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Fear Factory Plays "Demanufacture"-Heavy Set on First Date of North American Tour

Photo of Fear Factory

Band Photo: Fear Factory (?)

On May Day 2012, Fear Factory ignited the “Noise of the Machine” tour in San Antonio, Texas. Formerly known as The Warehouse, Backstage Live’s industrialized setting seemed ideal for Fear Factory to get its gears churning. Even though “The Industrialist” isn’t due for another month (June 5), the group was “Recharging” its fans batteries for another dose of explosive cyber metal. Shadows Fall, The Browning, The Devastated and Legacy of Disorder served as support.

Having released “Soul of a New Machine” in 1992, Fear Factory has over twenty years of material to consider when creating a set list. Even though the group selected cuts from every full-length album except “Archetype” and “Transgression,” the set seemed a half-hour short. I’m not that guy who comes out to concerts to watch only the headlining band; however, the night’s billing of seven bands (two local and five touring) seemed to have stolen some of Fear Factory and Shadows Fall’s time in the limelight. Thanks to the gentleman who constantly photo bombed me with his camcorder, you can see video of four of the touring bands.

I entered the venue as Legacy of Disorder took the stage. I didn’t know what to expect from L.O.D. (“What a rush!”). Unsigned bands from New Zealand don’t exactly get a ton of press. Here they are now, though, touring with two of the most important artists in the modern metal scene. Although I would rather see him play in King Diamond, the inclusion of Matt Thompson on drums helped break up some of my apathy for the band. Singer, James Robinson wore an appropriate Lamb of God t-shirt. The group didn’t offer much in terms of originality—palm-muted riffing, break downs and sing-then-scream vocals. Their sound should get a rise from fans of Machine Head, Pantera, Lamb of God and Full Blown Chaos.

Featuring former members of Impending Doom and Oblige, The Devastated is fairly new to the North American tour cycle. The group just signed with Century Media last year and released “The Devil’s Messenger” album and video earlier this year. Their publicity handlers describe them as “gross, grimy, groove,” adjectives I can't argue with. They were grimy, making it hard to decipher their guitar notes. The group was also bouncy, instigating the crowd to follow by example their pogo-stick hop fest. Side prop illustrations of comic book Baphomets and blue-colored spirals added a Rob Zombie sort of touch to their fondness for nu metal. Numerous break downs became boring; the boom of their bass was their best musical quality. Watching broad-shouldered singer Greg Wilburn stand on a wooden platform, elevated his self above his group, also created an interesting spectacle that was utilized by the bands throughout the night.

Earache recording artist, The Browning offered more breakdowns and Hop-scotch rhythms. Even though their synth-saturated meshed well stylistically with Fear Factory—more so than the other bands—their instrumentation (guitar, bass, drums) didn’t leave much of an impression. The group over used their keyboards and some of these sounds were a bit too dancy for a metal show. I guess they were adding a booty-shaking beat to their numerous breakdowns. The crowd seemed to dig it, though. Readers who enjoy the keyboard sound of latter-era Soilwork should find solace in this group featuring former As Blood Runs Black vocalist, Johnny McBee.

Each band suffered from a murky, thin-guitar mix throughout the night, but it didn’t really become obtrusive until Shadows Fall took the stage. The microphone kept cutting out on singer, Brian Fair. He threw it down in disgust and traveled from one side of the stage to the other to sing in his guitarists’ microphones. The technical difficulties didn’t dilute Fair or his band mate’s energy. Opening with “Thoughts Without Words,” Fair’s screams were in top form. Every vigorous head movement resulted in a Medusa-like animation of his floor-length dreads. He made a joke about his hair being so long it touched the ceiling and that he was a dirty pig who needed a haircut.

Fair introduced another song from “The Art of Balance, “Stepping Outside the Circle,” by commenting on the state of today’s metal and the support Texas has given to the clandestine art. He said they were going to play a thrash metal song and wanted an old-school circle pit, which happened but not in the numbers he expected. The crowd wasn’t big enough for a large circle pit. Shadows Fall closed its set with two new tracks. First they played “The Unknown,” from their upcoming album “Fire in the Sky.” Ripping leads, blistering riffs, a dualistic vocal approach and melodic passages characterized this glimpse of the new album. They ended with the granite groove of “King of Nothing,” taken from their “Retribution” album.

Burton C. Bell ignored the ongoing microphone problem, often signing through the Rice Krispy noises. Sometimes his mic faded out, but he kept the show in motion. His happy countenance from the early interview carried forward in his stage presentation. This being the first show on the tour, he hadn’t yet hit exhaustion. His crowd repoire was the best I’ve seen from the front man. He thanked the crowd for staying late (the group went on forty minutes later than the original scheduled time) and choosing Fear Factory over all the other shows coming to town. After mentioning the crowd staying up late even though they have to work in the morning, he spoke on the nature of conformity and how we’re expected work.

Roadies removed all the stage props from the earlier bands, leaving Fear Factory to play on a naked stage. Strobe lights, the band’s interaction with the crowd and of course, their music proved sufficient. Dino Cazares and new drummer Mike Heller from Malignancy combined their instruments into a chorus of machine gun fire. Former Chimaira guitarist Matt DeVries struck explosive bass chords during “Obsolete” tracks “Shock” and “Edgecrusher.” The latter track got the crowd vertical once again. I thought a “Digimortal” track would bring more of the same, but the group played the fast-paced “Acres of Skin.” “Recharger,” the band’s latest single,” provided the crowd a sneak peak of “The Industrialist.”

As mentioned earlier, Fear Factory carefully chose songs from throughout their career. The new album, though, is a return to their crowning opus “Demanufacture.” Those are the songs fans come out to see and they obliged by ending the set with four of its best songs. First, they treated their fans to the familiar cathartic yell of “I’ve got to get AWAY” from their earliest hit “Martyr.” Their set included most of their hits, new and old. These last five songs helped dim the memory of boring opening bands and crackling microphones. Read below for Fear Factory’s set list.

Mechanize
Shock
Edge Crusher
Smasher/Devourer
Acres of Skin
Linchpin
Recharger
Power Shifter
Fear Campaign
Christploitation
Martyr
Demanufacture
Self Bias Resistor
Zero Signal
Replica

Rex_84's avatar

An avid metal head for over twenty years, Darren Cowan has written for several metal publications and attended concerts throughout various regions of the U.S.

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