Another year, another Fear Factory line-up. Back in the Archetype era, suggesting that vocalist Burton C. Bell and prodigal guitarist Dino Cazeres would be running the band as a two-piece would probably have got the same kind of mocking response that would have met suggestions that Metallica were going to collaborate with Lou Reed, or that pirate metal was going to be a big thing. Nevertheless, the unthinkable has happened, and The Industrialist is the result.
The Industrialist dumps the listener into a very “Obsolete Pt. II”-styled world. It’s another apocalyptic technocracy, but instead of the album’s narrative being told from the perspective of ridiculously-named freedom fighter Edgecrusher, it is narrated by a slightly less ridiculously-named self-aware AI named The Industrialist. As far as concepts go, it’s pretty cool – even if it is just a frame for an increasingly heavy-handed castigation of religion. Then again, that shouldn’t be too surprising coming from an album that includes song titles like ‘God Eater’, ‘Virus of Faith’ and ‘Religion Is Flawed Because Man Is Flawed’. The album drips with ambient industrial effects like drills and squealing electronics, but they never become overused and give a nice sense of the metallic world hinted at in the lyrics.
‘God Eater’ is the standout track for me, beginning with a swell of keyboards that are very reminiscent of the themes to The Terminator (which the band referenced back on Demanufacture with the intro to ‘Pisschrist’) and Halloween. The song then switches between ambient, industrial verses and one hell of a catchy chorus. The song’s climax combines layered vocals from Burton in a kind of Nietzsche-inspired monks’ chant and screams of “No Gods!” over some absolutely devastating riffage. While this is the peak of the album, pretty much all of the songs have something of their own to offer. This makes the fact that there is so little on offer even more frustrating – excluding the completely pointless ‘Human Augmentation’, there is less than 40 minutes of music on the album. I guess it makes the album punchy, but if the band didn’t want The Industrialist to outstay its welcome, why put a 9-minute ambient track at the end?
When I heard that ex-Strapping Young Lad/Death drummer Gene Hoglan would not be appearing on The Industrialist I was disappointed, but not disheartened. Dino has, after all, worked with a number of incredible sticksmen including original Fear Factory drummer Raymond Herrera and Divine Heresy’s Tim Yeung. So the revelation that the band had decided to go ahead and use a drum machine stunned me. Having listened to the album for a while now, I think I can support that decision, but only just. The programmed drums fit the whole industrial, mechanised feel of the band and they sound absolutely fine when they are slightly masked beneath the guitar and bass tracks. However, when they are on show, as they are at the start of the album’s title track, they sound positively weedy when compared with Gene’s drumming on Mechanize.
In the end, I think The Industrialist is one of the most difficult albums to pin a score to that I have listened to. What there is on the disc is a very satisfying listen, but there just isn’t enough. Burton’s harsh vocals are still incredible, but his cleans are still pretty poor. What it comes down to is this: if you enjoyed Mechanize then The Industrialist is worth getting. It is definitely a more diverse album than its predecessor and Rhys Fulber has once again done a great job with the electronic elements of Fear Factory’s sound. However, Fear Factory can do much, much better, and I will be disappointed if album number 9 doesn’t show significant progression.