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Fear Factory - Aggression Continuum review



Reviewer:
7.5

142 users:
7.87
Band: Fear Factory
Album: Aggression Continuum
Release date: June 2021


01. Recode
02. Disruptor
03. Aggression Continuum
04. Purity
05. Fuel Injected Suicide Machine
06. Collapse
07. Manufactured Hope
08. Cognitive Dissonance
09. Monolith
10. End Of Line


Expectations were high for this album. Singer Burton C. Bell, up until now the only consistent member of the band, has quit Fear Factory for the third and presumably final time. While guitarist Dino Cazares confirmed that Fear Factory will continue without Bell, many longtime fans remain skeptical whether any future replacement singer can live up to Bell's legacy and would therefore love to see the "old" Fear Factory go out with a bang. Originally recorded in 2017 and announced by Burton C. Bell with the title Monolith and different cover art in late 2018, Aggression Continuum has spent quite a long time in the oven, with drums and guitar tracks being re-recorded down the line.

Fear Factory set the bar high with their sophomore album Demanufacture and have continuously criticized the music industry for treating art like a product and artists like clones created for slave labor. With all this in mind, fans may be disappointed at first that Aggression Continuum does not reinvent the band's sound, let alone the genre. However, what it does do is bring out the best in the Bell/Cazares combo one last time.

There is a formula for a typical Fear Factory song: Start with an (optional) electronic intro, sometimes with movie samples on top of the keyboards. Start the song proper with riffs and drums in perfect sync with each other. Growly, angry, machines-of-hate verses. Clean, harmonic, last-shred-of-humanity vocals for the chorus. A lot of songs from previous albums stray from this blueprint for a bit of variety, but Aggression Continuum mostly plays it safe by sticking to it. Therefore, you will be forgiven for feeling that you've heard it all before. However, sometimes the riffs and ceaseless double kick drumming demand angrier growls and the choruses are more soothing and harmonic than usual. These songs often end up with the perfect growl-to-clean ratio, with particularly angry verses emphasizing the clean choruses, which in turn will give the instrumental parts more punch.

While a good chunk of the album relies on the tried-and-tested formula, there are songs that stick out due to a good balance between the aforementioned components, thereby highlighting the strengths of Fear Factory's unique sound. Based on your preferences your mileage may vary, but I personally found the second half of the album more catchy thanks to songs like "Cognitive Dissonance", "Monolith" and "Manufactured Hope", though the first half has its highlights as well with "Disruptor", "Fuel Injected Suicide Machine" and the opening track "Recode".

As expected, the production is solid and up to the band's standards, with crisp audio quality and precise riffing and drumming. Cazares contributes his signature industrial and groove riffs while Mike Heller, drumming for the band for the second time after Genexus, proves that he can indeed keep up with the band's previous drummers, including longtime member Raymond Herrera, veteran Gene Hoglan, and (fittingly or perhaps ironically) a drum machine. The bass on the other hand is just there, but doesn't get much time to shine. Not that it needs to on an industrial metal album where the programming is more prominent, with electronics adding atmosphere to the music.

Unfortunately there has been a slow but steady decline in Bell's vocal performances over the last couple of albums, and Aggression Continuum is no exception. That's not to say that the vocals are bad by any means, but they could have been stronger if Bell were still as energetic as he was on the 90s albums. Alas, voices change with age and after all, he did quit the band at a point when it still pains the fans to learn of his departure.

His lyrics, on the other hand, are strong as ever, having always provided Fear Factory albums with themes and concepts. While they have covered wars of man versus machine in post-apocalyptic environments before, this time the narrative is set in the early days of such a world, as humans unite to form a resistance and start to fight back. A fitting setting for Bell's swansong as it makes the harmonic, human side of the soundscape more bittersweet.

If you're in Team BCB and consider this the final Fear Factory album, you may find it a satisfying conclusion to 30 years of brutal yet catchy music. However, if you're not too bothered with a band getting a new singer after 3 decades, you can view Aggression Continuum as the golden standard for the band against which future releases can be measured. Good luck to the new singer, whoever it will be. You got a lot to live up to.


Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 7
Originality: 6
Production: 9

Written by Brutal Water | 27.07.2021




Guest review disclaimer:
This is a guest review, which means it does not necessarily represent the point of view of the MS Staff.

Staff review by
omne metallum
Rating:
7.9
And the beat goes on.

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published 19.06.2021 | Comments (4)


Comments

Comments: 7   Visited by: 42 users
27.07.2021 - 02:23
Brutal Water

My first review ever! Not just on MS, but in general. I've been working on it for a few weeks and I hate to say it, but all I can see are the things that I should have done better. I suppose you have to stop working on it at some point and just be happy with what you got.

Constructive criticism is welcome, because how else am I gonna learn.
----
That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die.
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27.07.2021 - 11:25
musclassia

Written by Brutal Water on 27.07.2021 at 02:23

My first review ever! Not just on MS, but in general. I've been working on it for a few weeks and I hate to say it, but all I can see are the things that I should have done better. I suppose you have to stop working on it at some point and just be happy with what you got.

Constructive criticism is welcome, because how else am I gonna learn.


Honestly, for a first review you've done a very good job, you cover all the important things in an easy-to-read and insightful manner, nice work!
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27.07.2021 - 12:16
Brutal Water

Thank you very much! I'm glad to hear that.
----
That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die.
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28.07.2021 - 21:59
s_t_s

Written by Brutal Water on 27.07.2021 at 12:16

Thank you very much! I'm glad to hear that.


Definitely a nice review even though I have not been disappointed by Burton's singing here. At first spin the album sounded good, the more I listen to it the more I like it but I guess that being a FF fan for 3 decades implies some biased love. To me this is the swanson of Burton and maybe of FF as well and that comes from someone who used to love Sepultura until Max left the band (oh my, was it in 1996 already?). On the minus side I would have stressed out that this is the ONLY album that doesn't come as a digipack nor includes any bonus tracks...
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28.07.2021 - 23:27
Brutal Water

I didn't even notice that it's the only one without bonus tracks or a digipack release. Good catch.

I'm personally not disappointed by the vocals either, but I was trying to objective and felt like I should point it out. It's most noticeable in the more recent live performances. In the studio recordings it doesn't stick out all that much, but it feels like he wasn't doing sustained high notes as much anymore as he used to. Still, I think he did a good job, just not quite as good as on older albums.

That said, I think his performance is better on the recent Ascension of the Watchers album. It's dark ambient/goth rock music without any metal bits, so the singing is 100% clean. IMO it suits his vocal style nicely.

Anyway, thank you for your feedback!
----
That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die.
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28.07.2021 - 23:42
nikarg
Mod
Congratulations on your first review, I enjoyed reading it. Good flow, distinct and not very long paragraphs, the overall word count is over the limit but the review didn't feel long at all.

It's always safer to start with bands you know very well, which is what you did here. I hope you have more for us!
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29.07.2021 - 00:10
Brutal Water

Thank you very much!

Initially I was twice as much over the word limit, because FF was one of the two bands that got me into metal in the first place (the other being Slayer), so I had a lot to say about this album. Eventually I started trimming it down, starting with the more biased observations, because they simply have no place in a review. (The stories about Bell and Cazares in court, Cazares denying the album's existence and Bell's bankruptcy are irrelevant.)

When I got down to the current word count, I wasn't sure anymore what else to cut out and figured I could just try submitting it as is and see what you guys have to say about the length. Had it been rejected, I would have probably trimmed the first three paragraphs down to two.

I might try to write more reviews in the future. Just waiting for another release I feel very passionate about. Or maybe I'll find an old album that doesn't have a review yet.
----
That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die.
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