After a hiatus due to a legal battle over the group’s name, Fear Factory finally return with their 10th album, Aggression Continuum. It’s a strong return that’s worth the wait for fans. Fear Factory has been a band for over 30 years now. Their first album, 1992s Soul of a New Machine, and second album, 1995s Demanufacture, remain influential in the metal scene. Soul of a New Machine was notable for introducing a mix of clean vocals with death metal growls into music that combined the aggression of Napalm Death with the mechanical and melodic sensibility of Godflesh.
Demanufacture saw the band coming more into their sound musically with vocalist Burton C. Bell refining his style with even stronger cleans. The band also experimented with remixes and more electronic elements, enhancing their concept and production with the help of Rhys Fulber (Front Line Assembly, Delerium). A lot has happened since these first two albums made their mark. The band would continue its upward trajectory with increasing sales and popularity before line-up changes and lawsuits between the classic line-up would ultimately take their toll.
Founding guitarist and primary songwriter Dino Cazares exited the group in 2002. The band continued and made a strong album in 2004s Archetype. Unfortunately, its follow-up, 2005s Transgression, was a much weaker effort. Eventually, Bell and Cazares reunited and released Mechanize in 2010. The album received much enthusiasm from the fans. Still, lawsuits between the pair and ex-members of the band caused further strife and ultimately resulted in the departure of Bell in September of last year. The good news is, Bell’s lyrical and vocal contributions to Aggression Continuum were recorded back in 2017 so he is still very much a part of this album. Cazares starting a fundraising campaign in 2020 to re-enter the studio to improve upon the initial sessions. Drummer Mike Heller replaced the initially programmed drums. Rhys Fulber contributed keys, and Andy Sneap mixed and mastered the album. Cazares also took the extra studio time to re-track his distinctive guitars, also performing the bass guitar as he has done many times before. I can only imagine all this time has only resulted in a better record than what we would have gotten otherwise. The keys on this album are probably the most cinematic in the band’s discography and primarily feature an orchestral sound. The perfect compliment to make Bell’s lyrics come to life while his aggressive vocals on this record are some of his strongest in recent memory. Cazares continues to showcase his singular guitar style and focuses on songcraft and arrangements instead of individual riffs.
The combination of what Cazares and Bell do together makes Fear Factory the unique band it is. Fans of the band will find a lot to love about Aggression Continuum. Unfortunately, Bell is gone. There are plenty of good cop/bad cop singers that have emerged since the band first made their mark with this at-the-time unique formula, but there is more to Bell than that. Cazares may find a technically better vocalist, but Bell’s earnest vocal delivery and lyrics will be hard to replace.
Pre-order Aggression Continuum by Fear Factory HERE