Fear Factory
The Industrialist

Fear Factory’s last album, 2010’s Mechanize, reunited Burton C. Bell and Dino Cazares, and hammered home with a collection of fierce, fast paced, classic Fear Factory songs. Bringing Gene Hoglan in to replace the formidable timekeeping skills of Raymond Herrera (currently playing in Arkaea, along with bassist Christian Olde Wolbers) was quite the coup, and the return of longtime collaborator Rhys Fulber (just make him a full-time member already!) cemented the album, in many reviewers’ estimation, as the best thing the band had done since Demanufacture, way back in ‘94 (which is when I first got into the band).

So now here’s the follow-up, The Industrialist, and like Demanufacture’s successor, Obsolete, it’s also a dark sci-fi concept album. Thankfully, it’s also more tuneful and layered than Obsolete, which I always thought was too colorless and dull (except for one track, “Shock,” which I still count in FF’s all-time top 10.) Bell and Dino are back, of course, and Fulber as well, but Hoglan is gone this time, replaced by… programmed drums, courtesy of Devolved‘s John Sankey. Now, you can all argue in the comments about whether a robotic clock is any match for an atomic one – I think it works just fine – but it’s certainly poetic that a band that’s built its aesthetic around heavily mechanized, laser-precise rhythms would finally enlist an actual machine to handle its percussion. Anyway, if Mechanize was as good, if not better than Demanufacture, will The Industrialist top it?

The title track opens with cinematic, cresting synths, which lead in to classic jackhammer drums and guitars, against a backdrop of foundry clangs and low-atmosphere drone flyover SFX. Far as openers go, it’s not as furious as “Mechanize,” but it’s also more melodic – just barely though. The chorus is anthemic but doesn’t quite feature Burton’s trademark clean melodies. For that, you need to advance to the next two tracks, two of the best on the album. Both lead single “Recharger” and follow-up “New Messiah” are all breakneck speed and machine-gun gallops, which contrast nicely with their epic, triumphant and memorable choruses (backed by Fulber’s subtly swelling strings).

Next, some tinkling piano and an ominous guitar melody kick off “God Eater” – shades of the excellent “Christploitation” off of Mechanize. Somewhat familiar, but then, about 1:30 in, something new – a cold, pulsing lurch, built largely from Fulber’s electronics and recalling Godflesh’s pulverizing, juggernaut assault. After 20 years, I think “God Eater” truly fulfills the promise of ‘industrial’ in Fear Factory’s sound, where the guitars are the ornamentation rather than the other way around. Dropping the tempo way down helps as well. Definitely a highlight of the album.

I’d love to hear more along these lines, but the next few tracks return to more traditional FF territory, with slightly uneven results. “Depraved Mind Murder” and later, “Disassemble,” are suitably pummeling in their verses, but both are saddled with ungainly choruses, whereas “Virus of Faith” and “Difference Engine” are much better all-around. “Difference Engine” is also notable for its prominent synth/electro elements, which remind me of something you’d hear off an old Thrill Kill Kult album. Kind of retro but it works.

In fact, many of these songs feature more consistent electronics and synths than any FF album I can recall. This is a welcome, and frankly, long-awaited evolution, however I am left wondering what Fear Factory would sound like if they truly set Fulber loose, pulling the band’s sound closer to the amazing atmospherics he’s achieved in Front Line Assembly over the years. I’m also still waiting for something to rival the epic, martial sci-fi opening and electro-spastic bridge of Demanufacture‘s “Zero Signal” – still my favorite FF track of all-time.

The Industrialist loses steam in its final moments, opting to close out with a pleasant-but-too-short instrumental coda to “Disassemble” called “Religion is Flawed Because Man is Flawed,” and then a 9-minute ambient soundscape called “Human Augmentation,” which is annoying because it’s not really a satisfying finale, and beyond that, it’s also not very interesting as an ambient piece (though it likely ties in with the end of the storyline). As far as album finales go, this is a major cop-out compared to Mechanize’s triumphant “Final Exit” or Demanufacture’s tragic “A Therapy for Pain.” Meh.

Although The Industrialist retains a lot of the fire and energy that made Mechanize such an exciting comeback, it doesn’t quite match up, song for song. Also, after that album reinstalled the band’s OS, I had hoped that The Industrialist would offer something of a revolution (pardon the pun). Instead, it’s just a good solid sequel.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
June 4th, 2012


  1. Commented by: AARONIUS

    I find it strange that it bothers me that the drums are programmed on this one. While I’ve only heard the first “single”, and it sounded fine to me there’s just something that kind of nags at me.

