DJ & Music Writer from the UK

Fear Factory – A Listener’s Guide

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Fear Factory - Concrete (Cover)

We’ve completed our chronological run through the studio albums, but there’s still a few oddities to consider.  And at this point, it’s worth looking right back to the start when I mentioned a rejected recording for the first Fear Factory album.  It was eventually released in 2002 as Concrete.  Despite neither cementing itself into the band’s canon, nor scoring well in aggregate rankings online, it’s still relevant as a part of the band’s overall structure that might have remained buried had Roadrunner Records not been so keen to exhume the archives of their most recently departed band. 

Several of the ‘Soul of a New Machine’ songs feature, though their two most lasting songs from that era (“Scapegoat” and “Martyr”) hadn’t yet been written. Those tracks that did make the debut are recognisable for what they are, rougher and more abrasive, but still an interesting lesson in the evolution from deathgrind to industrial-strength cybermetal.  Also a number of tracks that never made it to the official debut, though nothing was dropped that would have made their official debut significantly different.

There’s also a couple of references to later recordings.  Piss Christ shares only a title with it’s near-namesake on ‘Demanufacture’, but Echoes of Innocence introduces a descending guitar passage that would later be transformed into “A Therapy For Pain”.  Ultimately, it’s a collection for completists and the few die-hard fans who thought it was all downhill from ‘Soul of a New Machine’. 

Fear Factory - Hatefiles (Cover)

Roadrunner also put out a few compilations – there’s a 6-album box of everything they had rights to, and a now rather pointless The Best Of which compiles the best songs from the first four albums.  If you’ve made it this far, you’re going to want to either pick out a playlist of your own on Spotify (other streaming services are available) or listen to them all right the way through.  The one collection that you might want to check out is Hatefiles.  Issued in 2003, it’s one of those ‘rare and unreleased’ miscellanies, easy to write off as another ex-label exploiting what was then an ex-band, but actually providing intriguing insights into this band’s most creatively productive era.

Several of the breakbeat and gabber remixes from various B-sides reappear here – and these were becoming quite hard to obtain by this point.  Four songs the band recorded for video games are also present, such soundtracks being something gaming devotee Raymond would go on to be quite prolific at.  This includes the last song recorded (but not mixed) by the ‘classic’ lineup Terminate, though you’ll have to ask Burton whether the song is a final statement in the man-vs-machine concept underpinning their most classic albums or cynical last salute to the band he was about to leave.

There’s also some more subtle alternate version of well-known tracks.  Edits of Resurrection and Invisible Wounds (Dark Bodies) offer insights how slight changes in mixing philosophy can change the overall feel of certain songs, and a demo of Dark Bodies provides further insight in the creative process. In addition, we get a couple of tracks from the rejected Colin Richardson mix of ‘Demanufacture’, proof of how much effort went into getting the bands ultra-precise cybermetal sound ‘just right’.  It’s songs like this along with the entirety of ‘Concrete’ that speak of an alternate universe where this band never got attention outside the metal and grindcore scenes, and hence this lengthy account would never have been written.

Filmed

Fear Factory - Digital Connectivity (Cover)

You might have noticed that a number of limited edition versions of Fear Factory albums come with bonus DVDs.  There’s only been one standalone DVD release – 2001’s Digital Connectivity.  The centrepiece of this collection is an 80-minute documentary, piecing together a number of live and video clips with interview snippets, providing a history of the band from formation to just before their 2002 split.  It’s interesting enough despite the varying quality of the live clips.  The music videos are the highlight – the Numan colab “Cars” heavily plays the Burton vs Gary dynamic in a spectacular demonstration of late-90s video art. 

As the collection was released when the ‘V’ in DVD still stood for ‘versatile’ rather than ‘video’ in practice as well as theory, there’s also some text content, still photos and eight audio tracks that would later appear on ‘Hatefiles’.  The timing of this release is unfortunate – there’s no clues within that the band as we knew it was just months away from falling apart, but as an exercise in telling the story behind the bands most influential albums, it does the job.

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