After a 3 year wait I think it’s fair to say a lot of people are very excited about the prospect of a new Fear Factory album. I certainly was. Following 2012’s The Industrialist comes the next chapter in Fear Factory’s dystopian sci-fi (becoming reality every day though!) Man Vs Machine saga – Genexus.
Genexus begins typical Fear Factory fashion with some industrial noises however, some epic sounding octaves backed up by string and brass synths are introduced backing up the opening speech – “People fear what they don’t understand. The next step in evolution is the machine…” This sets opening number “Autonomous Combat System” nicely before guitarist Dino Cazares’ ultra-precise machine gun riffing kicks in. The song is continually backed up by brass and coupled with more melodic ideas on guitar and frontman Burton C Bell’s trademark clean vocals in the chorus makes for an awesome opener. The more I listen to it, I actually think “Autonomous Combat System” is one of Fear Factory’s best songs. It’s typical of their style but its executed so brilliantly and the subtle orchestral touch complements their sound really well. “A weapon of human design” Fear Factory certainly are, and a vicious one at that.
The next few tracks remain strong and showcase Fear Factory’s expertise in their craft. “Anodized”, ” Dielectric” and “Soul Hacker” continue in Fear Factory tradition with plenty of catchy riffs – both of the precision high speed kind and of the groovier variety with a plethora of Burton’s signature clean-sung choruses and more uplifting major-sounding riffs from Dino. There’s a lot of classic Fear Factory ideas going on throughout Genexus. There’s moments reminiscent of Digimortal, Obsolete, Mechanize and of course Demanufacture. There’s an almost cinematic feeling about Genexus, it has a grandiosity to it. Maybe it’s the use of more orchestral sounds? It’s definitely something I’ve not heard Fear Factory do before and it works great.
Ending the first half of the album is “Protomech”. The song was something of a grower for me. The verse riffs are somewhat reminiscent of “Powershifter” from Mechanize however it’s the chorus riff and catchy vocal melody that sells the song for me. At first I thought it was pretty average but over time “Protomech” has really grown on me.
Beginning the second half of Genexus is the title track. From this point on, there’s aspects of the remaining songs that seem very average to me. There’s parts of the songs that really stick in your head in contrast with others that simply pass by in an alternate-picked blur. There’s a few standout moments for me such as the main riff to “Church of Execution”. It bears similarity to some ideas expressed on Obsolete and Digimortal, with its groovy and catchy pitch jumps that remain refreshing in the context of Genexus.
Approaching the home stretch of the album Fear Factory presents possibly the most uplifting I’ve ever heard from their back catalogue “Regenerate”. The song soars through at a fast pace through major riffs galore, complimented by a majestic synth backing, which serves as a great contrast to Fear Factory’s usual dystopian atmosphere. “Battle for Utopia” has a great intro with crashing industrial noises leading into another Cazares machine gun riff coupled with soaring synth overtones. Ending Genexus in typical Fear Factory fashion with a slower, more minimalist piece followed by extended ambient industrial noise – “Expiration Date”. The track is the longest on the album yet it doesn’t feel superfluous. It’s also another different style track for the band musically, utilising a simple but catchy natural harmonic riff with some beautiful vocals on top and sonically differing guitar noises underneath. It has a rather dreamy and hypnotic feel to it that’s really different to other Fear Factory closing numbers, and I definitely think “Expiration Date” is one of their best.
To summarise, Genexus is a very solid Fear Factory album with plenty of great ideas here and there however, I feel in places its somewhat lacking in innovation. Fear Factory carved their own niche in the early 90s and perfected their unique sound with their classic second album Demanufacture. And therein lies the rub – Fear Factory’s mid 90s success created a new sound which few have managed to recreate, including Fear Factory themselves. Aspects of Genexus feel like the band are rehashing ideas that were once so innovative and unique 20 years ago. They’re the masters of their craft and they do what they do well, but I feel Fear Factory need to try and reinvent themselves a little with their next release. There’s promising signs of new ideas on Genexus but in the future Fear Factory might like to consider changing things up and experimenting with their sound a bit more. Then maybe we’ll hear an album that can truly stand alongside, if not surpass the brilliance of Demanufacture.
Let’s see what the future holds.
Highlights – “Autonomous Combat System”, ” Dielectric” “Protomech”, “Regenerate” and “Expiration Date”
Genexus is available worldwide through Nuclear Blast on 7th of August 2015