Fear Factory - Obsolete


Not blessed, or merciful
Apr 11, 2001
Sarf Lundin, Innit
Fear Factory - Obsolete
Roadrunner Records - 1998
By Philip Whitehouse

Preceeding latest release (at time of writing) Digimortal by a good few years, Obsolete is the follow-up record to the groundbreaking release 'Demanufacture' (reviewed by yours truly elsewhere) and represents yet another progression in the career and music of everyone's favourite technophobic cybermetallers.

Or does it? On first listen, Obsolete doesn't sound that much different from Demanufacture. Of course, that's not necessarily a bad thing, as it means that Raymond Herrera's mechanical double-bass drumming is as relentless and driving as ever, Dino Cazares' guitar work is as frenetically shredding and almost inhumanly precise as ever, Christian Olde Wolber's bass throbs away assuredly and Burton C. Bell lays on a gravel-throated vocal layering one minute, a soaring operatic refrain the next. And, of course, the whole thing is topped off with a healthy dosage of cyber-sampling to add to the music.

If anything, this sampling and techno-layering is the first difference to the sound of FF that you'll notice on Obsolete - while it was obviously present on Demanufacture, the songs use those effects a lot more heavily on this album, to the extent that 'Edgecrusher' actually incorporates some technical scratching from a guest DJ (a fact that will no doubt have had many of the more hardcore metalhead readers of UM howling for blood).

When mentioning Edgecrusher, its worth pointing out that this is possibly the best track that Fear Factory have ever slung our way. The crushing power of the beat, the simplistic yet bombastic guitar riffage and even the scratching combine with an eminently screamable chorus to form the finest slab of molten cybermetal the quartet have ever committed to disc.

Another change to the music on this album compared with previous releases is the fact that the band have mellowed out slightly. Not much, you understand - they're not going to be recording a Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute album any time soon - but they've opened up their sound on some songs to incorporate slower beats and to allow Burton's more operatic style of singing to shine through more strongly. Prime examples are the last two tracks 'Resurrection' and 'Timelessness'. 'Resurrection' in particular is a stirring, haunting track that builds from an ethereal, ambient sound to a punishing chorus, then drops back again into the haunting section, before mixing and merging the styles to stunning effect. This is a band who are possibly reaching the peak of their songwriting abilities.

It's not all good news, however. Despite the subtle progressions in the style of the music, there is still something of an air of familiarity about this record that sits uneasily and hampers my enjoyment of it. After a while, however, this feeling fades, but the hint is still there that perhaps the band have not progressed quite as much as they could have.

This aside, Obsolete is another stunning album from the finest exponents of cyber metal in the business.