REVIEW: FEAR FACTORY – “Aggression Continuum”
As long as we draw breath, we should stay curious and keep exploring. Fear Factory are well versed in this philosophy. Recognized innovators pioneering what would eventually become industrial metal, the band has remained relevant for the past thirty years. June 18th will see the release of their tenth studio album, ‘Aggression Continuum’, which turns out to be a bittersweet affair. Written in 2017, as a follow-up to the brilliant ‘Genexus’, it sat in stasis as Fear Factory endured a trying few years. In and out of court disputing the rights to their name, they also lost their iconic vocalist, Burton C. Bell, who exited the band in 2020. But if ‘Aggression Continuum’ is to be the band’s final release featuring Bell, it delivers a sonic punch to the throat in farewell. Suffice to say, it might get loud.
Across the entirety of ‘Aggression Continuum’, polarity runs deep in its foundation. A duality that sees boulder-heavy, eight-string guitar riffing melodies juxtaposed with clean and guttural vocals that harmonize together wonderfully. No great surprise there, as Fear Factory have been mastering this for decades. Immediately noticeable on the album’s monstrous opener, “Recode”, with its layered gothic synths and powerful percussion sounding like an anvil being smacked repeatedly with a hammer. The overwhelming aggression leaving no room for speculation as to whether Fear Factory still have a fire lit under them. Thirty years in and ten albums deep, Fear Factory sound as angry as ever. So much so that The Hulk could come back from a year-long Buddhist retreat, slap on ‘Aggression Continuum’, and have to rebook another spiritual cleansing thirty seconds in.
Guitarist Dino Cazares sounds dark, dirty, and dangerous throughout. When the main riff to songs such as “Collapse” and “End of Line” kick in, the guitars sound as if they were cranked any louder than they would crumble the walls around you. Yet while there’s an abundance of musical muscle on display, ‘Aggression Continuum’ is also ripe with melody. “Purity” and “Monolith” pull things back just enough to ensure the album retains a well-poised balance. “Monolith”, in particular, sees Bell capture a diverse range of Fear Factory eras in a moving performance. Some moments recalling ‘Sound of a New Machine,’ while others echo ‘Mechanize’ and more contemporary works like ‘Genexus’. If ‘Aggression Continuum’ serves as something of an unintentional swan song for Bell, he leaves on a high note.
When they first burst onto the scene thirty years ago, Fear Factory brought a sound that’s now considered revolutionary. One they have never recycled or regurgitated but nurtured and evolved. As a band, they have endured their fair share of trials and turmoil. But their history has shown that this has only ever pushed them forward into new and exciting territory. If ‘Aggression Continuum’ truly marks the end of an era of Fear Factory, they honor that era with the respect it deserves, closing out this important chapter in style. Leaving fans curious about what comes next.