Review – Fear Factory: Genexus

By -
  • Bio: n/a
  • Label: Nuclear Blast Records
  • Release Date: August 7th, 2015
  • Genre: Groove Metal, Industrial
  • Website: Visit Website
  • Rating (out of 10):

It’s been about twenty-five years since Fear Factory came to be (twenty-six if you include the year as Ulceration), and the now three-piece has certainly had their ups and downs. They were one of the first bands to really make the rough and clean vocal approach in a single song a well acceptable possibility in metal, thus inspiring a slew of other bands that have become legends in their own right. Eventually they toned themselves down for the sake of mosh pit friendly songs that didn’t always translate well in the studio by the time 2001’s Digimortal rolled around. Of course, that’s a statment that could easily be reversed for some, as almost everything this band has released was met with a mixed reception. However, today we find the group signed with Nuclear Blast Records to unleash their highly anticipated eleventh full-length album, Genexus. But does it find the band dropping the ball entirely, or is this possibly their best effort to date?

Genexus stands as one of those interestingly “out of character” albums for a band, especially for Fear Factory. However, the audio quality is about on par with what fans expect, being able to be described as heavy and punishing for much of the release. The signature slightly mechanical distortion on the guitars are presence, the drums are all tuned and captured just right to give a solid click to the bass kicks to crisp crashes, rougher vocals at just the right level, and a bass guitar presence that isn’t too dominant, but gets the point across with the greatest of ease. However, one of the key factors ends up the additional industrial elements in the background that often play up the necessary atmosphere for the performance at hand which, next to the clean vocals, is one of the main factors as to why Genexus is such a different experience overall.

This isn’t your traditional oppressively bleak Fear Factory efforts. Unlike nearly every album that has come before it, Genexus is a far more hopeful outing, and it’s a fantastic choice for the story telling involved. It also takes that heavy and punishing quality to a level that best reflects the inner and outer struggles outlined throughout the release as well. This isn’t just a dismal look into the possibilities of technology ruling out humanity, but rather a declaration against the cybernetic uprising we are facing today as told largely through the cold eyes of a war machine that can’t decipher its human side from it’s mechanical one.

What’s more, Genexus spans across the group’s differing takes on their signature sound with ease. Simpler groove heavy mosh pit fodder circa Obsolete and Digimortal is present, as are the brutal semi-death metal tinged assaults founds on the aforementioned debut, Concrete, even the recent Mechanize. If this doesn’t seem like anything more than just the group finally hitting their peak by being able to mesh these worlds together into one cohesive sound, then think again. Fear Factory, intentionally or not, have wrapped up all their albums since 1992’s Soul of a New Machine in a way that makes the members seem like prophets instead of crazy doomsayers. Every album up to this point has told warnings and stories in a different manner, only to find all of those warnings incorporated into the ultimate final battle between man and machine, and it truly is a glorious splendour to behold.

Fear Factory

If you’re looking for more proof about this, then take a look at the songs themselves. “Autonomous Combat System”, if taken literal, is essentially an aggressive introduction to where we stand today thanks largely to the ominous narration that starts things off. This is proven more truthful – coincidentally as it may be – given the recent open letter that was signed by Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk related to autonomous weaponry, which is a frightening one indeed as we inch closer to a possible Terminator-prohecized end game scenario. The additional science fiction industrial effects in the background play up a very eighties sensation to this line of thinking, all the while hammering some moderately complex grooves at the listener in the main verses, a fairly burdening slam approaching three-and-a-half minutes in, and a much lighter chorus that is a bit hazy, but casts the performance in more of a grey sky filled world with a sliver of light protruding, heralding the end times through the eyes of this automated kill machine.

That theme is carried on with “Soul Hacker”, a track that acts as an anthem to war against the impending cybernetic uprising that is destined to eliminate the individuality of the entire nation, if not the world in general. Again, this is one of the simpler groove-heavy performances, right down to having a chorus similar to the band’s previous single “Edgecrusher”. “Protomech” follows, which stands as more of a warning then anything, but also one of the darkest in atmosphere the album will see. There’s a little more complexity in the timing behind the riffs and drums, as well as a circuit board sounding industrial presence in the background that plays up the lyrical theme to this cut. The cleaner vocals can take a while before you can accept them here, but they play a huge role when you think about it, offering up the struggling human side doing what it can to prevent the technological infiltration that is taking over and erasing what self and free will remains.

There are a few that are just out of the band’s wheel house almost entirely. “Regenerate” is a far more melodic performance with some keyboards that play up an adventurous sensation on par with similar tones bands like Stratovarius or Alestorm can weave, though the simpler main verses give way to more of a melodic death metal presence that has a bit of a mainstream appeal akin to All That Remains (but far better) and modern alternaive laced Soilwork. The first two bands mentioned can also be heard from time to time in “Battle for Utopia”, offering brief moments of hope towards a positive outcome that are quickly shadowed by that very inner struggle finally coming to a head. This also has some of the tightest guitar work throughout the effort, as well as varying degrees of tension through a number of shifts in how the music progresses, creating an angelic tone to the being that falls in the battlefield, essentially making its climb to the heavens as a martyr or example for the others to strive for.

Finally there’s “Expiration Date”, which plays up that final statement about “Battle for Utopia” perfectly to represent the frailty of humanity, and how we, as a species, really only have a limited amount of time to experience all that not succumbing to the machines bestows upon us. It’s an extensive track that can become a bit preachy, but the overall message is perfectly clear: Embrace life and don’t let technology rule over it. Back when Fear Factory had first started out, computers still were merely an accessory. Nowadays, we’re becoming a bit too dependant on machines to make life easier, putting us in a comfortable enough spot that interest to see what this planet has for us to discover is waning, something the group wrote about back then, but, in reality, probably thought would never get to point. A realization that even the automaton narrator takes pity on our race for before condemning us to death once and for all, having proven to be victorious over humanity and ushering in the sentient existence entirely.

Fear Factory have stepped up beyond all expectations with Genexus, delivering us a biblical-level battle between good and evil that will ultimately decide the fate of mankind. And, well, it’s actually a truly frightening experience when you think about it, especially given where we stand today with our “mastery” of technology. It’s been twenty-five years since the band first formed, and if this were to be their final album, it would be the grandest way for the band to go out, leaving us with a far more morbid prophecy than the band probably even though possible while writing it. Genexus takes everything the band learned and refined it into one of the most epic albums of the year, if not this decade.

Fear Factory

Digital review copy of this release provided by Nuclear Blast Records.