Home > Music > Fear Factory – Demanufacture (1995)

Fear Factory – Demanufacture (1995)

By the time this came out in 1995, industrial metal was a trend. There were essentially two parallel approaches to the genre at this point. On one hand, we had the grindcore influenced, ultra-abrasive method influenced by bands like Throbbing Gristle and Swans and exemplified mainly by Godflesh. On the other hand, we also had a more electronic, accessible approach popularized mainly by electro-industrial and alternative rock acts, like Nine Inch Nails. Obviously, there was some overlap, and Demanufacture sits squarely in the middle of the spectrum.

This basically means we have simplistic structures and melodic composition with extreme metal aesthetics. Burton C. Bell’s clean singing is especially useful, since it adds much needed layers to the sound – case in point: Self Bias Resistor, which has a chorus that simply wouldn’t work if it was shouted. He uses his harsh vocals (not quite low enough to be growls, but definitely not shrieks) efficiently as well. Outside of the dual vocalled approach, the rest of the instruments fall into a percussive groove/thrash mold – riffs are either fast, or midpaced, depending on the song. Unfortunately, the riffs are fairly basic, generally consisting of power-chord chugging and tremelos, and occasional chromaticism. The drumming is moderately technical, showcasing a variety of patterns over a large amount of double bass drumming.

On this album, the strongest moments, surprisingly enough, are the melodic and laid-back portions. While the title track evolves into a ripping thrasher,  and “Self Bias Resistor” keeps up the intensity, “Zero Signal” is the first high point of this album, employing a lot of catchy, poplike melodies and captivating textures. Also fitting the same mold are “Dog Day Sunrise” (a Head of David cover) and “Pisschrist”, which is relatively laid back considering its intentionally controversial name. Sure, when the band decides to recall its death/thrash roots, that’s good, but they often mix in a lot of foolish sounding groove/nu-metal type sections, which are filler at best. The laid back songs, besides demonstrating the band’s ability to write good melodies, have relatively few of those.

In the end, this proves to me that that Fear Factory could easily write a laid-back “ambient metal” album and have it turn out well, but they didn’t end up doing that. You know who ended up doing that? Devin Townsend. It sounds like a gigantic detour, but two months before this came out, Strapping Young Lad released their debut, which at times sounds like a much heavier, faster version of this, sharing the tendencies towards melodic writing, and occasionally having laid back moments. City is fairly similar in that regard, except with further streamlined songwriting, and a massive production boost – similar to what happened between FF’s debut (Soul of a New Machine) and this. I’m going to put that down to similar influences. Anyways, “Ocean Machine” probably counts as the ambient metal album analogue that Fear Factory never ended up putting out, but could’ve. And nowadays, Fear Factory is 50% SYL by weight, since Byron Stroud and Gene Hoglan ended up flocking to its banner. Strange for sure, but back then, the bands had a good deal of common ground. Fans of this should listen to SYL, and vice versa. Don’t think I won’t recommend this on its own merits, though.

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