leading to a lawsuit which saw Robinson retain the rights to the album, with Fear Factory keeping the rights to their songs, many of which they re-recorded with Colin Richardson for their official debut, "Soul of a New Machine."

"Soul of a New Machine," was released in 1991 through Roadrunner Records, after Max Cavalera recommended the band to them based on the "Concrete" recording. Although death metal bands were doing relatively well at the time, Fear Factory set themselves apart and arguably showed commercial potential with their industrial elements and Bell’s mix of death growls and clean singing, which though common now, was quite revolutionary at the time. The album was success amongst the metal community and their reputation as something new allowed them to tour extensively with the likes of Brutal Truth, Sick Of It All, Cathedral and Cannibal Corpse amongst others, as well as releasing a remix EP, "Fear is the Mindkiller" in 1993.

It was also in this year that the band hired bass player, Christian Olde Wolbers of Belgium, who they were introduced to by Biohazard frontman, Evan Seinfeld. However, he was recruited after most of the music was recorded for their sophomore album and so Wolbers only featured slightly on the end result, which has become one of, if not the most popular Fear Factory album of their career, named "Demanufacture." Colin Richardson returned as a producer, along with Rhys Fulber, who also contributed some keyboard work to the record, a key part in making the album so popular, according to some fans. The record spawned Fear Factory’s first music video, "Replica," which was featured in the Playstation game, Test Drive 5, while the song, "Zero Signal" appeared on the popular Mortal Kombat soundtrack, along with the likes of Napalm Death and Type O Negative.

The success of the album allowed them to tour with bigger acts such as Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden, as well as releasing another remix album, "Remanufacture – Cloning Technology," which saw the band appear on the Billboard 200 charts for the first time, before a third album, "Obsolete," was released in 1998. It continued where "Demanufacture" left off, adding some progressive and alternative elements to the music, in addition to being the band’s first concept album, detailing on the theme of man against machine, which they had touched on previously. Several songs on the album such as "Edgecrusher" and "Smasher/Devourer" were named after characters in the story while the title comes from the idea of technology rendering humanity useless. To date, "Obsolete" is Fear Factory’s biggest selling album, peaking at number 77 on the Billboard charts and allowing them to embark on a headline tour with up and coming groups such as System of a Down and Spineshank, the latter having secured a record deal with Roadrunner thanks to Dino Cazares, as well as headlining the second stage of Ozzfest after Judas Priest pulled out.

"Obsolete" was re-released in 1999 with five bonus tracks, the most notable being a cover of "Cars" by Gary Numan, who contributed vocals to this rendition as well as the album’s title track. The song became a radio hit and Roadrunner were eager for Fear Factory to record more commercially acceptable music, resulting in the 2001 album, "Digimortal." The album received a backlash from longtime fans, who felt the band were selling out and treading into nu metal territory, though there are other fans who feel it was a natural progression for the group. Whatever the case, the album was able to reach number 32 on the Billboard chart, though it didn’t sell as well as "Obsolete" and the band received little in the way of tour support, though they were able to hit the road in a co-headlining trek with Machine Head, as well as appearing on the Smoke Out tour with rap artists, Cypress Hill (whose lead rapper, B Real appeared on the "Digimortal" track, "Back the Fuck Up,") Busta Rhymes and Method Man.

During this time, Cazares fell out with the rest of the band, leading Bell to quit, with Fear Factory announcing their dissolution almost immediately after. Though Bell formed a new band, Ascension of the Watchers, he was soon coaxed into reforming Fear Factory after hearing the music that Wolbers and Herrera had been working on, completing the lineup by recruiting Strapping Young Lad bassist, Byron Stroud, with Wolbers switching to guitar. This lineup made their live debut as the surprise band at Australia’s, Big Day Out festival, before heading home to the US to perform shows with Slipknot and Chimaira, before releasing their fifth official album, "Archetype" through Liquid 8 Records. It reached number 30 on the Billboard charts and received a much stronger reception from fans and critics alike, as well as spawning successful singles such as "Cyberwaste" and "Bite the Hand that Bleeds," which featured on the soundtrack from the original Saw movie.

