Friday, August 16, 2002 @ 5:58 PM
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The CIA and FBI could learn a thing or two about secrecy from the Fear
Factory camp. The now-defunct quartet, and producer Ross Robinson, somehow
managed to keep the band's first studio recording under wraps for a decade
without it leaking out as a bootleg tape or making its way onto the Internet
and the CD burners of Napster-savvy metalheads.
Recorded in 1991 with Robinson (who a few years later would craft the now
all-to-familiar "nu metal" sound with Korn) behind the boards doing some of
his first production work, Concrete never was released because of the usual
music business bullshit. When the band later signed up with Roadrunner, the
brain-trust there wisely had Fear Factory re-record half of the material for
inclusion on the band's "official" debut, 1992's Soul Of A New Machine with
the more seasoned Colin (Napalm Death, Carcass) Richardson producing.
Concrete shows just how primal and unrefined Fear Factory was in its earliest
days -- and offers evidence as to just how quickly the band was able to begin
a sonic evolution that reached its peak with 1998's cyber-metal classic
Soul Of A New Machine was a quantum leap forward the band as songwriters and performers, and its crisper, punchier, more sophisticated sound completely transformed Fear Factory and provided a solid foundation to build on -- which, of course they did. Although there are some of early indications of more adventurous industrial aspirations on Concrete in the occasional samples and effects and the
voiceover that introduced "Big God/Raped Souls," Fear Factory was still very
much a death metal/grindcore band at the time. And Robinson, himself still a
neophyte making the transition to the other side of the boards after having
played guitar with L.A. speed metallers Détente, was in no position to
"shape" a band's sound like he could now.
As a result, Concrete is a rough, primitive effort that seems more like a
demo than a genuine album. The aforementioned "Big God/Raped Souls," "Self
Immolation" and "Suffer Age" feel very much like works in progress with their
loose structure and minimalist production value. They have a
recorded-live-in-the-rehearsal-room sound and urgency, with nothing to polish
the rawness or flesh out the intricacies. Their true potential would be
realized later on Soul, or, in the case of "Pisschrist" which ended up on
Demanufacture, to be retooled into an entirely different song.
Tracks such as "Deception" or "Ulceration," heard for the first time here,
dig down to Fear Factory's very roots. Fast and furious, and with singer
Burton Bell in full cookie monster mode, these brutal little ditties are
straight out of the Napalm Death school of maximum grind. Anyone who saw Fear
Factory during the Soul Of A New Machine tour got a good taste of this side
of the band because it did take some time for the fellas to translate their
studio chops onstage.
As roughshod and gnarly as Concrete is, it's still a fascinating snapshot of
where Fear Factory -- and Ross Robinson, for that matter -- came from. And it's
not a bad record by any means. Even at its most primitive, Fear Factory had
more going for it than most of the death metal dunderheads that were around
at the time.
Now that the secret's out, Concrete makes for a worthwhile bookend to any
Fear Factory fan's collection -- the obligatory live album or "Best of" set is
sure to come later. And it proves just how much a band can grow if it's not
afraid to experiment and push the envelope. It's just too bad that that
envelope is now closed on Fear Factory.
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