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Criminally Slept-On: Fear Factory

Posted by on July 30, 2015

criminallysleptonIn Criminally Slept-On, Schuler Benson takes a look at some of the most underrated tracks from his favorite prolific bands’ back catalogs.

August 7th will mark the release of Fear Factory’s ninth full-length, Genexus, which also happens to be the group’s debut effort through their new label home, Nuclear Blast. In the two-plus decades since the band first destroyed and rebuilt the face of extreme music with Soul of A New Machine, Fear Factory have gone on to release some of the most influential and, at times, polarizing albums in heavy music, not the least of which is Demanufacture, a record widely hailed as the pinnacle of industrial metal. Early reviews of Genexus seem to point towards the band outdoing themselves yet again, so in the spirit of celebrating the awesome stuff to come, let’s take a look back at some of the most awesome Fear Factory tracks you might never have heard.

1)  “Ulceration”

The closer from the band’s scrapped original debut full-length, Concrete, is one of the album’s most fulfilling tracks. While Ross Robinson’s subpar production played a hand in the band shelving the LP, most of Concrete’s songs showed enough promise that they were remade for Fear Factory’s proper Roadrunner debut, Soul of A New Machine. “Ulceration” didn’t make the cut, but in being left behind, it was spared the fate of languishing as a weaker Soul track, instead remaining one of the strongest tracks on Concrete, an album that didn’t see a proper release until its controversial reissuing by Roadrunner in 2002. Check that Exorcist III sample in the middle. So heavy.

 

2) “Arise Above Oppression”

A track that survived the death of Concrete for reincarnation as a part of Soul of A New Machine, “Arise Above Oppression” is one of the most instrumentally melodic jams from Fear Factory’s earliest days. The song hasn’t gotten any love in a live setting in a long time, but with older numbers like “Martyr” and “Scapegoat” having been onstage mainstays for the last few tours, maybe audiences are due for a changeup.

 

3) “Scapegoat [PIGFUCK MIX]”  

This is the only out-and-out remix I’m including on this list. A lot of Fear Factory’s electronic facelifts haven’t gone over very well with anyone other than die-hard fans, but this cut from the Fear Is The Mindkiller EP is one of the best examples of how the band’s outside industrial contributors bring something cool to the table. This version of “Scapegoat” isn’t that drastically different from the version that appeared on Soul of A New Machine, so the heaviness of the original is intact. However, there’s enough electronic augmentation that it really paves the way for the work the band would do with Demanufacture, and eventually the willingness to have their songs be completely ripped apart and reconstructed on Remanufacture. Go ahead and knock it. But try it first.

 

4) ¡Resistancia!”

This outtake from the Demanufacture sessions appeared on the record’s digipak release, as well as Roadrunner’s 25th Anniversary Reissue series. Aside from a remake of Concrete’s title track, it’s the only original song from the period that didn’t make the album’s final sequence. And while I wouldn’t argue that it deserves a place on the record more than any of the final numbers, it’s still worth checking out. Some of Demanufacture’s finest moments are also its punkiest moments, and Raymond Herrera’s crossover-style drumming on this track is the perfect backbone for some the most hardcore-oriented riffs Dino ever put to tape.

 

5) “Hi-Tech Hate”

I don’t have a comprehensive list of every song Fear Factory’s ever played live, but in my ultimate show playlist, “Hi-Tech Hate” would be near the top of the set. Obsolete is the sound of this lineup syncing perfectly; it’s packed with undeniably heavy, catchy songs. And while “Shock” and “Edgecrusher” will probably be in every set the band plays until they retire, there’s nothing in either of those stalwarts that quite hits the level of heaviness in “Hi-Tech Hate.” If you’re not familiar with it, wait for that scream at the 2:33 mark. Top that, son.

 

6) “Dark Bodies [DEMO]”

Digimortal’s “Invisible Wounds” almost ended up as a totally different animal than the version that appeared in the album’s final sequence. This demo version, titled “Dark Bodies,” was recorded before the Digimortal sessions at the behest of Fear Factory’s label, who set the band up with a producer to help them do whatever label-hired outside producers are supposed to help bands do. While some would consider that kind of coaching to be extraneous interference, there’s something about this version of the song (that features outsider input) that I like so much more than “Invisible Wounds.” The changes to the chorus are the most significant, and this demo’s versions are just dirty enough to take “Invisible Wounds” (a Fear Factory track that I just plain don’t like) down to a level that feels more organic and natural to the band’s traditional approach. Oh, the irony. This version appeared on Hatefiles, the odds & ends compilation issued by Roadrunner after the band’s 2002 breakup, prior to reforming sans-Cazares for Archetype.

 

7) “My Grave”

“My Grave” is an outtake from Transgression, the band’s highly experimental follow-up to Archetype, and the last Fear Factory album to feature bassist/guitarist Christian Olde Wolbers and founding drummer Raymond Herrera. While a number of Fear Factory fans will tell you this record’s first half is pretty (kinda, maybe, sorta) solid, most everyone will agree that, aside from album closer “Moment of Impact,” Transgression’s latter half is one prolonged misstep after another. Having said that, the inclusion of the album’s two released b-sides, “My Grave” and “Empire,” would’ve added significant color to the record’s final sequence. I picked “My Grave” over “Empire” because it showcases both the band’s heavier, traditional approach, as well as some examples of Wolbers’s more ambient riffs that contributed to the risks taken on Transgression. This song was released as a digital perk for those who purchased the album on DualDisc (lol, remember that shitshow?), and the link to the download has long since been deactivated. As far as I know, the only physical media containing “My Grave” is a Dutch tour sampler promo CD called 15 Years of Fear. Which I own. 🙂

 

8) “Final Exit”

The closing track from 2009’s Mechanize is one of my very favorite Fear Factory tracks. It may not even be slept-on, man. I just have to include it here because you need to hear it. Not only was Mechanize a triumphant return to form after the restoration of Cazares and the misfire of Transgression, it contained some of Burton C. Bell’s most thoughtful lyrical musings. “Final Exit” (the title of which is taken from the book of the same name by Hemlock Society founder Derek Humphry) is so melodic and vulnerable that it makes Bell’s ruminations on assisted suicide a fairly easy pill to swallow. If you’re not already a fan of this song, man, do yourself a favor and check it out. And if you are, listen to it again while you prepare for the Genexus finale, “Expiration Date,” a brilliant track that’s sure to strike many of the same chords.

 

9) “Timelessness II”

A Japan-only bonus track from 2012’s The Industrialist, “Timelessness II” distills down Obsolete’s expansive closing number into a no-frills acoustic reverie. We all know Dino Cazares as a cybernetic riff machine who cranks out record after record of heavy, triple-picked, mechanical death. So it’s pretty cool to hear the dude be so nimble and delicate with an acoustic guitar here. Also, Bell’s clean vocals sound great on this version of the song, laid mostly bare, with a bit of subtle electronic treatment. Such a cool alternative take on a Fear Factory classic.

Alright, man. If you’re a fan of the band, you may already be familiar with a number of these tracks. Roadrunner Records (Soul through Digimortal) is pretty good about emptying the vaults of bands that have passed on to greener (or darker) pastures. The downside is that buying a re-released version of a record you already own to get some rare stuff can make people irate. The silver lining is that most of these non-album gems are readily available on releases that, while perhaps out-of-print, are still widely circulated on Discogs, eBay, and Amazon. Enjoy the trip into Fear Factory’s past, and be sure to check out Genexus, due out August 7th from Nuclear Blast.

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Categorised in: Columns, Criminally Slept-On