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Fear Factory is an American industrial metal band that formed in 1989 and has released seven full-length albums. Over the course of their career they have evolved from a succession of styles, combining death metal, groove metal, thrash metal, and industrial metal. Fear Factory proved to be enormously influential on the metal scene in the mid- to late-1990s. Fear Factory disbanded in March 2002 following some internal disputes, but reformed later that year without founding member Dino Cazares, adding bassist Byron Stroud, and casting then-bassist Christian Olde Wolbers as guitarist.
In April 2009, a new lineup was announced with Cazares returning and Gene Hoglan as drummer. Bell and Stroud are both reprising their respective roles, and the band completed a seventh studio album entitled Mechanize. Former members Christian Olde Wolbers and Raymond Herrera (both currently playing in Arkaea) dispute the legitimacy of the new lineup, and a legal battle is underway from both parties. Fear Factory released their eighth studio album entitled The Industrialist in June, 2012. Over the years, Fear Factory has seen changes in its members, with Burton C. Bell being the only consistent member since 1989.
The band has performed at three Ozzfests as well as the inaugural Gigantour and has had singles in the US Mainstream Rock Top 40 and albums in the Billboard Top 40, 100, and 200. The band has sold more than 1 million albums in the US alone.
Fear Factorys roots lie in an outfit formed by guitarist Dino Cazares (formerly of The Douche Lords) and drummer Raymond Herrera in Los Angeles, California in 1989. Their first line-up was completed with the addition of vocalist Burton C. Bell (ex-Hate Face), allegedly recruited by an impressed Cazares upon overhearing him singing New Years Day by U2 in the shower at a common boarding. Cazares played bass on the first 3 Fear Factory albums Concrete, Soul of a New Machine and Demanufacture.
They started out under the name Ulceration, apparently picked for no real reason other than that they thought it would "just be a cool name" for the band, but they subsequently shifted to Fear Factory in 1990; the new moniker being more reflective of their burgeoning new death metal sound, influenced just as much by early British industrial metal, industrial music and grindcore as much as it continued to remain firmly rooted in a conservative extreme metal approach; a facet of their music that eventually saw the band’s appeal spread out over a wider music audience.
The earliest demo recordings of the band are strongly reminiscent of the early works of Napalm Death and also Godflesh, an acknowledged influence of the band, in the grindcore driven approach of the former and the mechanical brutality, bleakness and vocal stylings of the latter. The demos are remarkable for integrating these influences into their death metal sound and for Burton C. Bell’s pioneering fusion of extreme death growls and clean vocals in the same song, which was to become a significant and influential element of the band’s sound throughout their career. The use of grunts and "throat singing" combined with clean vocals has later defined the nu metal and newer genres of metal. Many vocalists, in todays metal scene, use two or more methods of singing and vocalizing lyrics. The band contributed two songs to the L.A. Death Metal Compilation in 1990. They played their first show on Wednesday, October 31, 1990.
In 1991, Fear Factory proceeded to record a series of cuts to comprise their debut album with the then relatively unknown producer, Ross Robinson in Blackie Lawless’ studio. However, due to the band being unhappy with the terms of their recording contract, the material was not released at the time.
They retained the rights to the songs, however, many of which they re-recorded with a different producer, Colin Richardson, for inclusion on their actual debut release Soul of a New Machine, in 1992. Meanwhile, Ross Robinson obtained the rights to the recording, which he used to promote himself, subsequently finding enormous success during the nu metal explosion of the mid-late 1990s when he worked with bands such as Korn, Limp Bizkit and Slipknot; ironically, bands that had little in common with the Fear Factory of 1991. The recording itself was eventually given an official release through Roadrunner Records in 2002 under the title Concrete during the band’s interim demise. It was seen as a controversial release, being issued out of the band’s outstanding contractual obligations and without the approval of all of the band’s members.
Although fan opinion has been divided over whether the Ross Robinson production properly captures the intricacies of the band’s sound, with the finished product favoring a more straight-up approach and Robinson’s distinct drum sound, the “secret” album has nevertheless become an important album for fans of the early Fear Factory sound and can be seen as a bridge between the band’s sound on their demo recordings and that on their debut release, Soul of a New Machine as well as a source of the blueprints for some of the band’s later songs and b-sides.
Based on the Concrete recording, Max Cavalera recommended them to the then death metal focused Roadrunner Records label, who proceeded to offer them a recording contract. While the band signed the contract at the time, it has since become the source of some controversy based on Roadrunner’s treatment of the band during the events surrounding their interim break up in 2002. This is supported by Burton C. Bell’s scathing lyrics on “Slave Labor” – the opening song on 2004’s Archetype, the band’s first album after their reformation – that do not mince their words about the band’s feelings on the matter. After working with numerous bassists, Andrew Shives was hired as a live bassist prior to the release of their debut album.
Recorded with producer Colin Richardson and released in 1992, Soul of a New Machine was the band’s first exposure to the wider music scene and was seen as revolutionary for its pioneering industrial death metal sound, combining Bell’s harsh and melodic vocals, Herrera’s machine-like battery, the integrated industrial samples and textures and the sharp, down tuned rhythmic death metal riffs of Dino Cazares. Cazares wrote all the music and since they did not have a bass player, he played the guitar and the bass on the recording.
Due to the extreme nature of the music, the album was not successful in the mainstream and even today remains more of a cult favourite, never seeing the level of popularity attained by their later, more accessible works. Indeed, the band’s style progressively shifted further away from the death metal sound with every subsequent release and Soul of a New Machine can strictly be seen as Fear Factory’s final effort that lies firmly in the death metal camp.
