WORDS: Perran Helyes PHOTOS: Laura McCarthy
2015 marks 20 years since FEAR FACTORY’s industrial masterpiece Demanufacture, the aural equivalent of a Terminator movie as a paranoid glimpse into a machine-governed future soundtracked by rapid fire mechanised riffs, eerily catchy choruses and walls of sinister electronics, and as such we lucky Europeans (seemingly for promoting-based reasons this tour isn’t being taken across the pond to the band’s homeland) are getting shows of this masterful record in full.
Support act ONCE HUMAN are primarily notable for being the band Logan Mader, former MACHINE HEAD guitarist playing on two other classic records from Roadrunner’s world-beating 90s heyday, has chosen to make his return to the stage with after twelve years on the sidelines as a producer. The band clearly aren’t afraid to acknowledge this fact, drawing attention to it at various points throughout their set.
Frontwoman Lauren Hart is certainly vocally vicious, not a million miles away from Angela Gossow, and confident on stage, though that confidence often oversteps the mark into standing at awkward angles and in stances that slightly distract from the rest of her performance as you’re left wondering at what point her elbows or knees will buckle. Mader is perhaps unsurprisingly the most convincing focal point, his enormous dreadlocks whipping the air as he leaps around. Musically they’re a thoroughly unremarkable but competent melodic death metal band, again not dissimilar from ARCH ENEMY just without the arena-ready tunes. You Cunt comes across as a blatant and substance less attempt to be edgy and offensive and remains a little unsavoury but generally they are decent enough, not overstaying their welcome and serving the role of a support band well in warming up the crowd.
They then finish on a cover of Mader’s former band, bringing out the almighty Davidian. This could be probably be seen as simply a musician enjoying playing some music that after all he did contribute to but there’s something off about how they continually play up Mader’s role in MACHINE HEAD, Hart even hinting towards the cover as a “treat” when there’s still one more original song left to go beforehand, a reward for sitting through the previous half an hour. It’s somewhere between endearingly honest, fully aware that against the power of Burn My Eyes they’re not quite up to it, and showing a bizarre lack of self-confidence you’d want a new band to have especially when containing a veteran like Mader. Nonetheless it takes an awful lot to make Davidian anything less than an absolute bulldozer and their version is a fun one, that immortal chorus line prompting one of the loudest responses of the night.
With it being the latest fad on the touring circuit, it’s easy to be sceptical and roll your eyes at the news of a band touring an album in full, often the sign of a band past their prime indulging in past glories or showcasing an album that’s barely worthy of the treatment at all. Some though can’t be argued with; EMPEROR’s spellbinding Bloodstock 2014 headlining slot tearing through In the Nightside Eclipse, AMORPHIS’ recent run touring folk prog melodeath masterwork Tales from the Thousand Lakes, THERAPY? bringing banger after solidified banger with Troublegum. It’s albums like these with true note and the musical substance to back it up in the modern age that these shows are meant for, and FEAR FACTORY’s Demanufacture can now be added to that club.
Unsurprisingly this turbulent monster of a record is one of the best hours of live music it’s possible to see. Burton C. Bell emerges and screams the album’s title as Dino Cazares launches into the opening title track’s ridiculously pummelling core riff, those famous bass drums hits driving one of the most insistent and exciting opening cuts on any metal record. FEAR FACTORY are industrial in the most literal sense of the word in that they truly mastered the art of sounding as machine-like as possible, a battering ram that is precise and calculated with a tone of pure cold steel. It’s a show in which both the album and the performance benefit from each other, the band churning out song after song of the highest calibre and the set providing a potent reminder of just how good a record Demanufacture is. It doesn’t dip for a moment, being over before you know it despite the true length, and there’s a good five or so tracks on it all contending for the best song FEAR FACTORY have ever written.
Body Hammer proves just outside of Bell’s range tonight but his talent as a singer has never been rooted in technical ability, instead being the conscious voice of the machine, an emotional presence found within the matrix worming its way through the coding to the fore. This is best exemplified in the closing A Therapy for Pain which they pull off remarkably well live, its quieter verses driven solely by Bell’s deep moan before the surrounding instrumentation crashes back around again. It’s incredible then that these clean vocal lines alongside this manage to be anthemic at the same time, the likes of Self Bias Resistor, Pisschrist or of course the closest thing here to a hit Replica all containing soaring choruses that retain that sense of ominous darkness while Bell‘s harsh bark sounds more feral here than it ever does on record.
The ambient soundscape that follows that final track on record is utilised here to build to an encore, and as FEAR FACTORY re-emerge and dive into Shock they arguably up what they achieved in the first hour as Edgecrusher receives the kind of physical response from the crowd SLIPKNOT would be proud of. In the studio since the return of Cazares in 2009 FEAR FACTORY have been on a great run of records, and while most recent effort Genexus is the least immediate of these with repeated listens the charms of this latest set of songs begin to sink in. The three cuts aired here fit in seamlessly, Soul Hacker capitalising on directly continuing the bounce of Edgecrusher and Regenerate containing the kind of uplifting positive vibes that they’ve weirdly excelled in this decade on this and a handful of other tracks. They haven’t really been innovative since the release of the album they are primarily celebrating on this tour but when the niche they’ve carved still seems like it provides a glimpse into the future they haven’t needed to. As set closer Martyr climaxes, Billie Jean surfaces from the PA and Bell moonwalks off stage. In an alternate universe FEAR FACTORY are playing arenas.
Check out our exclusive photo gallery of the night’s action in Manchester: