Album Review – Fear Factory / Demanufacture (1995)

A “cyber-masterpiece” by the unstoppable American Industrial Metal trailblazers.

DemanufactureIn 2010, after a 5-year hiatus and some controversial releases, Los Angeles-based Industrial Metal band Fear Factory got back with two amazing albums, Mechanize (2010) and The Industrialist (2012). However, it was in 1995 with all the energy, creativity and dynamism of their second album, Demanufacture, that the band reached the status of masters of Industrial Metal, always adding some hints of Death and Thrash Metal to their music, sometimes even being called “Cyber Metal” by their fans. Demanufacture is considered a concept album inspired by the most badass movie of all time, The Terminator, obviously focusing on the constant and horrible war between man and machine, with each song being some kind of episode of this fight, and the final result couldn’t be any better.

The music in Demanufacture sounds like if it’s coming directly from a giant industry or foundry, with all the violence of metal clanging sounds and mechanized instruments, but that doesn’t mean it sounds fake like many other metal or pop bands. It is high-quality Heavy Metal played by some incredible musicians, especially Dino Cazares with his brutal riffs and Burton C. Bell with his exceptional vocal range. In my opinion, he’s one of the only guttural singers in Heavy Metal that doesn’t sound lame when using his clean vocals. Quite the contrary, his clean voice is also fantastic and a very important part of the whole album. And although the band is officially composed by four members only, Demanufacture wouldn’t be the same without the contributions from Rhys Fulber and Reynor Diego, both responsible for the electronic tones and sounding and the robotic atmosphere with their samples, keyboards and mixes.

Fear Factory 1995The title-track, Demanufacture, is an awesome start with its great intro, heavy riffs, a strong chorus (“I’ve got no more goddamn regrets / I’ve got no more goddamn respects”) and the band’s characteristic electronic atmosphere. The song sounds clean but brutal, a great example of Industrial Metal. The second track, Self Bias Resistor, is as heavy as hell with a great job done by Raymond Herrera, while Zero Signal has excellent eerie keyboards in the beginning, turning into a damn heavy feast. Then comes the best track of the album and one of Fear Factory’s greatest hits (if not the greatest of all), Replica,  a masterpiece of Industrial Metal with its extremely austere intro, acid lyrics (“I am rape / I am hate / I am rape / I am hate”), and Burton’s voice sounding incredible at all times.

The band keeps smashing our brains with the superb New Breed, a “mechanized” song like a terminator itself, probably due to its lyrics, and an awesome choice for their live performances. The next track is Dog Day Sunrise, a cover song quite similar to the original version by British band Head of David, with an amazing touch of Heavy Metal but preserving all its elements from the 80’s. Then comes Body Hammer, which in my opinion is an outstanding musical representation of an industry’s assembly line, and Flashpoint, the perfect soundtrack for a terminator to walk in your direction ready to kill you. The last part of the album starts with another brutal song, H-K (Hunter-Killer),  with its intense drums and fast riffs; it’s a fantastic pure Industrial Metal song and one of the best of the album. Pisschrist  reminds me a lot of some Ministry classics, while A Therapy for Pain is one of those crazy long songs that became a band’s trademark in almost all albums, although I personally think this one goes on for way to long time.

Fear_Factory-Remanufacture

Remanufacture – Cloning Technology

Due to the originality and quality of Demanufacture, Fear Factory started featuring in the soundtracks of a variety of PlayStation and PC games and action movies, as well as becoming part of the lineup for some editions of the famous Ozzfest and touring with bands such as Iron Maiden and Megadeth. Moreover, two years after Demanufacture, the band released a full remix album of it called Remanufacture – Cloning Technology, which despite its original idea didn’t result in something as memorable as the regular album, of course, and in 2005 a remastered edition with six fuckin’ amazing bonus tracks as bonus disc 1 (including a cover for Agnostic Front’s Your Mistake) and the whole Remanufacture album as bonus disc 2 was released to celebrate ten years of the album.

In summary, a mandatory item in the collection of any headbanger that loves heavy music with lots of creativity and power, and also an excellent choice for your workout playlist. Fear Factory showed the world how Heavy Metal and electronic music can get along really well when there’s an interesting concept and great musicians behind everything, and let’s hope they keep on kickin’ ass for many years to come with new furious albums (which based on their latest releases that’s exactly what’s been happening already). It doesn’t matter how long it takes between their albums, as the Terminator himself would say, THEY’LL BE BACK.

Best moments of the album: Demanufacture, Replica, New Breed and H-K (Hunter-Killer).

Worst moments of the album: A Therapy for Pain.

