Fear Factory ushered in an entirely new strand of metal when they emerged from sweatboxes of LA in the early 90s. Their future-facing fusion of industrial and extreme metal was honed across a string of increasingly successful albums through that heady decade, seeing them eventually notch up an unlikely hit single with a cover of Gary Numan’s synth-pop hit Cars.
The last two decades have been less glorious, peppered with departures, lawsuits and a series of spats between frontman Burton C Bell and guitarist Dino Cazares that ultimately resulted in Burton’s departure from the band. Despite that, Dino has doubled down in his determination to carry on - a new album, Aggression Continuum, will arrive in June. Until then, this is where to start with the back catalogue of one of the most influential metal bands of the last 30 years.
9. Transgression (2005)
There’s an underlying care taken with a Fear Factory release, with the band threading dystopian narratives into their driving anthems, like the intertwining storyboards of Obsolete, Demanufacture and The Industrialist. Unfortunately, the machine malfunctioned on 2005’s Transgression, the second album Burton, drummer Raymond Herrera and bassist Christian Olde Wolbers following guitarist Dino Cazares (temporary) departure in the 00s. The sound and production on the record leaves a lot to be desired, despite a few saving graces like the aptly titled Spinal Compression, the soaring, hook-laden Supernova and the primal powerhouse Moment Of Impact.
8. Archetype (2004)
The band’s 2004 release Archetype was Fear Factory‘s first release after splitting then reforming without Dino Cazares, and despite tracks like the thunderous opener Slave Labour and the relentless battering ram Corporate Cloning hitting the mark, there’s an overwhelming sense of emptiness and aimlessness that plagues much of the LP. Although it’s worth a listen just for the anthemic gem Bite The Hand That Bleeds.
7. The Industrialist (2012)
With Rhys Fulber on production duties again, the sound of 2012’s The Industrialist is wonderfully on point despite the lack of a live drummer. Songs like Recharger and God Eater pop from the speakers with genuine intensity, while cuts such as the cyber apocalyptic title track and the percussive barnburner Virus Of Faith provide the transcendent moments that have become a staple of the band’s sound. However, while The Industrialist is actually a solid collection of tunes, it just doesn’t contain enough outstanding moments to be considered one of the group’s finest.
6. Digimortal (2001)
Following up 1998’s Obsolete is no enviable task. The group found themselves in this uphill battle on 2001’s Digimortal, sounding for the first time like they were compromising their musical style somewhat. On a positive note, the synthesizer sections on this LP are simply fantastic. From the futuristic lasers of Damaged to the stuttering interceptors of Linchpin – the electronic aspects of Fear Factory’s sound, and especially this album, can’t be overstated. Despite this, songs like the rap-heavy Back The Fuck Up sound awkwardly out of place, leaving the record languishing with some unwanted filler.
5. Genexus (2015)
There seemed to be renewed vigour when the band signed with Nuclear Blast, a move that gave them razor sharp focus on Genexus. It possesses the melodic components that the group effortlessly mastered in the 90’s, with frontman Burton C. Bell expertly applying his trademark clean vocals to tracks like Anodized and Dielectric. Don’t go thinking they’ve gone all soft on us though – songs like Soul Hacker and Protomech are some of the heaviest compositions in the band’s arsenal.
4. Soul Of A New Machine (1992)
It was clear from the group’s debut album in 1992 that they were a different beast altogether. Nobody else was merging the toxic combination of death and industrial metal except Fear Factory, much less producing genuine heavy hitters like the scalp scraping Scapegoat or the primitive growler Flesh Hold. As far as debuts go, they don’t come much more loaded with ambitious intent than Soul Of A New Machine.
3. Mechanize (2010)
Many would forgive the seasoned veterans for changing their style to reach a wider audience, but with 2010’s Mechanize, the band did the complete opposite. You only need to go as far as the off-the-walls intensity of the title track (a song that couldn’t be any more pulverizing if it tried) to see that this was a major return to form. From there the group proceed to decimate everything in their wake, obliterating the sound barrier with sonic bombs like the rhythmic exploder Powershifter, the frantic belter Controlled Demolition and the whiplash inducer Designing The Enemy. The closer entitled Final Exit, comes close to reaching the heartfelt sentiments of mainstays like Resurrection and Invisible Wounds (Dark Bodies), a delightful way to wrap up a record of such crushing proportions.
2. Obsolete (1998)
Talk about an album of highpoints. Highlights practically litter this mechanical monster from ‘98, with the band hitting particular peaks on the electrified, sensory overload Shock, the drilling punisher Smasher/Devourer and the emotive epic Resurrection. This was the album that launched them into the upper echelons of metal, and rightfully so. Not only that, but thanks to melodic beauties like Descent and Resurrection, fans for the first time heard a beating heart underneath the complex robotics.
1. Demanufacture (1995)
On their 1995 sophomore release Demanufacture, the band refined and sanded down the rougher elements of their sound. The results were simply groundbreaking. There isn’t a wasted moment on this virtually flawless LP; from the kick drum extravaganza Self Bias Resistor to the contorting synth-infused New Breed – the band compress their steely sound into burning molten rock. But the best song plaudits go to the devastating metal classic Replica for its effortless balance of melody and dissonance. The nodes aligned perfectly on Demanufacture, leaving an indelible mark on the decade and remaining to this day one of the most forward-thinking metal albums ever created.