Aggression Continuum is the tenth album by Fear Factory and is coming June 18 on Nuclear Blast.
The band who have made several groundbreaking albums spearheading genres have been more in the media recently due to infighting with lawsuits flying about, sadly.
The last time I saw them was back in 2016 and I was slightly disappointed due to Burton C Bell‘s vocals not being so strong. Now I wasn’t sure if it was a bad day at the office or whether he had shouted his voice out. Having heard this album it would seem more the former as he sounds great on this even on the more melodic sections which were the parts that sounded most ropey when I last saw them. In fact I think (feel free to correct me below if I am wrong) that Burton was about the first singer to do the 2 styles of vocals going from blood-curdling screams/growls to melodic clean at the drop of a hat.
The influence that he and the band had over so many artists including Machine Head, Slipknot, Devin Townsend is impressive and even ex-Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward was reported saying he wished he could have had the chance to drum with them! This new album fits nicely into their catalog. There is no real changes in what they are doing and how they sound, but there are definite hints lyrically and occasionally musically to their past.
Almost like they know it is an end of an era with Burton now not being in the band (all the new band photos are down to 3 members) and perhaps the singer was determined to nail everything down here so as to make their job of a replacement as difficult as possible. He may very well have succeeded!
Uncompromising And Futuristic
The album is uncompromising and futuristic (as they tend to be). Although there are points where it feels like that dystopian future is actually here making it even more hellishly scary.
There are a few songs that start with spoken word and opener “Recode” is one of those. The robotic or computerized voice says “we will fight for our futures, humanity depends upon us” adding “if you are listening to this you are resistance“. There are lots of electronic sounds and of course when it kicks in plenty of machine-gun firing drum riffs. The strangest thing is that one of the recurring little melodies is similar to the theme music of a UK TV show from the past called This Is Your Life which is either a coincidence or the band suggesting this horror show is indeed all our lives.
The title song “Aggression Continuum” has a great intensity including vocally. When he screams “No more will I be a victim” it is 100% believable. There is good use of keys here amongst the heaviness. This is one of a few tracks that have very cinematic moments stylistically, you could imagine sections of them in a movie.
“Purity” has a strangely uplifting melody flowing through it. In the heavier parts the guitar riff is built on thunderous drumming. There is a line about “a perfect machine that never fails me” which could be a link or throwback to the first album. The riff and vocal that kicks in around two and a half minutes is pure brutality, yet they can still turn it around to the chorus with its melodic line really smoothly.
“Fuel Injected Suicide Machine” (the best song title on the album) allows the keys that cinematic feel at points. There is some great riffage here with moments of bells or chimes (that could be via keys) keeping it interesting. “Look into my eyes, you will see, I am not afraid of my destiny… I am the weapon to seal your fate” he sings ominously as it does musically on the drop-down to keys at the end!
“Collapse” couldn’t be more topical if it tried. With a voice-over or instruction at the start saying ” all civilians for your own safety please evacuate the streets… remain indoors until you receive further instruction“. From the press release, this (as most of the album) was written and mostly recorded in 2017. So they got that right. “Everything you have ever known is coming to an end” Burton sings, which could be as much about his leaving the band as the state of the planet.
All that and another storming riff running through the song. “Cognitive Dissonance” opens with a growled “freewill is a lie“. This is truly ferocious in style laying waste as it speeds its way through just over 4 minutes. “Open your eyes” he screams as he encourages us all to use critical thinking and not just to believe what we were brought up to believe. Question and analyze. Pretty solid advice. Question your own beliefs and see how they fare.
The last track “End Of The Line” is the longest at over 7 minutes. It has a dance vibe to it, at times I was reminded of the song “No Limits” by 2 Unlimited. Obviously, this version of that groove is more vicious and in your face. There are some lovely changes of pace and riffage. This is another track that features some tasteful and clever percussion. “How can this be reality” he sings and sitting here in 2021 I think that is a bloody good question. There is some spoken word sort of in answer saying “waking up from dreams, there is still chaos, war and death all around me” before it all closes with some atmospheric sounds and noises.
Really pleasing to hear such a solid album from Fear Factory so far into their career and with all the seeming turmoil between the main or long-time members. It does feel like an album tying up loose ends or threads from previous releases, hinting at the earliest work.
They haven’t changed styles or done anything drastic, but rather taken the very best of what they do and nail it down perfectly. Sound or production-wise it sounds absolutely terrific. Oh, did I mention Burton sings and screams his ass off beautifully? An excellent album that really gives the remaining members something to try and follow. Whether they can do so only the future will be able to tell.