Fear Factory’s new album, Aggression Continuum, has finally arrived on Friday (18th) via Nuclear Blast Records. The follow-up to 2015’s Genexus marks the industrial metal giant’s overall tenth full-length effort and last to feature Burton C. Bell on vocals. Metal Insider contributors have decided to review the record as a collaborative Headbangers’ Brawl: what do you think of the new Fear Factory album?
Jeff Podoshen: My expectations came in rather low with all the nonsense surrounding this record but I’ve gotta say, this is a classic sounding Fear Factory record that I really enjoy listening to. They clearly stay in their lane and don’t really try anything new. That’s not a bad thing because after all these years we know what Fear Factory is good at. Songs like “Purity” are formulaic, but at the same time, timeless. “Recode” is another amazing FF album opener with killer signature Dino riffage and those classic Burton C. Bell vocals. Really, all the songs are pretty good and Andy Sneap behind the controls likely brought out the best in the mix from the recordings he was given. While this will never be seen as the apex of their career, it will definitely satisfy fans of the band without any doubt.
At a time when everything is changing so quickly in this world – and most of it not for the better – records like Aggression Continuum gives Fear Factory fans a bit of that nostalgia from over two decades ago, and they do it so well. It’s a shame Dino and Bell can’t get it together because I would really love seeing these songs live the way they are supposed to be performed. Bell might not exactly be Rob Halford in the vocal range department but he is the voice of Fear Factory. Maybe someone can do an intervention?
Mark Zapata: This latest FF album is a long time in the making. Bands have issues, you don’t last for decades without issues. That said, I am glad that the vocals were recorded before Burton left. But the fact that tracking was being done for this record in 2017 is a testament to the process sometimes taking the long way around. I am glad it has finally reached my earholes. When I first heard “Fuel Injected Suicide Machine,” it made me want to go rewatch Mad Max Fury Road, which I will do soon, the track grabbed me immediately. I have yet to let go. The production is top notch and it sounds razor sharp and surgical. Dino’s riffs are killer and have a fresh, attacking vibe even though they were written years ago. Aggression Continuum has that classic Fear Factory assaulting feel with fresh updated ideas and musicality. I have yet to identify a favorite track but there seem to be many in the running for this honor. This is a good listen and a really solid album from FF. I feel it growing on me as I write this. I dig it. Horns up for Aggression Continuum.
Chris Annunziata: I agree with Jeff, all the prior back and forth between Dino Cazares, Burton C. Bell, and various media outlets put a damper on this record. However, the album totally rips and is arguably better than their last two albums. For the past year, Burton has been roasted for his lackluster live vocals but he sounds terrific throughout Aggression Continuum. Overall, this album contains everything a Fear Factory fan would love, crushing Dino riffs, pristine production, and futurist themed pandemonium.
Zenae Zukowski: It looks like we all agree that this album rules, and it’s a shame, as Chris pointed out, how the media and the like put this record on a questionable radar. The new Fear Factory record is bittersweet. It’s a fantastic, classic-sounding FF album, one that should not disappoint longtime fans. It’s unfortunate to see this as the last record with Burton C Bell’s vocals and witnessing the drama before this release. It’s a shame that the split had to happen since this record brings back their signature sound, which in essence, takes me back to 2001’s Digimortal. I honestly didn’t know what to expect after seeing the ongoing rollercoaster ride, making us, at one point, think the group was on an indefinite hiatus.
Back in 2015 & 2016, things looked great with the celebration of Demanufacture and welcoming their new album at the time, Genexus. They went from being on the rise to an unfortunate turn of events causing the delay for Aggression Continuum, which is overall a strong record. I’m curious how they will continue without Bell, as his signature vocals have always been a vital and irreplaceable part of the band’s sound. I guess we’ll see what happens. It only makes me wish this drama never happened because, it turns out, what Dino has been saying and promising about this album has been spot on. Their second single, “Fuel Injected Suicide Machine,” is what made me realize this will be a brutal release, and indeed, it is.
Bram Teitelman: Fear Factory are one of those bands that I absolutely loved for a handful of albums. That said, it’s been a long time since I’ve listened to them. Upon first listen to the new album and ignoring the back and forth between current and former members, this is a really solid album with few surprises. The jackhammer riffage of Dino Cazares and Burton’s good cop/bad cop vocals wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Demanufacture or Obsolete. In the early to mid-90s, FF sounded like they were imported from the future, a metal version of Blade Runner. There are still few bands that sound like them and do what they do as well, but it’s not ever going to be as surprising and inspirational as it was 25 years ago (but what is?). That said, this is as solid a release as anything they’ve put out, and any fan should be welcoming it with open arms.
Upon knowing what we know, it’s a little bit of a bummer that what we’re hearing is a relic now that Bell has left the band. It’s hard to imagine Fear Factory without him, and it’s obvious that whoever they choose is going to have to have a similar vocal range and will continually be compared to him. That’s not going to be an easy job to fill, and since the band personnel drama played out very publicly, there are probably some that just won’t be able to listen to the band without separating the politics and practices of Dino Cazares and Burton C. Bell. Hopefully that’s not the case and they don’t lose too many fans, because this is a solid album. But knowing that it was recorded by a band that hate each other and will likely never reunite dampened my enthusiasm for it somewhat.