Many times in music journalism, we writers are given to hyperbole, often because it is the low hanging fruit of the field to gush about the classics with a torrent of compliments. You often read words like genre-defying, and frankly, a lot of the time they don’t land as they are meant to. However, in the case of the entire career of Fear Factory and certainty of the album Demanufacture (Roadrunner Records), the words can never do proper justice to the music. Simply stated, Deamnfacture is one of the most important, unique, and unapologetically brutal albums in heavy metal history.
Fear Factory was already ahead of its time with its legendary demo, produced by Ross Robinson, their debut Soul of A New Machine, and their inventive remix album Fear is the Mindkiller (both Roadrunner). So clearly they were building up to something grandiose for their pivotal third release. How much of game-changer this album would have been tough to predict at the time, but after its release would go on to be impossible to deny.
We could write this entire retrospective about the title track ‘Demanufacture’ alone. Everything about the song was next level big. The one of a kind right-hand chugs, the uncanny riffs, powerful and technical drumming, and Burton C. Bell’s unique vocals, fully come into his own just in the first few minutes of the song. It is as good an opening track on any album in the entire decade of the 1990s. The track clearly set the template that not only was this a vastly improved effort for the band, you were hearing something truly brand new and life-affirming. A sound that could change your very DNA, and would impact how metal was created and recorded afterward.
The album continues going from strength to strength, as complex riffs, inventive melodies, and brutal parts just smash your earpiece. And the hooks! Even the heaviest songs on Demanufacture have amazing hooks and memorable, sing-a-long parts. You can’t really even say that about the majority of extreme metal, which is why the band’s popularity exploded.
Songs like Self ‘Bias Resistor’ and ‘Zero Signal’ we just thick with drama and intensity. The terrific extra-musical parts from sequencers, and keyboards, movie sound effects, and other ear candy owed as much to the suffocating Orwellian dystopia of movies like Blade Runner (a prior influence) and The Terminator franchise, in which the band clearly interpolated both musically and aesthetically. Frequent collaborator Rhys Fulber (Front Line Assembly) and Reynor Diego added a lot of the synths and practical samples, along with Bell. The man versus machine battle played out over eleven tracks is brilliant and foreshadowed our current society in a prescient way. In Ghost Cult’s 2016 interview with Dino Cazares, he laid out his vision for what they were going for conceptually:
“On this record, what we wanted to talk about was not the man versus the machine but the man and the machine becoming one. The singularity process would actually be where man and machine have become one. In other words, they are able to create a cell – a little mechanical cell that they could inject into your body…like certain diseases that you have in your body, like cancer cells or obviously nano-technology. So once they perfect that…what’s next? Man and machine becoming one, and that’s what we’re talking about on this one.”
“Actually even when you’ve got people like Ray Kurzweil and Stephen Hawking talking about the singularity process, they’ll also try to stop it, which is kind of ironic.”
“Remember the whole cloning wars when everybody was cloning sheep and dogs? They put a law that you couldn’t do that. Obviously you’re going to be able to clone a human. You pretty much can already, but there’s a law against it. That’s pretty much what they think that is going to happen in the near future where they’re going to put a law against technology and humans becoming one.”
Arguably the bands’ best known and best overall track ‘Replica,’ was a minor hit on metal radio, the video was in rotation at MTV’s Headbangers Ball, and the song became a trademark for the band. Bell was never more heartfelt, impactful, or dynamic in his delivery and the track is just bliss to all headbangers. Bell’s vocal style and his deft ability to swap back and forth between melody and guttural vocals grew a wave of imitators, that ven found its way into mainstream metalcore and rock decades later.
Normally most bands have a top-heavy album that falls off in the middle, but not FF. ‘New Breed’ is almost a thrash death metal mash-up with a hypnotic beat that just sucks you in. Next up, their cover of Head of David’s ‘Dog Day Sunrise’ is a fan favorite, and owes a lot to their kinship with all of Godflesh and (HoD)’s Justin Broadrick musically and as genre leaders.
‘Body Hammer’ almost has a New York Hardcore riff to it, and maybe it’s just me, but the machine sounds during the song my have influenced the MCU’s Iron Man movie when Tony Stark makes the first suit in a cave and hammers the metal parts into shape. Another great song. ‘Flashpoint’ is short and has a very 1980s proto-industrial metal Musiq-concrete style that I like. ‘Pisschrist’ is another deep cut that could have been the best song on any other album and a personal favorite of mine to this day.
With the epic closing track ‘A Therapy For Pain’ the band displayed their full vision, changing what was possible for many bands making heavy music. The set the standard and would be not only an influence on progressive metal and death metal bands in that decade such as Meshuggah and Mnemic, but they would also shape several subgenres such as melodic death metal (At The Gates, early Soilwork), Static-X and more commercial industrial bands) as well. They birthed a vision uncluttered and sleek, ready to be spoon-fed into our frontal lobes. Not even the biggest bands of the decade like Metallica, Pantera, Slipknot, and Type O Negative, all with multiple major releases in the genre could overshadow the greatness of this album. It was definitely a combined team effort from the band, and without a doubt in the pantheon of greatest albums ever. And that is no exaggeration at all.