The group wasted little time following, "Archetype," as a sixth album, "Transgression," was released only sixteen months after its predecessor, just in time before the band embarked upon the inaugural Gigantour with Megadeth and Anthrax. The album itself received a mixed, though leaning more towards positive response, not least within the band itself, as Burton C. Bell praised the album, claiming he felt the band were stepping into new territory, whilst Christian Olde Wolbers felt that it was half finished and that label pressures caused challenges, adding that he thought the inclusion of the U2 cover, "I Will Follow," was also a result of label demands.

After touring in support of the album, the band decided to take a rest for a while, during which time Bell first working with Ministry on their, "Last Sucker" album, before stating in an interview that he wasn’t sure if he would continue to be a part of Fear Factory, feeling uncomfortable at contributing to the "violence and aggression in the world." While Wolbers and Herrera formed a new band called Arkaea, Bell rekindled his friendship with Dino Cazares and began writing new music with him, Stroud and legendary metal drummer, Gene Hoglan. Though it was expected to be a new band, this quartet revealed themselves to be Fear Factory, while the Arkaea founders felt that they were still a part of the band, causing legal threats and much mudslinging in the press.

Though controversial, this new incarnation released their album, "Mechanize" in 2010 to mostly strong reviews, with critics feeling that despite the murky genesis, the album was a success, praising the return of their early death metal sound, while still progressing musically. They promoted the album by appearing at a number of European festivals and supporting Metallica in Australia, New Zealand and Japan, while revealing that they were already working on music for another album, which was planned as another concept record. The result, "The Industrialist" hit the shelves in 2012 and with the exception of some early drum work from John Sankey, the album was more or less recorded as a duo, with Hoglan and Stroud leaving before it was recorded, both citing that they had been disrespected, mostly likely on Hoglan’s part due to Cazares and Bell opting to use a drum machine on the record. The album itself wasn’t hated, but many felt it was nothing special and that the group were merely treading on old ground.

Following the release of, "The Industrialist," Fear Factory signed with Nuclear Blast Records and snapped up Soulfly bassist, Tony Campos, who had previously worked with Cazares in his band, Aesino, and Malignancy drummer, Mike Heller. This new lineup recorded their ninth album in the band’s catalogue, (despite Cazares claiming that "Archetype" and "Transgression" don’t count,) "Genexus," which was released only two days ago. Early reviews of the album seem to be positive, though a number of fans and internet posters seem dissatisfied, calling the new material boring and stale. Who is right is a matter for time, as is the future of the band which will likely see more twists and turns in the future, but in the meantime, fans can be happy that a band which crafted some truly excellent metal music is still going today, performing live and releasing new material. Love them, hate them, no one can deny that Fear Factory are an important band in the history of more modern metal.

Fear Factory - "Martyr"

Fear Factory - "Replica"

Fear Factory - "Resurrection"

Fear Factory - "Linchpin"

Fear Factory - "Cyberwaste"

Fear Factory - "Transgression"

Fear Factory - "Powershifter"

Fear Factory - "The Industrialist"

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.

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5 Comments on "Sunday Old School: Fear Factory"

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Anonymous Reader
1. CM1975 writes:

They kick a$$ at concerts and they are the most polite and very respectable to their fans. They are very appreciative. And I am very appreciative that they still make music. Good music :) they will always be my favorite band of all time.

# Aug 10, 2015 @ 9:22 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
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2. KMADD writes:

They really ruled hard back in the day. I know the purists called them fairy factory but idgamf they were like godflesh sans thrash metal and I have a affinity for goth/industrial/steampunk whateverthefukk you want to call it music.

# Aug 13, 2015 @ 1:34 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
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3. KMADD writes:

plus it helps they had the dude from fla sampling/keyboarding on their croosh albums

# Aug 13, 2015 @ 1:35 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
4. blah writes:

fear factory sucks.

# Aug 18, 2015 @ 5:11 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
KMADD's avatar

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5. KMADD writes:

Just like your 2 dads.

# Aug 18, 2015 @ 10:00 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address

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