Release Date: 18th June 2021
Record Label: Nuclear Blast Records
For Fans Of: Meshuggah, Strapping Young Lad, DevilDriver
It is fair to say that Dino Cazares and Burton C Bell are strong contenders for the Ross and Rachel of the metal world. Their turbulent relationship has been off and on again more frequent than lockdown restrictions this past year. Sadly, it seems that the bridges have truly been burned this time, and that we are witnessing the last Fear Factory record to feature Bell’s iconic vocals.
Aggression Continuum is the tenth full length release from the band, but was initially finished back in 2017. Legal issues regarding ownership of the band name, along with creative decisions such as replacing the programmed drums with a live drummer, led to a significant delay, all of which culminated with Bell leaving after having fronted Fear Factory for over 30 years. As such, Aggression Continuum will serve as a swansong for the vocalist, and may come as a bittersweet listening experience for longtime fans.
As the name suggests, Aggression Continuum leans on the angrier side of Fear Factory’s music. Yes, the band aren’t known for their sensitive ballads, but they have had the odd dalliance outside of unrelenting ferocity, veering into the softer side of metal, maybe even alternative rock. Seeing as the group (or should I say, Dino and Burton) are considerably more competent at the heavier side of composition, Aggression Continuum plays to their strengths. No time is wasted with attempts at singalong choruses or melodic interludes, focussing purely on the rapid fire machine gun action of Cazares’ guitarwork and the staccato barking of Bell. As a result, Aggression Continuum is most comparable to Mechanize in its level of intensity (an album that was perceived by many as a return to form for the band), proving that even after all these years, Fear Factory still know how to pummel their listeners’ right in the earholes.
Lead single ‘Disruptor’ features all you’d expect and hope from a Fear Factory track. Clinical precision in the instrumentation, razor sharp guitar tone with a low end that packs a punch, all topped up with Bell’s powerhouse distorted roars. Even the clean singing, which often pale in comparison to his harsh vocals, is a perfect fit in the context of the song. Follow up single ‘Fuel Injected Suicide Machine’ boasts more of the speedy tremolo picking/kick pedal synchronisation that the band popularised, as well as the notable inclusion of orchestral pads, which provide a fresh seasoning rarely found in the band’s back catalogue.
Yet despite all the classic tropes one would hope to find on a Fear Factory record, it doesn’t feel like any new ground is being covered. In fact, when was the last time the band covered new grounds? While the saying goes ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ rings true in many areas of life, should creative types not aim to at least improve upon their work? Particularly since many bands influenced by or comparable to Fear Factory have done so. Meshuggah took the hypnotic rhythms and combined it with disorientating time signature manipulation, modern metalcore bands such as After The Burial showcase a more technical proficiency of the entire fretboard, rather than just the low end, and Devin Townsend took elements of Strapping Young Lad and turned it into downright bonkers metal. This isn’t to say that Aggression Continuum is a bad album, and is stronger than quite a few records from the band’s library, but where is the innovation present on Demanufacture?
Perhaps these comments are too harsh. Expecting a band to reinvent the wheel after 30 years is somewhat demanding, and Aggression Continuum is certainly the most consistent and enjoyable Fear Factory record since Mechanize’s release 11 years ago. Seeing as this album marks the end of an era for the band, who can blame them for sticking to what they know and releasing a damn solid record of punishing extreme metal? Sit back and enjoy another dose of cold, industrial, dystopian themed heaviness.
‘Recode’, ‘Disruptor’, ‘Manufactured Hope’
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