The review I have put together is based upon three albums that have been released over the course of the last few months. All of these albums pertain to the Fear Factory family tree. As most of you know there is a soap opera going on right now regarding who controls the name of the band. In the meantime, all of the current/pervious members (depending on which faction you speak to) have recently released albums. For Dino Cazeres (original guitarist) this is his second outing with his band Divine Heresy, while Raymond Herrera and Christian Olde Wolbers debut with Arkea. Not to be outdone, Burton C. Bell, and touring bass player Byran Stroud have released City Of Fire, dedicated to the city of Vancouver, B.C. Before delving into each album, let me state that no one has reinvented the wheel here, nor did they have to. When listening to each album, you can definitely feel each members influence.
The first album to be released was Arkaea’s Years In Darkness. There is no doubt in my mind that this album was supposed to be a Fear Factory release. Out of the three it is by far the closest to the authentic Fear Factory sound we have all come to know. Raymond and Christian’s signature playing is all over this, all be it that the latter is borrowing heavily from Dino’s style. Joining them in this endeavor is Pat Kavanagh on bass (Ryan Martinie of Mudvayne was rumored for some time, imagine what could have been), and Jon Howard of Threat Signal, a band Christian had previously produced. Howard’s vocals took me a bit of getting used to, as on this album he is a mix between a Burton C. Bell-lite, and Chester Bennington-lite. That said, I really started digging the album after listening to it a few times. The album has quite a few standout tracks in my opinion. It varies from being strait up Fear Factoryesque metal with tracks like Locust, Beneath The Shades of Grey, Years In Darkness, Awakening, and Black Ocean. Tracks that could have been on Transgression like My Redemption, and Break the Silence, this last track includes your classic Fear Factory keyboards. While you also have a “radio friendly” track Gone Tomorrow which is in the vein of Dark Bodies off of Digimortal. This song actually has more of a pop edge to it. War Within however has a riff that sounds eerily like Dino’s work in Divine Heresy. All in all this is pretty solid album, and is better than the last two studio albums they put out as Fear Factory. There are very few throw away spots. What is this album missing? Burton’s vocals and Dino’s song writing. The vocals are too thin at times.
The next album to come out was Divine Heresy’s Bringer of Plagues. As mentioned above, this is Dino’s second time at bat with this band. This time around they have a new singer in Travis Neal, and an official bass player Joe Payne. The drummer continues to be the super-heavy weight Tim Yeung. This album is very much along the lines of the Bleed the Fifth, their first album. It also has a bunch of solid tracks, but isn’t in my opinion as complete as their previous album, or the ones released by Arkaea or City of Fire. Dino seems to get lost in the musical Olympics he has put together. He is doing everything he can to outshine his former band mates, and in the process sacrificing his song writing style. With Bleed the Fifth you had the sonic beat down you’re accustomed to receiving from Dino, but out of nowhere the melody would hit you with tracks like Impossible is Nothing, or Closure. The songs Bleed the Fifth, and Failed Creation dipped into death metal, and the latter brings the melody/riffing Dino is known for to the forefront. Onto Bringer of Plagues, what will come as a shock to no one, Dino’s playing and song writing is what sticks out on this album. His playing is as expected, a mix between the previous album, and his tenure in Fear Factory. Standout tracks are all very strong, including Facebreaker , the Battle of J Casey, Redefine, Darkness Embedded and The End Begins. The rest of the songs suffer from the musical Olympics I alluded to earlier. What’s missing from this album? The vocals are stronger than the Arkaea album, but the song writing isn’t as focused. Perhaps it’s the lack of input from the other members; after all it is Dino’s project. Some of the songs sound alike with their mix of 16th, and 32nd notes a slight breakdown, and some clear melodic vocals to wrap things up. That said Dino still has a habit of pulling out a giant riff from out of nowhere that levels you, and reminds you why you started listening to his playing in the first place.
Finally we have City of Fire, formed in Vancouver, with Burton, and Byron the ex-Strapping Young Lad bass player that came into the Fear Factory fold when Christian switched over from bass to play guitar. Accompanying them are Ian White and Terry “Sho” Murray on guitar, and Bob Wagner on drums. The album starts out with Fear Factory like keyboards and an atypical drumming style to what people have become used to hearing from Raymond and Tim. As the album progresses you come to find a completely different guitar style canvassing these tracks as well. Gone for the most part are the 16th and 32nd notes alluded to with the other two albums. They are replaced at times with Billy Duffy like riffs, while also mixing in with the atmospheric influence of Bauhaus. That said, Burton’s vocals shine throughout this album. Where the previous two singers were good to adequate, Burton smashes all of the songs. I also like the fact that the album is very heavy, and doesn’t stay in a realm you’d think these players are comfortable with. They ventures out and experiments, which is great, but at times is also a detriment. Strong tracks include the opener Carve Your Name, which sounds somewhat like what you’d expect from Burton. This is followed by Gravity which is a mix between Jane’s Addiction like bass line, and Beyond Good and Evil era The Cult guitar riffage. Rising continues this line and incorporates acoustic guitars. Other stand out tracks are Spirit Guide, Coitus Interruptus, the Ministry influenced Hanya. Other tracks are just one long ambient affair after another, making it difficult to distinguish between the tracks at times. The album wraps up with a cover of The Cult’s Rain. What’s missing with this album, lack of direction which someone like Dino could add to some of these tracks. But I honestly don’t miss the machine gun like stylings of Raymond/Tim or Dino/Christian as what is presented on the album is different, and equally good. Bob Wagner does a good job in remaining very dynamic, without having to be a clone of any of the other drummers mentioned. This is why the heavier songs give both of the other albums a run for their money.
I can’t help but thinking what culling together the best songs from each album and having them recorded by the original members of the band might have produced? Raymond has talked about wanting to write/record with the guitar tandem of Dino, and Christian, but while this ever take place? Neither has recorded with a second guitarist, would dual guitars mesh within the textures of a Fear Factory song? What while happen when the legal issues shake out between everyone involved? Will we ever get to hear the “new” Fear Factory with Dino, Burton, Byron, and Gene Hogland? Will we ever see the original band put their issues to the side for the sake of their fans/music? Or will we see the splintering we’ve all seen with Sepultura, and Soundgarden and their respective wives/managers? I guess we’ll have to continue to tune into this soap opera to find out!