It’s been a few years now since Fear Factory were dabbling with sci-fi concept albums, string sections and Gary Numan dividing fans, critics and the band alike. With last years Archetype they made a conscious decision to go back to their roots and deliver fast and heavy trademark Fear Factory music and were back on the scene with a thunderclap. While there’s plenty of that again on Transgression, there’s some softer moments too, and even (God forbid) a U2 cover. So where is Fear Factory headed now?
Right from the start 540,000 Fahrenheit blasts off with a full-on battery of thrashy guitar and drums before singer Burton Bell joins in, sounding almost ghostly with all the space-rock effects laden over the top. The title track is a million times better again, even despite the slightly silly textbook death metal lyrics. We all know why death metal bands like words like violation, corruption, destruction, attrition, contention etc. – it does make finding a rhyme that bit easier – and when the music is this intense you don’t really care.
Gradually, though, the pace starts to slow. Spinal Compression brings in some half-time moments amongst the machine-gun drums, almost rap-death-metal style (though it still works). Then the chorus to Contagion appears as if out of nowhere, a soaring melodic interlude over bright synth pads – very Fear Factory but, for some reason, Bell momentarily sounds a bit like a UK scally indie kid being accompanied by the defiant but depressed away crowd at Manchester United. It must be all those effects units he keeps ingesting. Still great tunes though.
Soon we have the rock ballad, FF style, that is Echo of My Scream. Once past the initial worry that the band are about to launch into a cover of Every Breath You Take by The Police (I wouldn’t put it past them after I Will Follow) the song builds into an epic that uses the synths and ethereal effects to full effect.
It’s here where the album really turns, becoming a hell of a lot more poppy. There’s bits of Supernova that could almost be The Wonder Stuff, but that’s nothing compared to the inclusion of a cover of the U2′s I Will Follow. Why? Maybe fans are waiting to see what a Fear Factory version of such an un-Fear Factory tune will sound like but despite some chuggy guitars it’s not really that different from the original. It’s an odd choice, especially when followed immediately by another cover – this time Killing Joke‘s Millennium, which is a much better fit but still not really necessary.
Two more original tracks would have been nicer, especially as the intensity of the opening few tracks simply isn’t carried across the whole piece. The formal closer, Moment of Impact, brings back the pace and live versions of three songs from Archetype finish proceedings with a bang. Overall, it’s still a good album with some fantastic moments, but if Fear Factory were looking to outclass Demanufacture and astonish us all, then it simply isn’t going to happen. Give it another five years, though, and they might produce ten ballistic masterpieces and a Spice Girls cover to prove us all wrong. Now there’s an idea…