    I guess maybe my thought is I always liked the fact that FF was a band that had humans in it that played as tightly as machines. Of course really how much difference is there. If you think about it by the time they finish pro-tooling the crap outta the drums does it matter whether or not a human played them?

    Bottom line, with all the tools we have today in our studios I guess if they hadn’t said anything we’d probably believe it was mean Gene on the kit again right?

  2. Commented by: Apollyon

    From what I’ve heard of the album, what struck out from the little was that how shitty and undeveloped the industrial/machine-effects (keys perhaps) sounded. Which is odd considering how perfect and balanced they were in Demanufacture and Obsolete.

  3. Commented by: peridot

    What strikes me is the recycling of previous vocal melodies. I still like the album though.

  4. Commented by: Kevin E.

    I was SO stoked for this album until I heard that the drums were programmed… Killed all enthusiasm for me and definitely will not be buying this one if one of the best bands in metal can’t get a real drummer.

  5. Commented by: yourdumb

    Mechanize sucked.period.and any loser that think the most metalcore song ever,uh,shock,is the best song on that cd is retarded.this new cd is good because its mechanical.and soyless.that’s what true fans want.less clean singing and more actual industrial.ff were only industrial by. Association.psyclon nine,now that’s industrial metal.bassically we all know remanufactured will never be topped by this band.sacrificing song writing for gimmicks and mainstream bs vs always fails.that being said.you retards would have no clue,none,that the drums were programmed if you wrrent told.if the first guy said,it was hoglan,you’d all believe it.now that is the height of poserdom right there.you would have had no idea.bunch goofs who know nothing about music production,lol.

  6. Commented by: peridot

    I think it was a timing issue with Gene Hoglan leaving during recording. They have a drummer but he was hired after the album was finished.

    Doesn’t sound any different than any of the other drumming they’ve had since Demanufacture.

  7. Commented by: gabaghoul

    why. do. you write. with so. much. punctuation. ?. >? do. you.think. you’re. a.robot.?.?.1!. OR does. it. make. you. more. industrial?/1.1? errrr bzzzt whirrr DERP

  8. Commented by: Guilliame

    Obsolete kicks ass. Shock kicks ass. It doesn’t sound anything like Metalcore.
    What difference does it make the drums are programmed?

    What do you have to know about music production to hear that drums are a machine or not?
    Isn’t Hoglan called the Atomic Clock for a reason?
    Talk about Posers!

  9. Commented by: faust

    I did NOT know the drums were fucking programmed. These morons need to get Raymond Fuckin Herrera back.

  10. Commented by: Staylow

    @ gaba – lol, you took the words out of my mouth. This new is not as good as Mechanize, but I still dig it. As others have said, you wouldn’t know it was a drum machine unless you were told. That said, the only difference I really notice in the drumming is that it seems not quite as busy as Mean Gene made it on Mechanize. My two cents, out.

  11. Commented by: Cynicgods

    He can’t be a robot. Too many mistakes in his spelling. Skynet would reject his ass on the spot. :P

    Didn’t know the drums were programmed but I did notice they sounded totally different from Hoglan’s work from the two songs I heard. We all know he will get a new job soon enough, but I’d like him to stay in a band longer than one or two albums (excepting SYL, that was Devin’s decision).

    I’ll give this a fair shake, but I’m not a fan of programmed anything when it concerns a metal band (even an “industrial” one) that has had real drummers from day 1.

  12. Commented by: gabaghoul

    speaking of punctuation, I picked up the physical copy today – comes as a nice hardbound little booklet containing the album’s storyline and lyrics. Nice printing job and it’s apparent a lot of care went into it, but apparently the label couldn’t hire a proofreader before publication – almost every instance of “its” is typed as “it’s.” That shit drives me bananas!!!

  13. Commented by: Dimaension X

    Doesn’t everyone think that their drums have always sounded programmed anyway? C’mon, get over yourselves and please come to the realization that most drums in metal are triggered samples anyway. Listen to ANYTHING produced by Andy Sneap, Fred Nordstrom, Meshuggah, Peter Tagtgren, … ALL Sampled Drums, kids. They may as well have been programmed, because they’ve certainly all be ProTooled and Quantized to perfect 16th and 32nd notes. Are metal fans all that naive?? Really??

  14. Commented by: gabaghoul


    I say just listen to the album and then tell me if you hear that much of a difference. I’m no drummer, so I could be missing something, but it didn’t bother me at all. Sounds like FF.

  15. Commented by: Stiffy

    Yeah I just started listening to this and it’s just good old Fear Factory to me. Dont see anything to get upset over. The drums were never played raw anyway as Dimension X stated. They play the shit live. What’s the big deal. Fear Factory could keep doing this for the next ten years and I’d buy it.

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