Released in 1995 Roadrunner Records

Track listing
1. Demanufacture 4:13
2. Self Bias Resistor 5:12
3. Zero Signal 5:57
4. Replica 3:56
5. New Breed 2:49
6. Dog Day Sunrise (Head of David cover) 4:45
7. Body Hammer 5:05
8. Flashpoint 2:53
9. H-K (Hunter-Killer) 5:17
10. Pisschrist 5:25
11. A Therapy for Pain 9:43

2005 Remastered Edition bonus tracks
1. Your Mistake (Agnostic Front cover) 1:30
2. Resistancia! 2:55
3. Concreto 3:30
4. New Breed (Revolutionary Designed Mix) 2:59
5. Manic Cure 5:09
6. Flashpoint (Chosen Few Mix) 4:09

Band members
Burton C. Bell – lead vocals
Dino Cazares – guitar, backing vocals
Christian Olde Wolbers – bass
Raymond Herrera – drums, percussion

Guest musicians
Reynor Diego – samples, keyboards
Rhys Fulber – samples, keyboards, programming, mixing

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Album Review – Gojira / Magma (2016)

A rich and sophisticated album about death, overflowing anger, sadness and pain, beautifully crafted by one of France’s most prominent and innovative bands of all time.

Rating4

gojira_magmaLosing someone you love is never easy, it doesn’t matter how tough you think you are. You move on and try to live your life without that person, but you’ll always remember your (good and bad) days with him or her, and true sadness will fill your heart even if it’s just for a single moment. At the same time French brothers Joe and Mario Duplantier had to cope with the loss of their beloved mother, only a few months after relocating from Bayonne, France to New York City and building their own music studio in Queens, they were in the process of writing and composing the music for Magma, the sixth studio album from their Progressive/Groove Metal band Gojira. Hence, those negative feelings became an inner part of their compositions, and as there’s nothing better in the entire world to externalize grief, dismay and anger than heavy music, the final result in Magma is beautiful and intense.

“When you read Joe’s lyrics, for me, I cry right away. They’re very deep and to the point. No bullshit. We recycle our sadness and depression in the music”, stated Mario about the lyrical aspect of the album. In addition to that, the duration of the songs in Magma are designedly shorter than in From Mars to Sirius (2005) and L’Enfant Sauvage (2012), as explained by Joe. “We want a short album. Something less epic than what we usually do. People’s attentions are shorter now. So a lot of the songs are four minutes”, also mentioning their experimentations with some Pantera-inspired riffs, something new to them, to make their music even more impactful than usual. The freakish artwork by American artist Hibiki Miyazaki (you can check the process pics of the artwork HERE) simply complements all the darkness and pain found in Magma, adding an extra touch of desolation to the album.

The somber and heavy atmosphere in the opening track, the soulful The Shooting Star, gets even more profound due to the outstanding work done by Joe and his bandmates Christian Andreu and Jean-Michel Labadie with their stringed weapons, especially the menacing bass lines by Jean-Michel. Moreover, as aforementioned we can already witness the most sincere type of sorrow flowing through Joe’s vocals, something that only makes the whole song more captivating. Gojira’s trademark neck-breaking riffs are showcased in the sensational Silvera, obviously boosted by the precise and intricate beats by Mario. Joe invests into angrier vocals and deeper growls, with highlights to the mesmerizing riffs and the violent aura generated by all instruments, all complemented by a passionate solo before the song’s climatic ending.

Following that powerful chant we have another marvelous tune transpiring anguish and pain entitled The Cell, presenting an electrifying start (thanks to the wicked drumming by Mario) and the best elements of Groove and Progressive Metal put together. The bass guitar by Jean-Michel is always thunderous no matter the speed and heaviness of the song, which is not only the case in this exciting tune but also in Stranded, with its direct and imposing sonority led by the band’s strident riff, one of the core ingredients that make the music by Gojira so distinguished. Although this is one of those songs to destroy your neck by banging your head like a maniac, you should also pay good attention to its lyrics, which just prove how sad Joe was while writing them (“A growing sickness in the heart / Defective, lack of control / The cure is somewhere in the silence / But I’m crushed by the noise inside”).

gojira 2016Jean-Michel leads the short and eerie bridge Yellow Stone before the title-track Magma brings forward more of the band’s anguished lyrics (“The poison slowly spreads / Through the body and the mind / Close your eyes and drop your things / Be ready to fly”), flawless instrumental and atmospheric passages. Furthermore, it’s interesting how the music evolves to a darker sounding before getting back to its heavy but serene ambience. Despite beginning as heavy as hell, Pray is by far the saddest of all songs, a journey through Joe’s darkest thoughts and his personal view on what faith is while the rest of the band keeps blasting their complex, metallic and punchy lines. And if that can be considered the saddest track in Magma, Only Pain is the one emanating the highest amount of anger, with its bass and riffs piercing and blacknening your mind. Furthermore, Joe barks and screams “only pain, all in vain” in full force, providing the listener an extra taste of his pain.

