photo & text by nacrowe
its readily apparent that INDUSTRIAL METAL pioneers FEAR FACTORY were on a creative roll when they created OBSOLETE (ROADRUNNER, 1998) in the late 1990s. they always had next-level CRUSHING METAL staccato riffage a la DINO CAZARES as well as VOIVOD-inspired lyrical fever dreams of a FUTURE DYSTOPIAN STATE controlled by ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE through the creative mind of singer BURTON C. BELL, especially on the much CELEBRATED previous DEMANUFACTURE (ROADRUNNER, 1995) album. but OBSOLETE took these sci-fi themes and punishing sonic BRUTALITY, not to mention the songwriting, to an entirely new plateau on tracks like "EDGECRUSHER," "FREEDOM OR FIRE," "SMASHER / DEVOURER," "HI-TECH HATE" and most memorably throughout the EPIC centerpiece "RESURRECTION." this was music believably written by a FUTURE SINGULAR CONSCIOUSNESS somewhere between MAN and ROBOTS lamenting the loss of HUMANITY. there is a leve of thematic and musical COHESION on this record that arguably was never matched again in their discography, despite other SEMINAL efforts like their follow-up release DIGIMORTAL (ROADRUNNER, 2001).
i came to be aware of FEAR FACTORY when i saw their BLISTERING set at OZZFEST 99 in support of OBSOLETE from the previous year. what caught my attention was the RIDICULOUS precision of their live set. this was the era of NU-METAL and guitars that were positioned in the frequency range of basses and employed simple guitar riffs that were meant to establish a GROOVE. the result was a muddled sonic affair. in contrast, FEAR FACTORY was almost a throwback in terms of aural heroics to the right-hand PERCUSSIVE tightness and GALLOPING, rhythmic dexterity of RENOWNED THRASH guitarists like JAMES HETFIELD (METALLICA), SCOTT IAN (ANTHRAX) and JEFF HANNEMAN (SLAYER). CAZARES takes that level of precision and melds it with PROGRESSIVE INDUSTRIAL elements that opens a new world of staccato rhythms and counterintuitively, deep GROOVE. to my ears it outdid similar achievements by the likes of MINISTRY or MACHINE HEAD. i was a fan on the spot.
its funny that with the currently rolled out advancements in online ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE chatbots like CHATGPT and GOOGLE BARD, that this PHILIP K. DICK / ISAAC ASIMOV / WILLIAM GIBSON / ARTHUR C. CLARKE / H. G. WELLS future is seemingly at our doorstep and the themes of FEAR FACTORY and OBSOLETE in particular are as RELEVANT as ever. makes me wonder what an actual METAL album by a COMPUTER would sound like. i highly doubt itd be as unrelentingly BRUTAL or creatively COHESIVE as OBSOLETE.
but who really knows?