Fear Factory - Aggression Continuum
Nuclear Blast
Industrial Metal
10 songs (48:34)
Release year: 2021
Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Goat
Major event

Being a fan of la Fábrica de Miedo can be tough, not least when you realise that your fandom is a little too based upon certain albums - the Demanufactures, the Mechanizes - that come along once a decade at best and are otherwise surrounded by okay to solid bursts of industrialised metal. Sure, the Digimortals and Transgressions along the way may have the odd highlight (and individual choice may elevate certain songs from these to the status of bangers) yet especially from a critical perspective, it's difficult to truly praise a band like Fear Factory for managing to meet expectations. This is especially true given how dated their base cyber-groove sound is, reaching its arguable peak in 1995 and being polluted with the taint of nu-metal since. Fear Factory are the sort of metal band that everyone listens to in their journey through this ridiculous genre, and you may take away either a lifelong fondness or hatred for it. And if the former, then albums like The Industrialist and Archetype will have much to recommend them, and even the likes of Genexus come over as vital industrial linchpins rather than desperate attempts to recapture lost youth.

The recent line-up issues make this all far more acute, long-term vocalist Burton C Bell departing lately due to legal battles that left long-term on-off guitarist Dino Cazares sole owner of the band name. Yet this happened after Bell recorded the vocals for this, the band's tenth full-length, that has been in the works since 2016 in some form or other, and so Aggression Continuum seems business as usual on initial listens. Bell is not the most technical or accomplished vocalist (hell, he's arguably bad) but his voice has been a vital part of the Fear Factory sound since the band's inception, and he leaves large shoes to fill. So taking this as a farewell album alongside the much-needed touches of originality creeping into the band's sound on certain songs do just enough to elevate it from the sort of self-obsessed territory covered on Genexus. Originality?! Yep, Fear Factory have managed to incorporate (limited) experimentation for the first time since Transgression, and actually done it well. No fewer than six guest keyboardists are credited here, from usual collaborator Rhys Fulber (Front Line Assembly) to brief Yes member Igor Petrovich Khoroshev, and you can hear their contributions in a greater use of layered symphonic elements behind the expected sledgehammer riff/beat combo.

This is immediately apparent from opener Recode (after some hammy spoken word), the added keyboards giving it more of an epic feel even before the orchestral flourishes, which are enough to make the track feel fresh even though the harsh/light vocal attack and downtuned groove riffs are utterly predictable and the track itself is a little long at nearly six minutes long. Some tracks benefit more from the increased keyboards than others, Cognitive Dissonance a late-album example of post-Demanufacture gallop with the synths riding atop the riffs to great effect (even if it is easy to mishear a lyrical line as "fucking magnets"!). Fuel Injected Suicide Machine is this album's version of Moment of Impact, a pummelling groove metal attack about speed, and it manages to top previous attempts by balancing the heavier and lighter moments better.

Generally, the band manage to keep the scales fairly even, the thrashier likes of Manufactured Hope given an extra oomph with electronic bells and whistles. Elsewhere, the band have the usual nu-metal adjacent stompers such as Disruptor, which has an ear-snagging chorus to make up for the simplicity of the riffs, and the jackhammer groove aggression of the title track is solid enough. Purity half-attempts a ballad with a focus on clean vocals and synths, even though it still tries to overlay the riffs and snarls atop rather than just letting it act as a breather piece. Monolith does the same thing a little better thanks to the return of the symphonic elements (and wouldn't that have been a better album title?) while the only true misfire present is Collapse which overdoes both the hammy spoken word and the heaviness, going for a clumsy djent assault with a Meshuggah-lite riff that feels very out of place. End of Line suffers from this too, missing the melancholic punch of past finale pieces like Final Exit in favour of more of the same aggressive attack, until a very tacked on-feeling final ambient two minutes which at least links back to the band's early career with a Fear is the Mindkiller reference. Honestly, if this is to be the final Burton C Bell-fronted Fear Factory album, well, it could have been much worse, and fans of the band's cyber metal sound will enjoy this for what it is. Those new to the cult will, as ever, find better industrial metal elsewhere.

Killing Songs :
Recode, Aggression Continuum, Cognitive Dissonance, Monolith
Goat quoted 70 / 100
Other albums by Fear Factory that we have reviewed:
Fear Factory - Genexus reviewed by Goat and quoted 60 / 100
Fear Factory - The Industrialist reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Fear Factory - Mechanize reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
Fear Factory - Remanufacture reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Fear Factory - Soul Of A New Machine reviewed by Goat and quoted 81 / 100
To see all 11 reviews click here
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