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From The Vaults #5 | Fear Factory’s ‘Remanufacture’

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.

No Disassemble!

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

  1. I remember seeing a short special about FF on MTV, while they were touring Europe, just after this was released. It featured a load of snippets of tracks from Demanufacture, with Replica playing out the piece. I hurriedly rushed to the local music shop to pick up the album and mistakenly purchased Remanufacture. I’ll never forget the utter sense of disappointment that followed. As most can remember an album purchase with your own money at 14 really was a moment to be treasured… this was akin to a betrayal!

  2. Connorbputrefy Says:

    And what a fuckin turkey it was!

  3. I never liked the idea of remix albums so I didn’t pick it up. I don’t think I even heard it. I thought that the Brutal Truth dance song was pretty fucked up though, but I never bought that ep either. Remember Pitch Shifter? Jesus… I bought one of their late nineties albums and even saw them live. They were muck. The Prodigy got the mix right but the metal bands who tried were doomed to fail.

  4. king hostile Says:

    Oh yeah and Paradise Lost – One second came out in 97! epic fail!

    Also 96 Swansong, Mata Leo….Reload….!!!! christ! can I forget this one! The more things change….(Machine head on the slide)

    Obituary “Back from the dead” I quite like this one.

    And yet “The Great Southern Trend Kill” is 96… So was the exploited’s beat the bastards…..These two albums alone would get me through the next few years until Testaments the gathering and Nevermore’s dreaming neon black. Along with Kreators outcast. I still wore tight jeans and had 18 hole docks….

    What I am trying to say is fuck Fear Factory another trend hopping band! Soul of the new machine was cool, Demanufacture was cool….. but they knew they couldn’t nor did they want to be playing heavy metal….. then they crawled back a few years later with their bass player on guitar! WTF lads red card game over….. thanks for the fish and like the dolphin said see ya!

    That remix album you have up there is hilarious πŸ™‚

  5. I’d never actually “got round” to hearing this until I clicked on that Youtube embed… oh my stars, that is an abomination!

    And why the hell does the band name on the cover look like it uses the same font as Star Trek: TNG’s opening credits? πŸ˜†

  6. paul keohane Says:

    I actually bought this when it came out, not sure why, it was a dreadful couple of years for metal around then.

  7. I never bought it when it came out. It was always one of those albums I meant too. Having heard that just now I’m relieved I didn’t. Demanufacture is still up there for me though. I always liked the earlier pitch shifter stuff.

  8. paul keohane Says:

    Early FF and Pitchshifter were great, , would rarely listen to them now though.

  9. I bought the bastard thing because I liked Demanufacture. Thanks to th Internet such fuck ups are a thing of the past.

  10. Shockingly bad “album”. Especially after the masterpiece that was Demanufacture.

  11. Heard this as a teenager at a time when FF were one of my absolute favourite bands… Fucking appalled I was.

  12. I think it got a rave review by Kerrang at the time. Can’t blame them for trying thought. The late 90s was a woeful time for metal bands.

  13. resonant paddy Says:

    Fear factory for me was soul of a new machine and demanufacture ,end. Digimortal was another pile o shite. Kind of like machine head, for every one good album there’s three terrible albums. Anyway there a tonne of better stuff out there to bother about than wasting our time talking about about shit American trend hoppers.

  14. They did it before with the ‘Fear is the Mindkiller’ EP which fused dance music sounds with their own songs off SOANM and it wasn’t that bad. Never heard ‘Remanufacture’. Soul and Demanufacture are still great albums after all is said and done.

  15. Jugendherberge Says:

    The first great clearout of falsers into the pilled up bosom of dance music came around 1991, I recall. Cunts showing up at gigs in tracksuits and such, terrible form.

    I never got into this band at the time, even the albums people tell me are good still sound like pish to these ears. I don’t get them at all.

    If they were the soundtrack to your youth, you have my deepest codolences.

  16. King Hostile Says:

    Good one Jugendherberge, couldn’t agree more πŸ™‚

  17. If you were listening to Fear Factory, you were already false.

  18. Imagine I thought Remanufacture was actaully alright at the time!… but then again I was consuming vast quantities of illegal substances in that period of my life so I think that might explain most if it!! πŸ˜‰

  19. I am with pentagrimes on this one. At the time this came out i was 11 and listening to scooter and the prodigy, both of which are better than this record.

  20. Never listened to them – but One Second from 97 W’s very far from a “fail”. For some “Host” may have been but no way one second fits that billing…

  21. I started getting into metal through unspeakable types of shit music. But fuck it, I wouldn’t have at all if it weren’t for those bands! I’m 27, so I hadn’t a clue what was happening in the late 80s/early 90’s. Yiz cunts πŸ˜›

  22. Stephen Bromalley Says:

    from a track on Cry Now, Cry Later to this in only 4 years.

  23. I bought this for literally 50p in either Cash Converters or Hector’s House in the summer of 1997 only a couple of months after it come out in the first place.. I tried to listen to it and got probably 45 seconds in before deciding I couldn’t stomach it and gave up.

    I remember having a drunken conversation in the Venue with a lad one night who told me it was utterly fucking brilliant if you gave it a chance. I tried to the next day and this time got about a minute in before the disc stopped playing due to a massive gouge out of it I evidentally hadn’t noticed, never tried to listen to it again since and don’t think I ever will πŸ™‚

  24. ThecHead Of David cover on demanufacture is maybe the best song of it but this sort of cultural shift did unfortunately happen

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