Candlelight Records today confirms February 9 as the American release date for Mechanize, the seventh studio album from Fear Factory. Mechanize features the highly reported reconciliation of vocalist Burton C. Bell with original guitarist Dino Cazares along with bassist Byron Stroud and journeyman drummer Gene Hoglan (Dethklok, Strapping Young Lad). The anticipated album also welcomes back keyboardist/producer Rhys Fulber (Front Line Assembly).
Mechanize is a full-fisted blast of passion and innovation that sounds like the missing link between 1995's groundbreaking Demanufacture and 1998's more texturally nuanced Obsolete. Songs like "Industrial Discipline" and "Powershifter" are crushing and colossal, melding fast and precise rhythms with vocals that pinwheel from raw and scathing to hauntingly melodic while "Fear Campaign," which features harrowing spoken word passages, quickly segues into a showcase of punishing beats, rapid-fire riffs and ghostly keyboards. For the first time in years, the band's industrial roots glimmer through its street-lethal metal, thanks in part to Fulber, who worked on Fear Factory's popular industrial remix albums Fear is the Mindkiller and Remanufacture.
"I didn't want any of the soundscapes to sound natural," says Bell. "I wanted them to be really mechanical because I wanted that aspect of Fear Factory to really shine again. I feel it kind of got dulled over and that's the aspect that I really enjoyed a lot about Fear Factory. I was a huge fan of industrial music and still am. And you don't hear much of that anymore these days."
While Mechanize is instantly reminiscent of Fear Factory's most potent moments of discovery, it's hardly a stroll down the old assembly line. Through a combination of technological advancements and experience, Fear Factory have evolved like a computer virus, constantly reconfiguring itself to maximize its destructive impact. As work began on the album in early April, Bell, who resides in Pennsylvania, admitted he initially expected the years apart would leave him feeling awkward or uncomfortable. However, when Cazares picked him up at the airport his apprehensions melted like a block of ice on a hot electric motor. "After being with him a couple hours and talking to him everything was cool," Bell says. Three months later the duo had a fresh batch of new songs written and more importantly a renewed confidence in their union.
"Our creative juices were really flowing the whole time," says Cazares about the entire creative process. "All of a sudden we'd look at the clock and go, 'Holy shit, it's already 2:30 or 3:00 am.' We just lost track of time because we were all bouncing ideas off each other really productively. We were adding touches right up until the final second to make the record as fresh as it could be."
In the early '90s, many years before Killswitch Engage and Shadows Fall started combining strangled growls with catchy vocal melodies, and Static-X and Rammstein began blending pounding staccato riffs and jackhammer beats with electronic samples, Los Angeles future-thinkers Fear Factory were reinventing both death metal and industrial rock with an arsenal of sonic styles. The band, with Bell and Cazares at its core, landed a record deal based on a self-financed recording they made with producer Ross Robinson (Slayer). They immediately entered the studio to record their first proper album, Soul of a New Machine. Released in 1992, the album nearly transformed death metal overnight with its blend of throat-abrading screams and melodic vocals, and sci-fi lyrics about a machine that was invented to control and contain mankind.
"A lot of people didn't get it and really ridiculed us," Cazares recalls. "Because of the different vocals some people were like, 'whoah, this is cool, this is different.' And then other people went, 'he's singing melodically? That shouldn't be on a fuckin' death metal record.' It took a while for more people to catch on to that style of singing, and now it's everywhere."
Fear Factory would release four critically acclaimed albums and two industrial remix EPs, selling well over a million albums in the process. In early 2002, following a grueling tour with Machine Head, the band imploded due to personal differences and sheer over-exertion. A revamped group, moving forward without Cazares, would go on release two more records over the next few years.
As time passed, the chance of a reunion between Bell and Cazares seemed less likely. Then in April, 2008, a full six years after they had last spoken, Bell, who at that time was touring with Ministry, ran into Cazares while in Los Angeles and the two reopened the lines of communication. "It just didn't feel complete," says Bell. "I realized that Dino and I were a real integral part of Fear Factory and we needed each other to make it work. Without the both of us it just lost that intensity."
In the six years that have passed since the original Fear Factory splintered, lots of transformation has taken place. Bell has formed the gothic rock band Ascension Of The Watchers, and Cazares has put out two Divine Heresy discs and toured extensively. Stroud and Hoglan have recorded and toured with Strapping Young Lad, Zimmers Hole and Dethklok. For Bell, the myriad of projects have only provided creative ideas and inspiration for Fear Factory. He notes, "in this day and age you gotta keep busy. You can't just rely on one band; something we've all learned from time and years of experience. Not only is it good to support yourself, but it also keeps you going creatively."
"This is definitely a different chapter for us and I think it's the best thing we've ever done," Cazares adds. "Obviously, Burton and I have grown up and we've pretty much perfected what we do. More importantly, we've discovered why we so were good together in the first place. Our combination just works. All the ingredients and the elements that we had in the past, combined with what we've learned since being apart feels like putting on a new glove that still feels as good as an old glove."