The two final tracks in Magma are pure melancholy, starting with Low Lands. How not to start crying while listening to its lyrics (“While you drift away / From all the plagues of this world / You’re put out of misery, giant monster / You won’t have to face it again / Every step of the way gets you higher”)? This is a very introspective composition with some thrilling tempo changes, a song I’m sure Joe, Mario and the others are very proud of having created together. And the somber acoustic outro Liberation feels like a very personal goodbye from Joe and Mario to their deceased mother, with no words being necessary to send the desired message.

Honestly, I have no idea if Magma will please all fans of Gojira, mainly due to the small but significant changes applied to their musicality in comparison to their previous releases. Magma might not be the “evolution in music” most were expecting from such innovative and lionhearted musicians, but it’s indeed a sophisticated album written from the bottom of the hearts of each band member, overflowing anger, pain and distress from every note played. Similarly to what the chameleon David Bowie (R.I.P.) did with his masterpiece Blackstar, using it as his swan song when his inevitable death was getting near, Magma is the perfect example of how death and high-quality music always walk hand in hand.

Best moments of the album: Silvera, The Cell, Stranded and Only Pain.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Roadrunner Records

Track listing
1. The Shooting Star 5:42
2. Silvera 3:33
3. The Cell 3:18
4. Stranded 4:29
5. Yellow Stone (Instrumental) 1:19
6. Magma 6:42
7. Pray 5:14
8. Only Pain 4:00
9. Low Lands 6:04
10. Liberation (Instrumental) 3:35

Band members
Joe Duplantier – vocals, guitar, flute, arrangements
Christian Andreu – guitar
Jean-Michel Labadie – bass
Mario Duplantier – drums

Album Review – Trivium / Silence In The Snow (2015)

Don’t scream for me, Matt.

Rating7

Trivium_Silence In The SnowCan you imagine what would happen if Motörhead decided one day to stop playing their badass Rock N’ Roll to start focusing exclusively on electronic music, or if Cannibal Corpse suddenly started playing only acoustic songs, singing about butterflies and unicorns, without a single drop of blood in their lyrics? That’s something almost impossible to visualize, right? And the reason for that is because if those bands actually decided to do that, to completely change their music direction, they would simply lose their core essence, the main element that defines who they are. Once in a while we see our beloved bands following that horrible path, like Megadeth with their awful “Risk” and obviously Metallica with the worst “metal” album of all time, the annoying “St. Anger”. Now it’s time for American Heavy Metal band Trivium to leave an unfortunate scar in their solid career with the tiresome Silence In The Snow, their seventh studio album and by far their worst work to date.

And I’m not complaining exclusively about the fact that there aren’t any unclean/harsh vocals at all from neither Matt Heafy nor Corey Beaulieu for the first time ever in a Trivium album, which is already a huge bummer, but also about the fact that the music itself is too generic, tasteless and pedestrian, despite being still technical and harmonious. In other words, it lacks so much energy to the point no one is saying anything about this being their first album with Mat Madiro on drums, and we all know how much fans of the band like to chat about which Trivium drummer is or was the best. Besides, where are the rumbling and complex bass lines by Paolo Gregoletto? Some people will try to defend the band saying they already changed their musicality in their latest albums In Waves (too weird?) and Vengeance Falls (too Disturbed-ish?), that they are evolving, but we cannot compare those electrifying releases with this ode to monotony. I listen to In Waves almost as much as to Shogun, without skipping a single song, because after all is said and done it’s a fuckin’ awesome Heavy Metal album. But Silence In The Snow, oh boy, I’m pretty sure I’ll never listen to it again of my own free will. It’s not Heavy Metal, Thrash Metal or even Metalcore.

The Star Wars-ish intro Snøfall is relatively good, but the problem is that after listening to the entire album it made me think a lot about Episode I – The Phantom Menace, which we all know is strongly abhorred by everyone that truly loves Darth Vader & Co. At least the title-track, Silence in the Snow, has its good moments, and albeit not brilliant it has an epic vibe mainly due to Matt’s potent clean vocals. In addition, as I mentioned on the review to their concert here in Toronto last week, it gains a lot of vitality when played live. The same can be said about Blind Leading the Blind, which is Trivium without harsh growls (maybe some screams would have turned it into a classic), providing the listener their catchy and metallic riffs thanks to a great performance by all members, especially Matt and Corey. From this point on it’s just downhill, starting with Dead and Gone, which is almost enjoyable if it wasn’t for one minor detail: this totally feels like a SCREAMING tune, something we should be busting our throats off together with the band, where instead of a clean “Dead and goooooone!” it should have been “DEAAAAD ANNHH GAAAAAAHHHNNN!”, you know what I’m saying? There’s no punch!

