- Year 2015
- Genre Groove MetalIndustrial
- Country US
- Label Nuclear Blast
- Rating Excellent
It is a momentous occassion for any band to reach the ten-album mark. Los Angeles, California industrial metal combo Fear Factory has seen its fair share of bad luck, interpersonal drama, and two break-ups/reformations in its two-decade career. ‘Genexus’ is the band’s tenth record since forming in 1990, and the third of the post-Herrera/Olde Wolbers era. After two records mainly concerned with heaviness ‘Genexus’ is far breezier all around and, more importantly, a conceptually strong record that plays out as a greatest hits effort in a number of ways. It combines the strongest elements of various different eras in concise, punchy and hook-laden songs.
The album title is a portmanteau of ‘genesis’ and ‘nexus’. The former refers to a beginning or origin, while the latter refers to a means of connection, or a link, a tie between two entities, objects or groups. Additionally Nexus might also refer to a series of replicants in Blade Runner and androids in the book that served as the film’s inspiration, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? ‘Genexus’ is concept record about the Singularity theory, loosely based on the writings of author Ray Kurzweil, which predicts that by 2045 it will be virtually impossible to differentiate between man and machine. It is a narrative continuation of concepts first making their appearance on ‘Demanufacture’, ‘Obsolete’, ‘Digimortal’ and ‘The Industrialist’. It is a more profound rumination on themes that said earlier records only explored superficially at best.
Adding to the structural integrity of ‘Genexus’ is drummer Mike Heller, revered in the underground for his work with New York stalwarts Malignancy. He can safely hold his own among illustrious predecessors such as Gene Hoglan and original long-serving skinsman Raymond Herrera. Like Herrera before him Heller metes out precise drum blasts with surgical fills, single-double footwork and cymbal crashes. As with the albums before this one rhythm guitarist Dino Cazares, relegating the instrument to a mere supporting role, recorded all bass guitar tracks in the studio. As such it is a complete nonentity and has none of the bite, oomph and character as when Andrew Shives, Christian Olde Wolbers or Byron Stroud wielded the instrument on their respective albums.
the most focused and concise Fear Factory has sounded in a long time.
Fear Factory was never a band known for its versatility in songwriting. ‘Genexus’ is no different in that regard. The record caters to a very specific niche within its audience, and besides opting for a lighter tone there are no mentionworthy differences with previous albums. In an attempt to recreate the feel of Zero Signal, Autonomous Combat System has minimal piano enhancements, performed by Laurent Tardy. Soul Hacker sounds like a modern day reinterpretation of Replica, Cyberwaste or Damaged. Interestingly, the drums on Soul Hacker weren’t tracked by Mike Heller, but Deen Castronovo. Church Of Execution is bouncier and more bass guitar-centric than the rest of the songs, possibly a stylistic callback to the lighter days of ‘Digimortal’. Battle For Utopia combines the mechanical choppiness of Self Bias Resistor with the big choruses of No One. Expiration Date is an intimate ballad which has been standard since ‘Demanufacture’. As A Therapy For Pain did on that particular album the track on this release imitates its extended atmospheric ambient conclusion almost to a fault.
As with prior lighter efforts there’s a great focus on, and greater prominence for Burton C. Bell’s clean vocals. Bell’s clean vocals are tolerable compared to past efforts, but they are quite limited in range, it seems age is catching up with him. They are especially heinous in album closer Expiration Date where Bell shows his limitations as a vocalist. The ‘Mechanize’ riff set is in full effect and it sounds as if Dino Cazares has completely abandoned the ‘Demanufacture’/’Obsolete’ type riffs in favor for heavier Divine Heresy staccatos that, while crunchier, not nearly possess the same amount of zest and character compared to the band’s prime era material of yore. Of the two factions that made up the classic Fear Factory line-up the Bell-Cazares axis has shown a remarkable resilience in the face of trial and tribulation concerning personnel changes and creative decision making. As with post-Hoffman Deicide their productivity seems to not have waned with age, neither has their rightful indignation at the world around them.
Keeping up the pattern of never recording at the same facility too many times ‘Genexus’ was recorded at NRG Studios in Hollywood, California with Rhys Fulber producing, alongside Dino Cazares and Burton C. Bell. Mike Plotnikoff engineered the drums and Drew Fulk did the vocal production. Damien Rainuad and Giuseppe Bassi handled most of the keys and pre-production. Mixed and mastered by Andy Sneap at Backstage Studios in Derbyshire, England. Once again the artwork was rendered by Anthony Clarkson. Observant viewers will notice that all of the second reformation Cazares-Bell records share a very similar color palette and basic template. In that sense it is time for them to explore other visual avenues with either the same artist, or a different one. Next to that does the special edition of the album come with two bonus track remixes: Mandatory Sacrifice (Genexus remix) by Al Jourgensen (Ministry) and Enhanced Reality by Rhys Fulber, which remind in themselves remind of that brief window in time where Fear Factory tried to replicate the success of its breakthrough album ‘Demanufacture’ through 1997’s often misunderstood ‘Remanufacture’ remix compilation. The album was the subject of three singles with Soul Hacker, Protomech and Dielectric with only the latter getting the increasingly rare music video treatment.
‘Genexus’ is much lighter in atmosphere, with a greater focus on clean sung choruses and big hooks, compared to its two darker sounding predecessors. It is the most uplifting Fear Factory record since ‘Digimortal’, and easily the best produced. At its most potent it is a mix of elements from ‘Mechanize’, ‘Obsolete’ and ‘Digimortal’. The keyboards, studio effects and synthesizers are far breezier and vibrant this time around, almost Depeche Mode sounding in various parts. One criticism that can be leveled at it is that it plays more as a greatest hits instead of a cohesive record that stands on its own merits. It is the most focused and concise that Fear Factory has sounded in a long time.