Nine Inch Nails and Ministry, along with Godflesh, are often considered the two most important and commercially successful purveyors of industrial rock and metal – at least since the late 1980’s. For fans of the harsher side of the genre, though, you likely know Fear Factory are a massive influence. If 1992’s debut album Soul Of A New Machine (highly groundbreaking in its own right) was the opening salvo, then 1995 sophomore record Demanufacture was its devastating follow-up.
There are several factors as to why Demanufacture is such a legendary album. Vocalist Burton Bell, whose vocals had improved tenfold in just a few years, helped to pioneer the clean singing alongside death metal-oriented vocal styles that would come to dominate various forms of metal and post-hardcore over the next 20+ years. He provided the perfect voice for the cold, calculated, and harsh instrumental backdrops of Herrera, Wolbers, and Cazares. Cazares’ guitar style, in particular, is that of a machine-like precision – much the same as the furious low-end of Wolbers and the fantastic drumming of Raymond Herrera. The music was set to a concept album about the conflict of a man against a machine-controlled government, and given the huge influx of new technologies that were infiltrating the world in the mid-90’s, you can tell why Demanufacture sounds, well, futuristic.
Demanufacture is also a reaction to (at the time) current events, as well. Living in California in the early 90’s, there were no shortage of major issues and events happening – from the Rodney King riots, to major earthquakes and other natural disasters, Demanufacture manages to both be culturally relevant as well as foretelling both the technological and musical future that would enter the present quite soon.
As important a record as Soul Of A New Machine was, the album was also a primitive, somewhat underdeveloped form of their future selves. Demanufacture was the calculated answer to that, and while tracks like “Replica” and “New Breed” might be a but more accessible to casual listeners than many other bands of the genre, rest assured this is not easy listening. Foregoing most of its predecessor’s grindcore influences in favor of pushing the more industrial, electronic, and melodic stylings to the front was probably the best decision of Fear Factory’s career to date. Tracks like the underrated “Body Hammer” bludgeon the listener with a calculate, brutal intensity that is very real. While a compelling argument can be made for SOANM or even the follow-up Obsolete as being the best Fear Factory record (they’re must-listens, to be certain), there is only one real best Fear Factory album – and that’s Demanufacture. Ahead of its time in so many ways, the band’s precision attack and highly improved songwriting led metal into the future, and its presence is still felt in metal today.