I keep no secrets about my love for nu-metal, it was this genre along with grunge that introduced me to a whole new world of music in my early teens. While you can easily include Fear Factory in the industrial metal genre (and you should) they still hold a Nu-Metal vibe, one of their most popular albums, 2001’s Digimortal found huge success with the rise of Nu-Metal, they will forever be spoken about in the same breath as those “Golden Age” Nu-Metal bands despite making their debut in the early ’90s with heavier, more chaotic releases (95’s Demanufacture anyone?).
While the band has remained consistent in their approach over the years, around 2004 with the release of Archetype there was a subtle shift in their sound, things became a little more predictable and stuck to a blueprint drawn up at the exact moment Archetype was written. It’s hard to pin down exactly what happened and why. If I’m being super critical, following that album it has all felt a little… phoned in, there have been four albums since Archetype and all four haven’t exactly made many waves, all seemingly passing by with little fanfare.
This isn’t a “history of” piece though, this is a review of Fear Factory’s newest release, Aggression Continuum and despite my or anyone else’s feelings on the title, this is the first new album since 2015 which saw the release of Genexus and the band’s fourth release on Nuclear Blast. Reasons for the gap include legal battles and differences between the band members, resulting in Burton C Bell, the band’s long-term vocalist quitting the band, however, his vocals remain on this record as the recording was laid down in 2017.
So six years on, what are Dino and co throwing our way? Aggression Continuum is made up of ten tracks, they are still creating heavy, industrial soundscapes, complete with strings, downturned guitars and those tried and true industrial anvil strikes and relentless drum beats. There is a bit more groove on this record when compared to the previous release, or at least it’s more present here, which is a plus.
Remember that shift in tone and sound I mentioned above? That seems to have been mostly dropped for this release, while it still holds some of the post-Archetype sound, some of those cobwebs have been shaken off and a burst of fresh air and creativity has been thrust into the band despite their troubles and it’s fantastic to hear. There feels like more commitment here (ironically), more desire to create a “proper” Fear Factory record with nice little nods to their much earlier, much heavier attack.
There is just more to this record, a return to form if you will. I was more intrigued to hear this album than I was excited, expecting more of the same and I was pleasantly surprised. Seeing other reactions online, some are calling this their best in years, I’d lean towards agreeing, it’s definitely setting the new foundations for the band should they decide to continue and with a new vocalist being needed what better time to build on this return to roots than now? This is a good record but the next Fear Factory release could be very interesting!