Groundbreakers: Fear Factory’s Demanufacture

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Welcome to another edition of Groundbreakers, our look back at hugely influential metal albums of the recent past. For this entry, it’s only fitting that I, Toilet Ov Hell’s resident cybernetic organism, bring you a look back at one of the most unique and fully-realized records of the mid 90s whose DNA can still be found in today’s metallic landscape: Fear Factory‘s seminal 1995 album Demanufacture.

Fear Factory began their life as something closer to death metal with their 1992 release Soul of a New Machine. Harsh treble-heavy guitar tones, ugly-as-hell fuzzed-out bass, full-throat growls with occasional cleans and drumming that alternated between fast & precise and loose & chaotic were the whole of their sound: an organic blueprint of much of the Florida death metal scene combined with shades of industrial groove and alternative pop/rock catchiness.

Included in that blueprint were elements primed for expansion in later albums: the concept of man vs. machine, jackhammer rhythm patterns, echoed atmospheres, sound/film samples and nefarious synth lines that would all come to define FF’s sound.

FF_2

Three years later, overcoming the dreaded sophomore slump by blasting it in the face, FF releases Demanufacture and embraces a significant shift in sound and style. Drums and guitars fire off staccato riff patterns like well-oiled machine guns. Vocals have been honed to a seething scrape like concrete on skin. Song backgrounds are awash with layers of squelching synths and cold atmospheres like a cyberpunk nightmare, and song structures have been tightened up and streamlined for maximum impact like a grenade to the chest. And yet, soaring melodic choruses meld everything together in a way that preserves their pop influences while strengthening the album’s intensity and conceptual cohesiveness.

Wearing its Terminator influences firmly on its sleeve, Demanufacture‘s lyrical concept centers around humanity’s uprising against a ruling machine class, and tracks like “H-K (Hunter-Killer)” and “Pisschrist” utilize samples taken directly from Terminator 2. Listen to the titular opening track, “Zero Signal” at 9:24 or “Flashpoint” at 31:57 in the video above and tell me it doesn’t sound like an artificially intelligent security system in a subterranean Skynet stronghold waking up and pointing its anti-personnel weaponry straight at your head.

At the time, Demanufacture was among the first to combine a full-on thrash/death metal-influenced attack with the cold, mechanical sounds and attitude of industrial. Contemporaries like Nine Inch Nails or Stabbing Westward utilized a more alternative/pop-oriented and radio-friendly approach with the format, incorporating somewhat similar sounds, but stopping far short of reaching the explosiveness that FF achieves. Even Godflesh, a massive stylistic influence on FF, never came close to the absolute “war of the machines” fury that Dino Cazares (guitars & bass on this album), Burton C. Bell (vocals) and Raymond Herrera (drums) managed to capture here.

FF_dino

By stripping away a few key trappings of its death metal influences and focusing on a punchy, binary approach to riffs on downtuned strings and only-what-you-need drumming, as well as avoiding the pitfalls of peers tweaking their sound to align with grunge or what would eventually become nu-metal, FF managed to carve out its own unique niche in the musical landscape of the time.

The DNA of Demanufacture (and its follow-up Obsolete) has become embedded in a lot of what we hear today. Listen to just about any djent song to hear echoes of that same DNA that FF helped pioneer: binary riffs in low tunings, harsh verses and melodic choruses (aka “good cop/bad cop” vocals), staccato guitar & drums in ultra-precise lockstep, film soundtrack-like atmospheres for complete listener immersion. Other bands like Threat Signal, Mnemic and Xerath also stood on the cold steel shoulders of Demanufacture and created their own unique takes on the formula.

FF_3

Hearing this album for the first time (several years after its release) was a revelation for me, and it holds up remarkably well today. It was among my first and most memorable introductions to heavier stuff than what I was listening to at the time, and a mind-blower in terms of what was possible with both album storytelling and overall musicianship. It was an electromagnetic disturbance that burned a hole right through my listening habits. It was an unstoppable killing machine sent to my brain from a future realm in order to hunt down and destroy other bands. It was the molten vat of steel into which cheesy favorites and weaker offerings were consumed by fire. It was [another T2 reference here].

I strongly encourage you, all of you, to listen to Demanufacture for yourselves and enjoy the trip through its unique and groundbreaking sci-fi cyberpunk world. You need a vacation. Give yourself one with this 20 year-old classic. Hasta la vista, baby.

(images via, via and via)


Groundbreakers is the Toilet ov Hell’s Hall ov Fame where we induct some of the most important and influential metal albums of all time. Catch up on previous entries into this hallowed bowl.

Neurosis – Souls at Zero
Death – Symbolic

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  • Dr. Dubz

    I love this album. Definitely a gateway record to extremity for me. Great job, robit.

    • CyberneticOrganism

      Agreed, thanks Dubz.

