Obsolete has come under varied levels of scrutiny by the metal community. It’s clear that Fear Factory decided to play around in the mallcore, or as it was called then, “nu-metal”, music style on this release, and some people held a grudge because of that. This album was named by MTV as the heaviest album of 1998, but who is MTV to judge what music is heavy anyway? Many claim this is the true shining moment of Fear Factory, and that the conceptual story line of this album, based on books such as Brave New World, works well with the new musical transition from the death metal and groove metal sound fused with industrial.
While the music on this release isn’t quite the greatest for the band, Obsolete is still a pretty good album. The sad part about it is that much of the music on this release has been simplified, which does create some really catchy tracks, but at the same time lack a true heaviness. The best examples of this would be “Edgecrusher”, which is a much simpler song that is catchy and heavy as hell. The only problem with it is that this song will lose it’s shine after a couple listens. “Shock” is also like that, even though the song has a little more complexity to it, but really could have benefitted from some more technical music. It’s the more complex songs “Smasher/Devourer” and “Obsolete” that will stick in your head, as well as the slower tracks “Descent” and “Timelessness”.
The lyrics for the album are pretty good and relay the concept of the album very well, and the progression of the music works very well with this. The music also works well with it, varying between heavy, fast paced tracks for many of the songs, and slower cuts that perfectly represent the more despairing moments of the release, with an absolutely stellar closing track, “Timelessness”, that captures the message of Obsolete perfectly with some beautiful orchestral moments for ambience.
The digipack includes five bonus tracks on here, and it’s nice to see the bonus tracks not be remixed versions of good songs into something unbareable. “Cars”, a cover of the song by Gary Numan is very close to the original, and works very well with Fear Factory‘s already established industrial sound. It also features Gary as a guest vocalist. “O-O (Where Evil Dwells)” is decent and builds up slowly with poor vocals during the slower moments. “Messiah” is as equally heavy to “O-O”, but the vocals are much better and doesn’t feel drawn out. “Soulwound” and “Concreto” are re-recorded tracks that, at the time, were unavailable, as they were taken off the album Concrete, which never saw the light of day. These tracks are really good, aside the irritating DJ scratch during “Soulwound”.
This release is a little odd for Fear Factory, simply because they opted for some simpler music on this one, with only a few song that boasted a more technical construction. Obsolete is a pretty good album though, even if it is one of the band’s worst musically. The bonus tracks on this digipack really do add incentive to buy it, as some are better then some of the ten tracks that comprise the original album. If you enjoy Fear Factory and aren’t too picky, give Obsolete a try, but make sure you track this version down if possible so it won’t feel like a total waste if you are let down.
Initial Pressing Score: 4/10