Review: Fear Factory “Aggression Continuum” [Nuclear Blast]

Review: Fear Factory “Aggression Continuum” [Nuclear Blast]

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On 18th June of 2021 the mighty Nuclear Blast Records have released the new album “Aggression Continuum” of legendary Fear Factory, and it is 11th in their 30-year career path. And with six-year gap they again have managed to stay true to their own original and distinct visions, as well as maintaining modern sense and even offering some fresh ideas.

American veterans Fear Factory are one of the most popular and significant bands in industrial/core genres, they’ve shaped this music alongside such monsters as Godflesh or Machine Head, but still their unique approach to extreme and electronical cocktails have made them truly inimitable. But Fear Factory is also one of the most criticized bands on the metal scene, so their uniqueness and fame weren’t strewn with rose petals, but that doesn’t shut them off, they were stubbornly continuing to evolve and to build bridges between metal and electro/industrial music. Of course, brave ideas truly help the scene to break certain stereotypes and to avoid stagnation, though Fear Factory still were subject to some kind of self-reiteration. Now they are leaning towards hardcore/groove direction, almost forgetting about their death metal roots, and the level of heaviness has also slightly decreased with these changes. But regardless, the catchy ideas and memorable melodies still belong to them.

The simplicity and straightforwardness are truly loyal companions in the music of Fear Factory, despite the created impression of technical gloss (some sort of non-progressive progressiveness). And with the audibly clean sound it doubles the effect. The characteristic low and primitive guitar riffs along with distinctive drum work remind dozens of times of classical Fear Factory to the delight of old fans. But there are lot of unobtrusive elements, making the music sweeter and lighter, e.g., symphonic layers. The songs “Manufactured Hope”, “Aggression Continuum” and “Monolith” are swarming with them, even hinting on some kind of solemn officiality. The groovy and hardcore mood pays tribute to 1990s, but still the overall structural patterns fight for modern perception, so the album sounds old school and contemporary at the same time. The particular cosmic sounds and ambient elements (“Cognitive Dissonance” and “End of Line”), obtained by the influence of six guest keyboardists (sic!) again emphasize the science fiction impact, but the brightest industrial passages also allude on themes of mechanization.

The tendency to use the clean vocals in choruses is the old tradition not only for Fear Factory, but for many hardcore/metalcore bands as well, but the distinct and remarkable voice of their original and permanent singer Burton C. Bell was always the hallmark of the band. Alas, he recently left the band, saying that he is done with it ultimately due to a number of misunderstandings and conflicts, and now he is focusing on his other project Ascension of the Watchers. It’s hard to say, how the band will go on without his unique voice. But these chorus things really incline more towards pop approach, so accessible and lightweight. So, not so much aggression on “Aggressive Continuum”, but still all the grooviness of this record furiously scatters away all the suggestions about pop-oriented elements.

It’s difficult to foresee in what form the music of Fear Factory will survive without Burton, if he really left the band for good. Of course, they will manage without him, but will it be the same Fear Factory? As for now, they again and again have reminded the metal world how exceptional and familiar their music is, but also how pertinent it sounds for modern age, and not without self-esteem.

Release date: June 18th, 2021

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