  • CO,

    I garner that you draw a lot of influence from them?

    GL

    • CyberneticOrganism

      My pithy shit music takes some influence from them yes, plus a bunch of crappy old black metal.

      • You shouldn’t be so critical of yourself. Your tunes are slamming!

        GL

        • Further Down the Metal Hole

          This man here speaks the truth.

  • Huh. The evil robot likes music about evil robots. Didn’t see that one coming.

    • The God Emperor of Mankind

      Normally I’d label this album as heretical due to its association with the Iron Men but fuck it, Emprah can break his own rules.

    • CyberneticOrganism

      It’s part of my programming.

  • I’VE GOT
    NO MORE
    GODDAMN
    REGRETS
    I’VE GOT
    NO MORE
    GODDAMN
    RESPECT

    One of my all-time favorite albums.

  • Shrimp in a Pizza Box

    I never got into Fear Factory because of the vocals, I would literally prefer Taylor Swift as a vocalist rather than that guy.

    • The Beargod

      …Taylor Swift is good, your parable is crippled

    • i prefer Taylor Swift over lots of vocalists. <3

  • BEEP! (Bruh!).

    BEEP BEEP (Thanks for sharing this).

    BEEP BEEEEEEP BOOP (You rule).

    BIPBIPBIPBIP FEAR FACTORYP BOOOP BIP BEEEP LOLP (I’ve never listened Fear Factory Lol).

    • CyberneticOrganism

      010101001010100101 010010101001001010101!

  • nbm02ss

    I found out about this album via the Mortal Kombat movie.

    • Dr. Dubz

      GET OVER HERE!

      • Guacamole Jim

        We are many. You are but one.

      • CyberneticOrganism

        GET DOWN HERE

    • Ferris Mueller

      Same here. Demanufacture was THE album that got me from Nirvana, Manson etc and into heavier music.

      • nbm02ss

        If I had to narrow down a single album that sort of bumped me from grunge to metal, it’d be Testament’s Low.

  • The Beargod

    I never really liked FearFactory. Guess I could try this album again, since I used to loathe the pathetic attempts at fusing Industrial and metal, but lately I’ve been getting into some, like this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BM9WxHol4mo

    • The Beargod

      This is probably more to the liking of yous FearlessFactoriFans.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IAmPUdjriHc

      • CyberneticOrganism

        These guys used to be …And Oceans, right?

        • The Beargod

          Yehap. And are now Festerday, basically.

    • Dumptruck Full Of Nose Hair

      Same here. I jammed Demanufacture and SOANM back in ’96, then quickly forgot about them. A little too dry and repetitive for me, plus so many other bands, especially Die Krupps and Frontline Assembly, have done the whole industrial metal man vs. machine thing better.

      • CyberneticOrganism

        I love me some FLA but they’re in another genre entirely from FF.

        • Dumptruck Full Of Nose Hair

          Lol I think every band on earth has a Rhys or Bill Leeb connection. They have so many productions, side projects, etc., it’s like playing Seven Degrees Of Kevin Bacon with them.

    • Nah, Havoc Unit should go back to being …And Oceans. Pre-A.M.G.O.D., that is.

      • The Beargod

        …they’re Festerday now.

  • Tyree

    Wasn’t one of their songs on the Mortal Combat movie?

    • Dr. Dubz

      Zero Signal.

      • Ferris Mueller

        One of their best songs to date

  • Ferris Mueller

    Machine-gun drum blasts that lead the guitars to form a mechanically driven pulverizing apparatus. Cannot believe this shit came out 20 years ago. At times it sounds a little dated, but it’s still a damn good listen on a system with nice subwoofers. Best if enjoyed while playing a Terminator game.

      • Dr. Dubz

        That’s how I felt about the Contra games.

      • Ferris Mueller

        Terminator – Dawn of Fate for the PS2 and Xbox was a badass game and I think FF composed the entirety of the soundtrack as well. The heaviest tracks were saved for boss levels which really added to the entire experience of man vs machine.

      • Scrimm

        I have this game.It’s part of the reason my beard is going grey.

  • Guacamole Jim

    I love bands influenced by FF, but couldn’t ever really get into them. Can’t tell you why.

    .. I’ll just be over here then.

    http://40.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_mdjvxwDMgW1rzloqto1_500.jpg

    • Tyree

      The lack of beer in that fridge is fucking scary.

      • Guacamole Jim

        People who own pugs aren’t exactly the type of people I want to associate with anyway.

        • I want like a million pugs : /

          • Guacamole Jim

            FUCKING JOE

            STOP WRECKING MY STEREOTYPE OF PUG PEOPLE

          • Tyree

            Homosexuals?

          • Guacamole Jim

            ….. what?

          • Tyree

            There have been 2 gay men that have worked in my office and they both owned pugs.