The first few seconds of The Ghost That’s Haunting You are promising, before it becomes a feast of generic noises including boring drums, even more boring riffs and a huge amount of “nothing” in its lyrics. This song desperately needed some screams to become decent, with its guitar solos saving it from a total disaster. Pull Me from the Void is yet another song with a favorable start, as fast as it should be, with its instrumental parts living up to Trivium’s legacy. However, I can’t explain why but it never really takes off, maybe it’s because of its horrible chorus, but the overall result is no better than just average. Then we have the ballad Until the World Goes Cold, which I learned to enjoy, but the problem in this case is that if it was something like “Of All These Yesterdays” from In Waves it would have been a lot more efficient.  I mean, if it was a COMPLEMENT to a powerful Trivium album I’m sure even the most diehard fan of the band wouldn’t complain about it, but when an average ballad is one of the highlights of the album you know there’s something wrong.

TriviumI don’t know where to start so bad Rise Above the Tides is. This mediocre tune sounds pretty much like the biggest hit from a generic band that plays at a pop/rock radio station for a few weeks or months and then disappears forever. I hope Matt & Co. never EVER play this garbage live, because that would mean they wouldn’t be playing something a billion times better instead, therefore wasting some precious time of the concert. And for a band that has crafted such bestial tunes like “Insurrection”, “Through Blood and Dirt and Bone” and “Becoming the Dragon”, the following track entitled The Thing That’s Killing Me is 100% unacceptable. It’s one more tricky song that begins in an exciting way but quickly turns into nothing remarkable again. Well, they can have this song played on any pop/rock radio station in the world, but is that what they really want for their career?

Anyway, Beneath the Sun feels like a double-edged sword: add screams and we would have a more than awesome tune; keep it the way it is and you might listen to it once or twice, but will surely never want to make that same mistake again. Not even the instrumental pieces remind me of the real Trivium, it’s just a lazy version of some generic Alternative Metal band added to the album for a reason beyond my comprehension. Fortunately, in the excellent Breathe in the Flames it seems the “generic” virus hasn’t killed all their essence yet, sounding (almost) like pure Trivium, just with the screams (unfortunately) missing, of course, and together with “Blind Leading the Blind” it’s the only song worth listening in the future when the album is no longer a new release and the initial excitement of it is gone. In fact, it’s the only one that sounds truly metal and that I want to see them playing live in their future concerts.

And that’s the end of Silence In The Snow. Well, the special edition contains two other non-exciting tunes that don’t add anything worth mentioning to the album (albeit Cease All Your Fire has its decent moments), so let’s not worry about those. When the album is over, there’s a strong feeling of void, you don’t feel energized or anything positive, and all you want to do is any other activity, no matter what, as long as that doesn’t include listening to it again. This is definitely NOT a good Trivium album, far from that, which makes me wonder if it wasn’t a better idea for Matt to have released it as a solo project instead. Leastwise, if Matt had let Corey scream in most of the songs, we might not have been complaining so much about it, but that’s just a distant dream now that the album is already released. I understand Matt’s goal to evolve as a singer, not screaming anymore, and I respect that, but that doesn’t mean we are forced to enjoy this below-average pop/rock album just because it is Trivium. In the end, I will always love their music, their previous albums and their ass-kicking live performances. But Silence In The Snow? Thanks, but no thanks.

Best moments of the album: Blind Leading the Blind and Breathe in the Flames.

Worst moments of the album: The Ghost That’s Haunting You, Rise Above the Tides, The Thing That’s Killing Me and Beneath the Sun.

Released in 2015 Roadrunner Records

Track listing
1. Snøfall 1:28
2. Silence in the Snow 3:40
3. Blind Leading the Blind 4:25
4. Dead and Gone 3:41
5. The Ghost That’s Haunting You 4:03
6. Pull Me from the Void 3:50
7. Until the World Goes Cold 5:21
8. Rise Above the Tides 3:50
9. The Thing That’s Killing Me 3:25
10. Beneath the Sun 3:52
11. Breathe in the Flames 4:59

Special edition bonus tracks
12. Cease All Your Fire 5:00
13. The Darkness of My Mind 4:44

Band members
Matt Heafy – guitar, lead vocals
Corey Beaulieu – guitar, vocals
Paolo Gregoletto – bass, vocals
Mat Madiro – drums