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What Fear Factory Should Learn From Entombed

Fear Factory have announced their new album, ‘Genexus’. According to vocalist Burton C. Bell, “This word describes the next transition in human evolution as man moves forward to a ‘mechanical’ state of being.”

The cover art depicts a type of skeleton that also resembles armour, with wires hanging down from the gut. ‘Wire-testines’, I suppose.

You already know how this is going to sound. They’ve had some bangers, it’s all gotten a bit same-y, but Fear Factory have an easily recognisable aesthetic that they’re sticking with for business reasons.

People know it when they hear it because it’s familiar. To change their sound would only alienate the fan-base they’ve built.

But not all of their fans, surely.

When ‘Transgression’ was released amidst line-up struggles, I got pretty pepped up upon hearing their new approach. Finally, textures – and an influx of new ideas.

They’d smashed their own formula and for the first time in years were breaking new ground. (Importantly, they sounded pissed-off.) The terrible response it recieved, however, led to the galling ousting of two long-term members, and now – ‘Genexus’.

A Lesson From The ‘Tomb

We’ve seen it before. Entombed. After ‘Clandestine’, Entombed could have played it straight – stuck to operating within the confines of death metal.

They didn’t, and ‘Wolverine Blues’ delivered like the gut-shot no-one saw coming. And yet they didn’t exploit this vein for any time either.

‘To Ride…’ saw them develop further and I saw ‘Same Difference’ as just another welcome step in the evolution of their sound. It was brave and took influences from outside the expected scenes.

Good for them, I thought. No. Perhaps it departed too far from Entombed’s identifiable sound. I remember, upon its release in the press, just how pleased and gratified band members were, sure that they’d done a good job and keen to share it with fans. Nope.

And, having now flown too high, their protracted, discomfited climb-down has been a painful thing to see.

Where has it ended? Has it ended? I hope so.

The Entombed A.D. record is lacking in any flash of inspiration. Where is the invention behind tracks such as ‘Demon’? Where’s the playfulness of ‘Parasight’? Do they care that it’s gone? Do they even know it? This thing is tedious!

Between The Temples

At the Temples festival in Bristol a few weeks ago I was talking over the career of the Dillinger Escape Plan with my good friend Paul. Charting their trajectory, pinning down traits. (Festivals can be great, can’t they.)

I like where they’re going now, but Paul likes ‘Ire Works’. The consensus seems to be that this album doesn’t see DEP at their strongest.

Written, familiarly, in the midst of disruptive line-up changes, he gets off on the pure intent of the performance – in particular on that of then-drummer Gil Sharone.

Personally, I am frustrated by minute-long songs and the absence of a strong unifying theme, yet I believe the record can be appreciated in the canon for just these aspects – it’s an anomaly. A strange departure, or identity crisis. ‘Chinese Democracy’?

For the selfsame reasons I adore ‘Saturday Night Wrist’, by Deftones.

The thing took years to write, with ideas continually being scrapped and new recordings made. And in places it sounds like it – it’s not particularly strong.

You can hear how much it meant to the band, though, to put out another record. You can hear the difficulties and their efforts – they saw it through, dammit.

How Bands Work

And I’ve always been super-interested in how bands work, anyway. Every one is different.

Do you write in isolation? Or throw ideas around in the practice room? Finding a sustainable working relationship is a rare Goddamned thing.

I suspect a lot of the good stuff we hear has been written amidst serious tensions of one sort or another, and yet all of it – each record – sees the light of day. They continue to be made. It can be hard to write when feeling under pressure – if you feel you have to. (See ‘St. Anger’. The recent thread on Metal Ireland has illuminated peoples’ reflections upon it (tl;dr – ‘a farce’).

My own I guess would be that it qualifies as one of these examples of being flawed in spite of the lengths the band went to to generate it.

It is interesting it appears to have absolutely no redeeming features despite the pained – unfathomable – processes Metallica embarked upon in its creation. It is for these reasons that I’d give it a listen, maybe, once every five to 10 years.)

Drone Doom Enigma

A final example. A shining, misunderstood diamond. The exemplar for flawed genius – ‘Filth Pig’, by Ministry. God above, what a record. No-one knows what they were doing. What is it, even? Writing it, is this how they thought it would present?

It is a repetitive doom-drone enigma. Psychedelic, impenetrable. Off-putting. Yet strangely warm with it’s chiming tones in general lo-fi fuzz. No-one expected it.

I guess, no-one asked for it, especially coming off the back of a rager like ‘Psalm 69’.

However, in that it gives the other side of the coin to ‘difficult’ flawed albums like ‘Saturday Night Wrist’ or ‘St. Anger’.

‘Filth Pig’ was created with band confidence riding high in the saddle. Ministry believed they could deliver and had our permission to do so.

As did Entombed, once. As did, say, Guns ‘N’ Roses before they lost confidence in themselves and we did in them. I’m sure you can conjure examples of this from within your own listening experiences.

When we give an artist permission to do something bold, I’ll be disappointed if they don’t present me with something outlandish. No half-measures!

Imagination is required to be deployed like a nuke. Play in time and play in tune – the two rules of music. If your content is lacking within these near-limitless parameters, I am afraid that’s a burden you need to carry upon your own shoulders, artist.

You do wanna take it to new places, but you never want to take it too far.

So says Dino Cazares.

Fuck that, Dino. I want to be surprised!

I want the artists I appreciate to continue to develop, and not just within such a prescriptively narrow framework as that you’ve established for your own art. As I said at the beginning, I believe I know already how your new record is going to sound. I’m begging – please prove me wrong.

Phil Donnelly ::: 14/06/15

  1. Interesting take, especially on ‘Filth Pig.’ I’d say the band were listening to a serious amount of Godflesh when writing the record, hence the doom-drone feel. Having said that ‘Dark Side of the Spoon’ is the really far out one. And after it’s lack of success, Warners dropped them and they went back to the Psalm 69 formula.

  2. Can’t say enough good things about Filth Pig. Glad somebody else noticed how brilliant it is. It has aged incredibly well, too. Might be a good one for the “From The Vaults” feature. Agreed about Saturday Night Wrist as well but i love every Deftones album. Had a listen to the fear factory sample online and wasn’t in any way impressed. I’ll still get it when it comes out though. Mechanize is amazing. They tried something different with the drum machine on The Industrialist and tried some new things on Transgression, and to be fair both of those are pretty shit. Maybe Dino is right when it comes to Fear Factory…

  3. Philip Donnelly Says:

    Thanks for your comments. I’ve been championing ‘Filth Pig’ for years! Although I’d argue their progression continued up until Paul Barker’s departure.

    I guess writing this I’d been thinking about bands who develop their identities over years and have a clearly-definable arc – until perhaps they go too far, and either bravely press ahead (Ministry, to a point) or cringingly climb back down to some lowest common denominator, or the absolute foundation of their style (Entombed). Must be tough when you face the backlash.

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