DJ & Music Writer from the UK

Fear Factory – A Listener’s Guide

Manufacture

Around the same time, Belgian bass guitarist Christian Olde Wolbers joined the band, becoming the only ‘Heavy duty scarifier’ (their term, not mine) to join the band as a full member – those who came before and after him having only appeared with the band live.  They also looked beyond the borders of the USA for producers – having initially recorded with UK metal producer Colin Richardson, only to reject his work, they eventually hooked up with Canadians Greg Reely and Rhys Fulber, the latter known to them already due to the prior EP, and eventually emerged with the album Demanufacture

And it’s at this point that the defining sound of Fear Factory crystallised.  The title track is iconic as any – the sound of distant machines smashed into submission by the double-kick pulse of Raymond’s drum triggers, Dino’s machine-gun guitar, and Burton’s vocals barking out man’s statement of rebellion against the machine he created.  Everything that was good about the debut album is still present, but the industrial-strength mechanisation of their sound, far from stripping away the humanity, now gives it an opponent to fight.

If that was the mission statement, Self-Bias Resistor is the rallying call, a relentless assault building to that iconic chorus that signals the need to stand up and fight back.  The songs then head off into more specific subject areas, each with it’s own distinct theme and ‘feel’.  Zero Signal is a cathedral-sized requiem to loss of faith, Replica offsets a deeply catchy metal groove against the harrowing tale of being born of rape, and New Breed is an uncomplicated noisy blast back to their hardcore roots.

A more obvious salute to their influences is the Head of David cover Dog Day Sunrise.  It’s played more-or-less straight, only differing from the original due to the crystal-clear production and the curious inclusion of an electric organ, a production trick that worked much better than it should have.  The next few songs focus on the more aesthetic elements of the band’s sound, with the mid-tempo grind Body Hammer followed the lively leaping flames of Flashpoint before a very necessary statement on gun culture in Hunter-Killer. 

The penultimate track, Pisschrist, returns to religious critique, that signature Terminator sample giving way to a full-throttle metal assault in it’s first half before Burton switches to an hymn-like vocal, ironic given the subject matter, for the conclusion, the most effective demonstration yet of his dual harsh/clean style.  This only leaves A Therapy For Pain, the slow, drawn-out descent into a final swamp of electronic experimentation, a fitting conclusion for an iconic album. 

Singles and Versions: Only “Dog Day Sunrise” saw release as a single, including three bonus tracks that also featured as extra tracks on several limited & reissued versions of the album, along with a couple of other cuts that were, erm….cut?  There’s nothing essential for the casual fan here – the bonuses (including a cover of Agnostic Front’s “Your Mistake”) lack the polish and dynamic impact so apparent on the album proper, whilst the remixes are relatively unadventurous compared with those that would follow in a couple of years…..

Fear Factory - Remanufacture (Cover)

I’m referring of course to 1997’s Remanufacture.  The idea of reworking metal in an electronic style wasn’t new, but this has to be one of the most ambitious examples of the many ‘remix albums’ issued around this time – every track except “Dog Day Sunrise” is given a new, retitled overhaul.  Six of them are placed in the capable hands of Rhys Fulber, already well known to the band and their musical style, having previous remixed and produced their earlier material (scroll back if you’ve missed that bit!). 

Anthems like “Demanufacture” (now Remanufacture) and “Self-Bias Resistor” (Machines Of Hate) are rightfully left with their core structure intact, working in mid-90s tech-industrial beats and vast quantities of synthetic ear candy, yet retain all their original energy and purpose, no worst for the transition unless you happen to be a metal purist.  But no FLA member is adverse to experimentation, and Rhys also delivers a downtempo breakbeat take on “Pisschrist” (21st Century Jesus) and a darkambient overhaul of “A Therapy For Pain” (Bound For Forgiveness), both of which prove to  be technically successful at the style for which they aim, but possibly omit too much of the original tracks, retaining fleeting melodic lines or fleeting samples but otherwise prone to leaving fans of the originals pining for more of the actual songs!

Big Beat was also a thing in the late 90s, and Junkie XL coverts a couple of tracks into the bleeps, breaks and sample-laden crossover sound that dominated the student discos of the era (I should know, I was at them), with Burn (formerly “Flashpoint”) the more successful, the underlying bass groove well-suited to this style.  But it’s another Netherlander who provides the “love it or hate it moment”, DJ Dano going full gabber on “Hunter-Killer”, with T-1000 (there’s that Terminator again!) serving as either the ultimate hybrid of ultra-fast riffs and equally fast distorto-kicks, or a thing-that-should-never-have-been aberrant Frankentune.  I’ll be honest – I’ve listened to this too many times over the years to fall into anything other than the former camp.

It’s going to be hard to find anyone out there who appreciates every style this album has to offer, with my DJ history suggesting I’m as close to the intended target audience as it’s possible to get.  But it’s probably the only remix album I’ve come across where I’ve not found a single mix I’ve hated.  The fact the band themselves toured it suggests they too think it was more than a cash-in spin-off.

Singles and Versions: Unusual for a remix album to yield singles but “Burn” was turned into one. Junkie XL gets two more mixes – the wild breakbeats of “Cyberdyne” and the more controlled “Refueled” will both appeal to fans of the big beat style.  Technohead does the Happy Hardcore thing with “New Breed”, which becomes “Transgenic” – again, you’ll love it or hate it. 

‘Demanufacture’ and ‘Remanufacture’ were later bundled into a 2CD set – this disc had the above remixes bundled plus “New Breed (Spoetnik Mix)” – another gabber remake of New Breed.  Indeed, there’s a rare 12” out there called ‘The Gabber Remixes’ with yet more of those ‘how fast does my drum machine go?’ antics.  Your choice as to whether you hunt it down or not.

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