Just before sitting down to write this review, I happened to read the latest FEAR FACTORY news posted right here on Blabbermouth. Specifically, vocalist Burton C. Bell's description of "Transgression" as "experimental" is the part that stuck. It's a good starting point, so let's go with it. While the new album is not "Archetype", I wouldn't say it's experimental, as the term could imply an abandonment of the core sound. There are, however, experimental aspects, sound expansions, and musical ebbs and flows, but little that would lead one to believe it's anything other than a FEAR FACTORY album.
A sizeable chunk of that standard FEAR FACTORY heaviness displayed on "Archetype" — itself sharing some similarities with the primal early stuff — is still present (the kick drums locked in with the chugging riffs, the classic Bell vocals, etc). Producer Toby Wright (METALLICA, KORN, ALICE IN CHAINS, SOULFLY) does give the arrangements more room to breathe, and the keyboards take on more of a melodic emphasis in parts. Still, there's no denying that songs like "540,000 Degrees Fahrenheit", "Spinal Compression", "Moment of Impact", and the title track are stone-cold FEAR FACTORY slammers. "Contagion" rips hard on the verse and soars on the chorus. "New Promise" could be considered a departure, if only because the arrangement isn't metallic in the traditional FEAR FACTORY sense. Instead a more open-ended guitar style, minor vocal changeups, and other compositional variances are incorporated. None of it should be cause for concern, provided you're in agreement with the old adage, "variety is the spice of life."
On the other hand, the trippy atmospherics and opulent strings on the mellow one of the bunch, "Echo of My Scream" (featuring FAITH NO MORE's Billy Gould on bass), may put a fan or two's panties in a twist. Why? I suppose because people need something to bitch about. It's not my cup of tea either, but it's in no way a bad song. The superior sense of melody on the mildly poppy "Supernova" (also with Gould on bass) can't be denied, regardless of the tune's distinct lack of stomp. Maybe the album's best track, "Millennium", does possess said stomp, yet also features an exceptionally hooky chorus. If the covers of U2's "I Will Follow" and KILLING JOKE's "Millennium" don't work for you, then just pretend both are bonus tracks.
Experimental or not, "Transgression" is a far more varied album than "Archetype", but I don't see it alienating most FEAR FACTORY fans. And if it does? Makes no difference to me; I enjoyed the disc.