By Brandon “B-Mac” McCarthy
Industrial metal is full of repeating heavy guitar riffs and distorted vocals that are downright nasty. From Ministry to Godflesh, Nine Inch Nails, and Rammstein, these groups helped pave the way for the subgenre, making it a giant success in the early and mid 90s. There is another band that fits this category with a slight twist. The call themselves Fear Factory, hailing from the mean streets of Los Angeles. What makes Fear Factory stand out is their ability to add groove and thrash metal into the industrial sound. Recently, longtime frontman Burton C. Bell departed from the group due to legal and personal issues within the group. However, that has not derailed Fear Factory by any means, as they just put the final touches on their latest LP, Aggression Continuum. This record marks the last with Burton on vocals as they were recorded back in 2017. As this is his last hurrah with the band, let’s listen in and get the feel for some new Fear Factory.
Aggression Continuum turns over the engine with “Recode.” This opener takes a big jab at the system we live in currently with the line “The world has suffered from the system we once knew.” The melodies of the keyboards grab your attention in a menacing way. Burton is both haunting and menacing with his voice, while guitar wizard Dino Cazares masters an epic riff that is poignant. We move right along to the next track, “Disruptor.” Raging riffs and bombastic drumming that is handled nicely by Mike Heller fill the airwaves. This tune is a tune about rebellion and finding your own path, which is something we all need to do. Dino is a riffing machine with muted palm technique and slick picking. The self-titled track, “Aggression Continuum,” continues the sci-fi inspired theme of revolution. Bell slaughters all the words he throws out with intensity. Heller is wicked fast on the kit as he jumps on each cymbal with precision. The mixture of industrial, groove, and thrash metal is a perfect blend in this song. This is one of their strongest written songs to date. “Purity” adds in the effects of the synthesizer to give this song a more futuristic sound. Combining with the vicious licks from Dino’s guitar and Bell’s hostile voice, this tune is pure metal, straight down the line. “Fuel Injected Suicidal Machine” fills the soul with malice and hatred. Dino crafted lyrics that deals with life’s frustrations that Bell captures both harmoniously and venomously. Heller brings life to the song with his rancorous drumming.
We are halfway through Aggression Continuum, and up next is “Collapse.” A node to the pandemic that pretty much halted our lives. Bell embodies the politicians that dictated what the rules are and not caring how they affect livelihoods. The music Fear Factory puts out is sinisterly lethal thanks to the intense breakdowns. “Manufactured Hope” is destructive with Heller’s fierce banging of the kit. Bell gives one of his best vocal performances as his beastly side gets sterner. The hypersonic production of the synthesizer plays nicely along with riffs Dino pumps out his weapon of destruction. “Cognitive Dissonance” starts with a funky, pop-like keyboard melody that takes us back to the future. When the guitars and drums kick in, we go on a wild trip. Fear Factory add some prog-rock that helps sail industrial into new waters as Bell slashes through the words without hesitation. “Monolith” has electronic rock thrown into the mosh pit. Aggressive and sweet at the same time, Dino’s alt-picking that he is known for is at its best. He even hammers down a passionate solo that would be suited for arena rock. “End of Line” is the curtain call for Aggression Continuum. In typical Fear Factory fashion, the instrumentation is at their heaviest as Bell goes all out one last time on the mic. In the end, the futuristic synthesizer melody takes over and plays them out. A fitting end to an album like this.
What can I say about Fear Factory’s tenth album except this…HOLY SHIT! Aggression Continuum has many surprises old school will not see coming but will come to love. All the while sticking with their industrial metal guns. It is ominous to think this is the end of a legacy with Bell now out. However, I believe this is a rebirth for the Los Angeles outfit that will bear sweet fruits. Nuclear Blast has done it again, and industrial metal has never sounded more dangerous than now. To Fear Factory, I salute you. Horns up!!!
03. Aggression Continuum
05. Fuel Injected Suicide Machine
07. Manufactured Hope
08. Cognitive Dissonance
10. End Of Line
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