en: Mechanize [info]
Although Mechanize is Fear Factory's third studio album since they officially disbanded in 2002, it's crucially different from its immediate predecessors. Both Archetype (2004) and Transgression (2005) were controversially written and recorded without founding guitarist Dino Cazares, the main victim of 2002's acrimonious split. The reconstituted Fear Factory may have featured three-quarters of the classic line-up, but without Cazares, they were fatally flawed. With Cazares back, however, the band are back on track, as Mechanize forcefully demonstrates.
Cazares' return has not been bloodless; former bassist Christian Olde Wolbers and original drummer Raymond Herrera are nowhere to be seen. However, their part in the feeble Archetype and Transgression albums combined with this new-found vitality suggests that they will not be missed. Cazares' rigid, staccato riffing combined with the schizophrenic style of vocalist Burton C Bell forms the core of the band's signature sound, and with the bass and drum slots ably filled by former Strapping Young Lad members Byron Stroud and Gene Hoglan, Fear Factory's seventh studio outing is their most technically adept yet.
Out of the gate like a rabid bulldog, the title-track sets a ferocious pace that rarely relents. In the wake of such an interminable succession of line-up disruption and underwhelming albums, it's a return to form on a grand scale. Despite the presence of producer Rhys Fulber - veteran of electro-industrial pioneers Frontline Assembly - Mechanize ups the extreme metal quotient, restoring balance to an equation which had become too loaded in favour of sampling and studio trickery. Hoglan's robotic precision behind the drum kit is a marvel to behold, pounding like a jackhammer as Cazares' paint-stripping riffs lurch from all-out aggression to haunting melody.
In its pitiless intensity, Mechanize ultimately lacks stand-out anthems. Although Powershifter has already been released as the first single and an official music video for Fear Campaign effectively makes it the album's second, this is an unremitting aural assault unlikely to recreate the crossover enjoyed by 1995's landmark Demanufacture. Fear Factory's slices of digital dystopia no longer sound futuristic or groundbreaking, but Mechanize is a powerful statement from a revitalized and still-relevant band.