As one metal's mightiest acts, FEAR FACTORY has also been one of its most embattled. We won't rehash the roundabout events of division between Burton C. Bell, Dino Cazares, Raymond Herrera and Christian Olde Wolbers, considered by most to be the band's definitive lineup. With only Bell and Cazares representing the revered team (and Cazares rejoining FEAR FACTORY in 2009 after departing himself for a while), the band has not only gone through stylistic changes through albums such as "Archetype", "Transgression", "Mechanize" and the concept album "The Industrialist". FEAR FACTORY has run a gamut of bassists in their lengthy history, now consisting of former STATIC-X, SOULFLY and MINISTRY bassist Tony Campos in place of Matt DeVries and Byron Stroud before him.
While "Mechanize" and "The Industrialist" are considered by many fans to be "truer" FEAR FACTORY albums following the stripped-down and meandering experiments on "Transgression", (an album Christian Olde Wolbers felt was rushed and "half-finished") where we're at in 2015 is "Genexus", an album that's been quite some time in production. Trusted metalhead Andy Sneap joined in the production of "Genexus" along with longtime keyboard associate Rhys Fulber.
Launching through the band's new label, Nuclear Blast Entertainment, "Genexus" embraces more of FEAR FACTORY's electronic and industrial foundations than they have in some time, while using intermittent live drumming, split between Mike Heller and longtime journeyman Deen Castronovo. If you loved "Transgression", you'll love "Genexus". If you dissed on "Transgression", well, hang in there. "Genexus" is partly "Transgression" and "Digimortal" but it's partly "Demanufacture" in spirit, which is to everyone's advantage coming here.
The opening number "Autonomous Combat System" is a methodically-built epic sculpted in the usual FEAR FACTORY manner, i.e. blast rhythms, chugging chords and Burton C. Bell's woofing, building bar-by-bar toward climactic, clean-sung choruses. If there's any real criticism of FEAR FACTORY after all these years, it's a relative sameness to their songwriting. That hardly changes here. No one will ever take away the heaviness of FEAR FACTORY, no matter who's performing, but "Genexus" is like its predecessors in the fact you know you're gonna be riding agro blares and whumping breakdown chords in tandem with Burton C. Bell's barking, everything leading to elevated, peppy choruses.
On the other hand, for all of "Genexus"'s predictability, the songs are well-crafted and pretty easy to sink into. That is, if you're down with the harmonious flair of "Anodized" and the bouncing bobs of "Soul Hacker", "Regenerate" and "Church of Execution", as close to conventional as FEAR FACTORY has gotten since "Linchpin" from "Digimortal" and "Supernova" from "Transgression". In fact, "Church of Execution" is structured similarly as "Linchpin" in the chord layouts (though the former is denser and groovier) and blast beat nudges amidst the flowing rhythm of the verses. "Regenerate" is for certain this album's "Supernova" with its pop hooks, mostly straightforward grooves and yummy choruses that even a contestant on "The Voice" would field in similar fashion. Even Burton C. Bell's yelling seems checked down for crossover appeal. Love it or hate it, there is an undeniable catch to "Regenerate", but be warned, the pop swirls of the eight-plus-minute digi-ballad "Expiration Date" will challenge any and all FEAR FACTORY fans.
At least "Protomech" delivers the goods in the heaviness department as one the faster and meatier cuts on the album. It's also structured loosely in the manner of "Zero Signal", one of FEAR FACTORY's masterpieces in the way it gallops about and concludes with an eloquent piano outro. Also to the good, "Genexus" is loaded with lots of electronics and keys, courtesy of Damian Rainuad and Giuseppe Bassi. Though only clocking at 4:14, "Battle for Utopia" is a vast mini-epic and it's the keys as much as the ripping riffs that breathes excitement into the track.
The key and industrial supplements gives "Genexus" a busier and heartier personality, lighting up the album's prospectus of mankind transitioning toward a more mechanized state of being. It's always been the foundation of FEAR FACTORY, and the keys, along with guitar and bass rumbles of the title track, accents Burton C. Bell's protesting roars over mankind's course of slavery to the machines its grown too reliant upon, even in this still-infancy age of robotics.
As Tony Campos enters yet another new era of the band, his playing style should fit FEAR FACTORY's motorized indentations and he should be able to gel fine with what Dino Cazares has laid out for him on "Genexus". Like "Transgression", this is sometimes a puzzling album, but not without its payoffs. Burton C. Bell made no bones in refuting Christian Olde Wolbers's criticisms of "Transgression". This time, Bell and FEAR FACTORY had time on their sides to create "Genexus", so let the jury decide its fate, as it will the new "Terminator" movie this summer.