The mid-90s were a time of growth for heavy metal. Arena-filling bands of the 80s wearing eyeliner and lipstick had been recently dethroned by guys wearing cargo shorts and flannel shirts — hair metal was out and grunge was in. In an attempt to stay relevant, metal began to splinter and diversify. In 1994 we saw the birth of nu-metal with Korn’s first album, debut albums from Emperor (In the Nightside Eclipse) and Mayhem (De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas) and another power metal release from Pantera, Far Beyond Driven. I had no idea where 1995 would take heavy metal, but I knew it would be interesting.
Fear Factory was not a new band in 1995, but their 1992 debut Soul of a New Machine had failed to break through to the mainstream. It wasn’t until the release of 1995’s Demanufacture that the world began to take notice. The world has been taking notice — and ripping off this album — ever since.
While Soul of a New Machine had its roots in death metal, the opening of Demanufacture introduces listeners to an entirely new soundscape. Fear Factory introduces itself in the opening/tital track. “Demanufacture” opens with a few sounds of heavy machinery firing up before quickly bringing in keyboard samples, almost robotic kick drums, and a heavily gated guitar. It’s our first exposure to the this new factory of fear, and it feels mechanical and evil. Vocalist Burton C. Bell sings the song’s first two lines before breaking into his traditional throaty screams. If you needed a shout-along anthem to get your blood pumping, “Demanufacture” delivers:
“I’ve got no more goddamn regrets
I’ve got no more goddamn respect”
Demanufacture paints a dystopian story of man vs. machine directly inspired by the Terminator films, most notable in “H-K / Hunter Killer” (robotic Skynet soldiers from the Terminaotr franchise) and “Zero Signal,” which contains samples from Terminator 2: Judgement Day. While Demanufacture is technically a concept album, most of the album’s themes can be applied to any conflict of power. In “Replica,” Bell howls “Every day I feel anonymous hate,” and later admits, “I don’t want to live that way.”
The mechanical element of the story is portrayed by the music itself. The brutality begins with Raymond Herrera’s heavily syncopated drum beats, so fast, crisp and accurate they were rumored to have been programmed (they weren’t; they were triggered). Dino Cazares adds to the machine with staccato guitars (Cazarez handles most of the albums bass duties as well as bassist Christian Olde Wolbers was just coming on board). Rhys Fulber and Reynor Diego bring atmosphere to the best with layers of keyboards and samples, with Burton C. Bell screaming over the whole mechanical beast.
Demanufacture defined the genre of industrial metal and may have perfected it. Fear Factory has continued to dabble in the theme of man vs. machine with their unique mix of bone-crushing rhythms and has inspired an army of imitators, but nobody has done what Feat Factory does better than when Fear Factory did it here. Not even Fear Factory.
June, 2015 marks the 20th anniversary of Fear Factory’s Demanufacture. It sounds as crisp and sharp as it did twenty years ago. If you only sample one album from Fear Factory, this is the one to taste.