The band added sampler/keyboardist Reynor Diego to the lineup and supported the album by embarking on extensive tours across the US with Biohazard, Sepultura, and Sick Of It All and a tour of Europe with Brutal Truth, then Cannibal Corpse, Cathedral, and Sleep. The following year, they hired Front Line Assembly member Rhys Fulber to remix some songs from the album, demonstrating the band’s willingness to experiment with their music even at this early stage. The results took on a predominantly industrial guise, and were released as the Fear Is the Mindkiller EP in 1993 (both Soul of a New Machine and Fear is the Mindkiller were re-released together in a new re-mastered reissue by Roadrunner Records in 2004).
In 1993, Andrew Shives was forced to leave the band. In November of the same year, the band met a vacationing Christian Olde Wolbers (originally from Belgium) in LA, through Evan Seinfeld of Biohazard, whom they recruited as their permanent bassist. Although Christian joined the band with immediate effect, due to tight studio deadlines and Cazares’ regular tweaking of the guitar parts on the next album, he was unable to record the bass parts on all of its songs, with Cazares recording the bass for the remainder of the tracks.
Fear Factory released their second album Demanufacture in 1995, featuring a slight thawing down in the overly brutal approach of the early recordings in favor of a more industrial metal approach, characterized by a mix of rapid fire thrash metal/industrial metal guitar riffs and tight, pulse driven drum beats, roaring (rather than growled, but still aggressive) vocals that made way for melodic singing and powerful bass lines.
The production was also more refined and the integration of atmospheric keyboard parts and industrial textures upon Cazares’ and Herrera’s precise musicianship made the songs sound clinical, cold and machine-like and gave the band’s music a futuristic feel. Many fans consider Rhys Fulber’s involvement with the band integral to this dimension of their sound. There were extensive contributions from Reynor Diego as well; adding key samples, loops and electronic flourishes to the group dynamics.
Demanufacture is generally considered to be the band’s defining work and received much critical acclaim upon release, being awarded the maximum five Ks rating in the UK’s Kerrang! rock magazine. It went on to become a fairly successful album. While Soul of a New Machine failed to chart anywhere, Demanufacture made the Top 10 of the Billboard Heatseekers charts and a video was filmed for the song "Replica". The song "Zero Signal" was featured on the Mortal Kombat film soundtrack in 1995. Instrumental versions of Demanufacture songs were later used in the Carmageddon video game for the PC.
Fear Factory spent the next few years touring with such bands such as Black Sabbath, Megadeth and Iron Maiden and appearing at the 1996 and 1997 Ozzfests, among other music festivals. During that time their jersey is seen in the video of "Counterfeit" by Limp Bizkit. In May 1997, the band released a new album composed of Demanufacture remixes by artists such as DJ Dano or Junkie XL (now known as JXL) called Remanufacture - Cloning Technology, which marked the band’s first appearance on the Billboard 200 and also appeared on the Billboard Heatseekers chart. Roadrunner Records re-released Demanufacture and Remanufacture in a 10th Anniversary single package reissue in 2005, similar to that of Soul of a New Machine in 2004. This edition also includes bonus tracks from the digipak version of Demanufacture, which was also released in 1995.
July 1998, saw the release of Fear Factory’s third studio album, titled Obsolete, with the band reportedly canceling an appearance at the Dynamo Open Air Festival to finish the album sooner.
Obsolete was similar in sound to Demanufacture, but also saw the introduction of more progressive metal and alternative metal elements and for the first time, featured Christian Olde Wolbers recording with the band in his full capacity as a band member. It also featured Dino Cazares using 7-string guitars for the first time tuned to A tuning (A,D,G,C,F,A,D), paving the way for a lower-tuned sound than before. The album is also notable for Rhys Fulber’s increased involvement with the band.
While Fear Factory had explored the theme of “Man versus Machine” in their earlier work, Obsolete was their first actual concept album that dealt specifically with a literal interpretation of this subject, telling a story called Conception 5 written by Bell that takes place in a future world where mankind is rendered "obsolete" by the Machines, and features characters such as the “Edgecrusher”, “Smasher/Devourer” and the “Securitron” monitoring system. The story is presented in the lyrics booklet in a screenplay format in between the individual songs, with the printed story parts linking the lyrics of the songs together thematically.
Bell explained the concept in an interview as follows:
The concept of this record is that man is obsolete. The idea is still man versus machine – man versus the system machine... man versus the government machine. Demanufacture told a story, Remanufacture was another chapter in the story and Obsolete is another part of the Fear Factory concept. Were up to the point in the story where man is obsolete. Man has created these machines to make his life easier but in the long run it made him obsolete. The machines he created are now destroying him. Man is not the primary citizen on Earth.
— Burton C. Bell
Coincidentally released in the alternative metal boom of the late 1990s, Obsolete, supported by tours with Slayer and later, Rammstein, along with a headlining spot on the second stage at Ozzfest in 1999 (as last-minute replacements for Judas Priest), went on to become the band’s highest selling album, marking the band’s first entry into the Top 100 on the Billboard charts. The album also spawned singles in "Descent" and in the digipak bonus track, "Cars", a cover of the famous Gary Numan song (featuring a guest appearance by Numan himself, on the song, as well as in its music video), that made the Mainstream Rock Top 40 in 1999 and was also featured in the video game, Test Drive 6. Incidentally, Numan also performs a spoken word sample on the album’s title track. A video was also filmed for the song, "Resurrection". To date, Obsolete remains the only Fear Factory album to have achieved gold sales in the US.
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