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Fear Factory Transgression

By Mick Stingley, Contributor
Friday, August 19, 2005 @ 0:34 AM


(Calvin/ Liquid 8)

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Holy shit, this record is awesome. I wasn’t even sure I was going to put it in and listen to it, because as much as I love this band, I just wasn’t feeling Archetype. But maybe it was because that was the first official FF record without Dino. I’ll give it another spin and see if time makes a difference, but not before I’ve listened to this one for another six or seven hundred times…

Fear Factory is back with a fucking vengeance. Transgression opens with “540,000 Degrees Fahrenheit” and instantly you hear the brief sound of a missile being fired, which is very appropriate. This fucking song just hits so damn hard and it is mostly due to the beating Raymond Herrara puts on his drums. Fast and heavy and on top of that is this slick industrial guitar riff -- just imagine getting punched in the face over and over. Burt Bell’s vocals are clean and powerful (a real rock critic might write, “sonorous”) in his ambient/new wave groove-mode (think “Zero Signal” or “Resurrection”) yet on the chorus he’s still pretty throaty. With no artwork or lyrics (no tray card- nothing!) at press time, I can’t pin down too much of what is being sung exactly but it just sounds awesome. Something about radiation, fire, firestorm, “incinerate you” and scorching – whatever: it’s a killer way to open any record. Goddamn, this song is hot!

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This one-two kick-punch-in-the-face combination continues with the next song, the title song, “Transgression.” This song is a bit more thrashy, and glides along the beat of a steady kick-drum/and bass groove. The fills keep coming in over that, and the riffs feel as heavy as any industrial/death metal past or present. Bell is more throaty here but it works nicely because “Transgression” is pure hate (“I hate your corruption!”) and just a great slamming number. It sounds a bit like a poppier Megadeth tune, but overall it just slays and I have no complaints whatsoever.

“Spinal Compression” is good and mostly just heavy. Bell sounds a bit like he’s rapping on the verses, which I don’t care for; but on the whole it’s still a powerful song thanks to a certain under-rated drummer. “Contagion” is in the same vein, but without the rap-like growl. The chorus has that soaring vocal (again, think “Zero Signal” or “Resurrection”), though the band emphasizes playing heavy-as-fuck and this far in, they seemed to have altogether shunned the use of keyboards or big studio effects. Mostly it sounds like Christian Olde Wolbers is well underway to convincing Dino fans that he was the right man for the job. His riffs are as bludgeoning and fat as anything Dino (*ahem*) ever laid down and he walks the line between industrial (a la Ministry) and metal quite nicely, notably on “Echo of My Scream.” “Echo” is eerie and might be a little more 99X than die-hard FF fans might like, but it fits the whole of the record (which may or may not be a another concept album – AGAIN -- notes unavailable at press time). It sounds a bit like a deep cut from Type O, and Bell’s vocals are more Robert Smith-goes-NuMetal. Not the greatest endorsement, I’ll admit: I’d say it sounds like that COLD song I can never remember, (is it called, “The Fly?”) Whatever: it’s some song that 99X played a million times between 1999 and 2001. It’s way more “Ascension of the Watchers,” which was the brief project that Burt Bell had last year. Slow, groovy, mellow -- and again it fits the CD.

“Supernova” continues that pseudo-NuMetal thing that Fear Factory kinda started. Actually, I think Ministry started all of it, then NIN… but FF took it from there and made it even more popular. Maybe you don’t agree. The song is the point, though. Again, more radio-friendly (which I think FF deserves at this point), but it still goes heavy and grooves into that theme of “man vs. machine” sound they’ve made their own. “New Promise” starts out this way, too, but then heavies up.

BUT THEN, HERE’S THE WEIRD FUCKING PART: They fully fucking COVER U2. They do “I Will Follow” as faithfully as any U2 tribute band. I mean, it’s heavy enough- but WHY? Now, okay, I’m about as Irish as any American douchebag can be, and I think this is pretty good, although I’m a bit baffled as to why they chose to cover it. It’s kind of a pussy move to sell-out… but as heavy as these fucks can be, I think there must be something else going on here. I hated this the first time I heard it. I hated it the second time and by the tenth time I began to wonder why I hated it. It’s fine. I’m sick of shitty bands doing a cover and getting airplay and wondering why my favorite bands get no air at all. This band covered “Cars” already, so why do another cover when they have so many great songs? Did you catch this band out with Lamb of God last year? They were awesome, right? So what’s up? Then this thing starts to grow on me… if only because somehow I liked the song anyway. But I’m in my mid-30s… I remember the original and how cool it sounded at the time it came out. I keep thinking of when I saw Queensryche in ’99 and they covered “Bullet the Blue Sky.” I was stunned. But it sounded so fucking rad… so maybe for someone much younger, FF doing this song is hot. It doesn’t suck; but it is odd. But with Fear Factory, at this point, you tend to forgive them a bit. They should be much, much bigger. So, that said: this cover sounds pretty good. I mean, it ain’t terrible. Terrible is the Backstreet Boys. This is pretty damn cool. Diehards might not agree, but in the context of the CD, it’s stellar and a real surprise.

And then they get all heavy again. These guys are off their meds, maybe. The song that follows is called, “Millennium” and is back to the bludgeoning stuff that FF is so good at. The ambient Ultravox goes metal thing that Fear Factory owns. Everyone who likes them knows what I mean. Sorta new wave-death metal. These guys are on some killer drugs or something. But it all works and that’s the strange part. It just sounds fucking cool.

The disc closes with “Moment of Impact.” Another brutastically heavy beat-down a la Raymond Herrara and Christian Olde Wolbers. Bell sounds like every death-metaller out of Tampa and it’s great. They should have moved this song up a bit…

Overall, this sounds like something lost in time. Maybe if it came out after Obsolete people would go fucking mental… and as well they should. The true test, of course, is whether or not they can pull it off live. So you’ll just have to catch Gigantour to find out. Until then… this is pretty damn great. Fear Factory rules: give it up.

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