|In the early '90s, many years before Killswitch Engage and Shadows Fall started combining strangled growls with catchy vocal melodies, and Static-X and Rammstein began blended pounding staccato riffs and jackhammer beats with electronic samples, Los Angeles future-thinkers Fear Factory were reinventing both death metal and industrial rock with an arsenal of sonic styles. After releasing four critically acclaimed albums and two industrial remix EPs, selling over a million albums in the process.
Following a grueling tour with Machine Head in 2002, the creative core of Fear Factory imploded due to personal differences and sheer over-exertion. Guitarist and songwriter Dino Cazares went on to play with Brujeria and Asesino and vocalist Burton C. Bell took a few months off before eventually reforming the band and releasing two more records over the next few years. Without Cazares in the mix, however, Fear Factory was missing a key element of its sound and wound up feeling like a shadow of their former selves. "It just didn't feel complete," says Bell. "I realized that Dino and I were a real integral part of Fear Factory and we needed each other to make it work, and without the both of us it lost that intensity."
As time passed, the chance of a reunion between Bell and Cazares seemed less and less likely. Then in April 2008, a full six years after they had last spoken, Bell, then touring with Ministry, ran into Cazares at the band's Los Angeles show and reopened the lines of communication. "I just said 'hey, how you doing?' and it started from there," Bell says. Not long thereafter Bell and Cazares were jamming again. With bassist Byron Stroud and drummer Gene Hoglan (Dethklok, Strapping Young Lad), Fear Factory was back and ready for action.
The result of their union is a full-fisted blast of passion and innovation that sounds like the missing link between's 1995's caustic, groundbreaking Demanufacture and 1998's more texturally nuanced Obsolete. Thanks in part to the co-production efforts and keyboard programming of Rhys Fulber, who worked on Fear Factory's industrial remix albums Fear is the Mindkiller and Remanufacture.
The origins of Fear Factory date back to 1990 in Los Angeles, an era rife with political turmoil, racial tension and economic hardship. At the time, Bell and Cazares were living in an eight bedroom community house and were playing in different bands. Bell was wreaking havoc with the industrial noise outfit Hateface and Cazares was in the grindcore group Excruciating Terror. After hearing Bell singing a U2 song in the shower one day and realizing he had a voice as well as a ferocious growl, Cazares asked him if he was interested in jamming. The two formed Ulceration, which evolved into Fear Factory.
The band landed a record deal based on a self-financed recording they made with producer Ross Robinson (Slayer), Concrete, and immediately entered the studio to record their first proper full-length, Soul of a New Machine. Released in 1992 it transformed death metal almost overnight with its blend of throat-abrading screams and melodic vocals, and sci-fi lyrics about a machine that was invented to control and contain mankind.
"A lot of people didn't get it and really ridiculed us," Cazares says. "Because of the different vocals some people were like, 'whoah, this is cool, this is different.' And other people were like, 'he's singing melodically? That shouldn't be on a fuckin' death metal record.' It took a while for more people to catch on to that style of singing, and now it's everywhere."
In the six years that have passed since the original Fear Factory splintered, lots of transformation has taken place. Bell has formed the gothic rock band Ascension of the Watchers, which released the album Numinosum on Ministry frontman Al Jourgensen's 13th Planet Records, and recently formed City of Fire with Stroud. Cazares has put out two Divine Heresy discs and toured extensively. Stroud and Hoglan have recorded and toured with Strapping Young Lad, Zimmer's Hole and Dethklok. For Bell, the myriad projects have only provided creative ideas and inspiration for Fear Factory.
"In this day and age you gotta keep busy because you can't just rely on one band," he says. "That's something we've all learned from time and years of experience. You need to keep busy and keep working. Not only is it good to support yourself, it also keeps you going creatively."
While both Bell and Cazares agree that it's sometimes hard to juggle all the projects they're working on, they've both got Fear Factory on the front-burner and they're as excited about the band again as they were in the early '90s. Moreover, they're approaching it with a new level of maturity and professionalism.
"We've all changed a bit as people over the years," Bell says. "We've developed patience and we've had some humbling experiences. And when those things happen you realize that the types of battles we had in the past are just a waste of time. And time is precious."