Make no bones about it; I went into Fear Factory’s latest album Archetype expecting to hate it. The band’s last several albums have been less-than-cohesive, with the musical rift within the band exploding last year onto the internet into a very public and (one would think) embarassing implosion of the band. Most people thought the online name calling and finger pointing from band members would surely spell the end of the band, but a few press releases later, it was announced that Burton C. Bell (vocals), Raymond Herrera (drums) and Christian Olde Wolbers (bass) would continue on under the Fear Factory name, with Wolbers performing six-string duties in the studio as well. When I heard that the band’s new album would not only not include Dino (ex-guitars, and a major contributor to the writing process) but would also be produced by the band, my guess was that Fear Factory’s latest album would be, at best, St. Anger-ful.
Well, color me surprised. Archetype isn’t that far off from Obsolete or Digimortal. In fact, the first six songs on Archetype give Demanufacture a run for its money. If you’re one of the fans who have been waiting for Fear Factory to release “Demanufacture Part II” all these years, you will be in heaven; or at least for the first half of the album.
When your band is known for a signature sound, your fans don’t want to hear your experiments. No fan of Demanufacture’s machine-gun kick drums and rapid-fire tight riffs ever wanted to hear a Fear Factory/Cypress Hill collaboration, and it seems like, at least throughout the first six tracks, the guys in the band finally got the message.
Archetype feels like two separate two albums. After the first six tracks (all of which pound hard), the album takes a sharp turn from which it never really recovers.
Track seven, “Bite the Hand that Bleeds You”, belongs on an adult easy listening radio station. “Human Shields” is a complete snoozer, and “Ascension” is a seven minute keyboard soundscape that they should put in those little electronic machines that you put next to your bed to make you fall asleep faster. The three songs between those have that “New Factory” sound — lots of open chords and singing, in contrast to their signature sharp, staccato sound. While the first half the album is definitive Fear Factory, the “New Factory” songs might as well be anybody.
The album closes with a cover of Nirvana’s “School”. I don’t know if this an attempt to repeat the success the band had with their last cover tune, “Cars”, but “School” seems too obscure of a song and too heavy for radio play to win over the amount of masses “Cars” did.
I don’t know if the first six tracks of Archetype are left-over Dino-era Fear Factory tracks or if they were just written to sound like it, but in my opinion, they’re worth the price of admission. Besides them, you get three iffy tracks, three throw away ones, and one cover tune. The album immediately following the loss of a major member is always a proving ground, and judging by Archetype it sounds to me like Fear Factory can still hang.