It’s one of the most divisive albums in metal’s history. Roundly despised and seen as the ultimate sell out. The moment metal cosied up to dance, with horrific results.
The remix album that took the classic songs of ‘Demanufacture’ and made them awful. Yep: it’s time to take a look back at ‘Remanufacture’.
Just how did an album like this even come to exist in the first place – especially given the critical and commercial success of it its source material, the cybermetal masterpiece ‘Demanufacture’?
The answer lies in the times that were in it, and the music that was around it.
The Year The Metallers Left
1997 was a telling year for metal, particularly in the UK and Ireland. Here, at least, it was the year of the great flake out.
The year when scores of metalheads decided that dance music was more interesting. That metal wasn’t good enough anymore. The year that leather jackets were binned overnight, swapped for baggy trousers and frosted hair.
Few ever came back.
Records like ‘Chaos AD’, ‘Burn My Eyes’ and ‘Demanufacture’ had set the world alight in the early 90s. But there was a new band in town – a band suddenly more exciting, dangerous and energetic than anything metal had to offer. It was The Prodigy.
Their 1994 lodestone ‘Music For The Jilted Generation’ would come to tear the rug from under mainstream heavy metal. It was more seductive than almost anything else around it at the time in popular culture, and killer tracks like ‘No Good Start The Dance’ were impossible to ignore. It remains an essential piece of work.
How on earth were metal bands going to get a piece of that kind of action? So, one imagines, thought every big metal executive of the era.
If anyone was best placed to do it, it was Fear Factory. As a band already steeped in cold electro styling, they had perfect cover to try it.
And unlike equally digitally aligned bands such as Godflesh, they had the profile to make it count.
Enter Rhys Fulber from electro-industrialists Front Line Assembly, an act of impeccable electronic pedigree. A few tracks aside, ‘Remanufacture’ is essentially his work. It should have been decent – so what on earth went wrong?
The main problem is that ‘Demanufacture’s tracks were so strong to begin with. Anything done to any of them was only ever going to dilute rather than improve their power.
It starts acceptably, given what it was trying to do. Mechano-industrial soundscapes usher in the familiar sounds of ‘Demanufacture’, with that unforgettable, clipped guitar. And then it all goes a bit rave, with the pumping gabba beat. Thirty seconds in, any sympathy a metalled might have had for this remix went out the window.
Yet it’s far from the worst. ‘T-1000’ sounds like the kind of thing that would have blared out the rolled down windows of a Vauxhaul Nova doing laps round your town. A cheap rave abomination that sounds like something off the ‘Thunderdome’ rave tapes.
The dancefloor classic ‘Replica’ gets an especially bad mauling, with the groovy, Prodigy wannabe bounce beat replacing the precision hammering of the original. Even the sub bass that’s spliced into its background sounds teethgrindingly out of place.
And while we’re (still) on the subject of The Prodigy, what on earth is ‘Genetic Blueprint’, the remix of ‘New Breed’, if not a straight out aping of ‘Voodoo People’s signature sound and lick?
In fact, this wasn’t one of Rhys Fulber’s remixes. That one was done by Junkie XL – the artist who did the Elvis ‘Little Less Conversation’ musical butt clencher.
And so it goes on.
If anything good does come out of it, it’s the strength of Burton C Bell’s vocal takes. On many occasions through ‘Remanufacture’ they’re exposed and unaffected, taken from the raw recordings. They’re crushing, and it reminds you that they’re probably the reason so many people took to ‘Demanufacture’ in the first place. Taken in isolation away from the layered effects of the main album, they’re even more impressive.
Metal And Rave: Don’t Do It
If anything, ‘Remanufacture’ shows that there’s always going to be a fundamental disconnect in placing brick heavy guitars beside overtly electronic beats. Few bar notable successes like Godflesh have ever really done itwell. The two just don’t sit together, and its a circle that’s not really likely to be squared.
I thought perhaps time would heal with this album. That it might be possible to view it objectively and to see if all those gabba beats could feel powerful or somehow better than they seemed at the time.
But it’s impossible. Time in this case does not heal: and ‘Remanufacture’ remains as risible and daft as when it came out.
Something Fear Factory obviously knew, as they correctly named the album that immediately followed it ‘Obsolete’. It would take them years to get back to any serious standing.
As with all crap versions of great music, listening to ‘Remanufacture’ should serve only as a prompt to go back to the crushing and epoch defining excellence of the original.
It’s unlikely that ‘Demanufacture’s class, atmosphere and titanium heaviness will ever be repeated.
As for ‘Remanufacture’, no sooner was it released than I at least remember it in the Clearance section of the record shop.
What more do you expect from an album by a metal band that looks like a pair of trainers?
– Earl Grey ::: 08/09/14