Fear Factory - Soul Of A New Machine
Roadrunner Records
Industrial Death Metal
17 songs (55:13)
Release year: 1992
Roadrunner Records
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

Although they're generally seen rather sneeringly by underground elitists as the stepping stone between Rammstein and 'proper' Metal for newcomers to our weird and wonderful world, Fear Factory are actually a vital band, more than matching the 90s output of Sepultura and Machine Head and remaining one of the few Metal groups that it's vital to hold an opinion on - however dismissive that opinion may be. Fine, admittedly they've done what everyone did and changed to reflect the times, going from 90s groove to Nu-Metal infused simplicity and back again, yet even 2001's Digimortal doesn't sound as bad as people assume it does in retrospect. They're one of the few bands I can throw on in any mood and happily get through half their discography without getting bored or skipping a single track; I am, unashamedly, a fanboy.

So, given this friendly assessment, you're probably assuming that I'm going to praise Soul Of A New Machine as early 90s' Industrial Metal heaven - older is better in many cases, after all. Yet you're wrong - nearly all 'cyber metal' bands' biggest flaw is that their sound very quickly becomes dated, and looking back at this nearly two decades later Fear Factory are no exception in suffering this. Anyone who is at all familiar with Justin Broadrick's Godflesh or the earlier Head Of David will instantly recognise the clanging mixture of man and machine that was the overriding influence here, and Fear Factory are always best when they're at their slickest. Not all bands can pull off Red Harvest-esque monuments of dread, after all, and it's in songwriting that Burton and company generally pull ahead of the competition - the groovy cyber metal of Demanufacture and Obsolete is miles ahead of the material here.

However, Soul Of A New Machine is anything but poor. From the moment that the crunching guitar of Martyr kicks in the album seizes you by the throat, and simply refuses to let go. This was actually one of the first Fear Factory albums I ever heard, so I can't help but wonder what the Digimortal fans thought as they travelled back in time and discovered that not only could the honourable Burton C. Bell actually growl in proper, full-on Death Metal style, but Dino Cazares can actually riff his tubby little head off. Seriously, not only is the guitar tone on Soul Of A New Machine the dream of every crack-addicted Sludge band ever, but the riffs that Dino comes up with are fantastic. Fear Factory was originally Dino and Raymond Herrera's band, something easy to hear from the signature perfection of guitar/drum interaction throughout the band's career and present even at this early stage.

It's hard to criticise, really. Moments like Burton's duet with himself in Leechmaster are genuinely excellent, and yes, the band only has one vocalist - I remember when buying the remastered version of this album (double disc with the Fear Is The Mindkiller EP, anyone?) it had a hilarious quote from Machine Head's Rob Flynn on the back expressing sweary surprise that a single human being can make more than one vocal noise and suggesting that this was the first time in the history of music that such an event had happened. I won't go quite as far; we're all used to the Scar Symmetrys of the world mixing clean and harsh vocals, but at the time a genuinely harsh growler and some guy doing a Bono impression at more or less the same time must have been quite a progression.

Not to imply that Industrial Metal is up there with King Crimson in terms of musical innovation, of course, but the genre holds its charms, and moments such as Scapegoat's shifts between Death Metal and atmospheric epicness are hard to forget. The basic electronics of Lifeblind, the grandiose piledriver that is Scumgrief, heck, even the sounds of things breaking that is pointless yet fondly remembered instrumental Natividad - it's all worth listening to. Obviously, there was still work to be done on the Fear Factory sound (more than a couple of songs here are clunky in execution, if still fun to listen to - Crisis the perfect example) and Soul Of A New Machine is an album sure to divide opinion, even in retrospect. The sheer blunt heaviness of moments like anti-vivisectionist stomper Crash Test is thrilling, and whilst this is the one Fear Factory album to date that doesn't end in a lengthy atmospheric piece, it is the heaviest, most brutal and intense piece of Metal that the band brought out, and is worth celebrating for that alone. It's still a surprise to hear how similar Suffer Age and Desecrate amongst others are to Napalm Death's Grindcore standard - most of the songs present are more than capable of kicking the asses of whatever Deathcore band is in vogue at the moment in terms of heaviness.

Ultimately, fans of the band should already own all their albums, yet if you're one of those that stick to Demanufacture and Obsolete alone, this is certainly worth acquiring. Personally, before digging this album out I had recalled it as a bit of a mess, repetitive, overlong and dull - it is, in comparison with smoother later efforts, yet when looked at in its own merits Soul Of A New Machine is the sound of genres mashing with messy but compelling results. The more you listen, the better it gets, and whilst for me later albums will always come first, by no means should this album be as poorly remembered as it is.

Killing Songs :
Martyr, Leechmaster, Scapegoat, Crash Test, Lifeblind, Scumgrief, Arise Above Oppression, Self Immolation
Goat quoted 81 / 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 - Obsolete reviewed by Goat and quoted 86 / 100
To see all 10 reviews click here
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