          • Guacamole Jim

            Huh. The only people I’ve known that have owned pugs are upper-middle-class slightly-past-40 snooty ladies who drive gigantic SUV’s to Safeway and buy pomegranate juice. They also wear turtle necks and too much makeup.

          • I studied with a total stoner lady all throughout college that had 4 pugs in her house. It was THE BEST.

          • Guacamole Jim

            Ugh. Four little pouty RATS you mean. I prefer significantly larger versions of the same dog, thank you very much.

          • Tyree

            I don’t know, I’m just bullshitting here. Time to go die now in work.

          • Dagon

            Turtleneck and chain
            Sipping on a light beer

          • CyberneticOrganism

            ‘MURICA!

          • You should invest the Van Halen $$$ and get a pug. I vote get a pug

          • I just wish I had the time to care for a dog. I don’t wanna be a neglectful pug owner!

          • there’s a reason i’ve got cats. i can’t plan my life around eight-hour blocks of time…

          • And your cats are Very Good Cats.

          • Scrimm

            They are so worth every bit of hardship.

          • TrickleDownOvTacoKvltRiff

            I wasn’t able to until almost 40. I lived in apartments, single, lifestyle…so greatfull for them now!

          • CT-12

            French bulldogs (and bulldogs in general) are really low maintenance, super lazy. I have a French bulldog that straight up refuses to go on walks. It’s pathetic, but actually insanely convenient for my lifestyle.

          • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

            They’re coming to my area on their tour. I’m so damn excited.

          • are you going? have you seen them before? i hear it’s going to be very expensive, but i’ll break my piggy bank for that!

          • Guacamole Jim
          • Dumptruck Full Of Nose Hair

            And they’ll take a dump on your head standing up.

          • TrickleDownOvTacoKvltRiff

            majestic!

          • nbm02ss

            French Bulldogs > Pugs.

            Pugs are still totes adorbz, though.

          • TrickleDownOvTacoKvltRiff

            the best

          • CT-12

            I’ve got a frenchie, ugly/cute as hell, and dumb as hell (bless her heart)

          • Scrimm

            My neighbors just got a baby pug. Little bastard is about the size of a rat. I want one so bad now.

          • Dagon

            +1

          • Stockhausen

            Pugs make me so sad. They’re cute and I like them, but it’s depressing to remember that humans have purposely created this breed of dog with horrible chronic health problems that are nearly incapable of being comfortable and breathing as they get older.

          • TrickleDownOvTacoKvltRiff

            Love the pugs too…any brachiocephalic pup is my kinda pooch!

        • do you want to associate with Corgi owners?

          • Guacamole Jim

            Hell yes!!

      • more beer

        I know who the fuck puts food in one of those?

      • Coolstorybro

        Also…do people really refrigerate bread? #thesearethequestions

    • Dumptruck Full Of Nose Hair

      What the hell is that at the bottom left drawer?! I think you might have to get NASA to research that mutant lifeform growing in there.

    • Dumptruck Full Of Nose Hair

      Doh, my goof! I see it’s a dog now. Took me a second to see that.

  • sweetooth0

    This is one of the best metal albums ever. Period. The only other band I can think of that is able to mesh clean/harsh vocals and aggression/melody of this album while still remaining 100% intense is Anaal Nathrakh’s later releases. Obsolete was great too, but it was a step down from this one.

    • Ferris Mueller

      As a stand-alone album I give the nod to Obsolete but the combination of Demanufacture/Remanufacture is hard to beat.

  • zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    both at once–1st vid muted–2nd vid full vol
    https://youtu.be/Ci7EFmO260E

    https://youtu.be/bCTies9khqo

    • CyberneticOrganism

      These work amazingly well.

  • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

    Classy write up! There’s sure some unshakeably heavy awesomeness on this one. As far as “industrial” type stuff of the goes I don’t think anything can beat The Downward Spiral for me though.

    • CyberneticOrganism

      Very different styles to be sure but both powerful albums.

    • Dr. Dubz

      The Downward Spiral is one of my favorite albums of all time.

      • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

        Trent’s really a bit of a wizard.

      • Formerly Known As Oli Sykes

        I prefer The Fragile tbh, but TDS is a brilliant work.

        • oh baby, The Fragile is a flushing masterpiece!!!

          • Formerly Known As Oli Sykes

            Its in my top 5 favourite albums of all time. Other than Starfuckers (I have an inhuman aversion to that song, and that song alone) it is near perfection.

          • you and me, man… Starfuckers is an obvious radio biscuit, definitely the most straight-forward track on there. damn i need this album stat, hello amazon mp3…

          • Dr. Dubz

            I often skip that track. I’m a GINORMOUS NIN fanboy though.

          • Virgil the Ghost Poet

            That’s one of my favorites.

        • CyberneticOrganism

          Loved hearing Somewhat Damaged on the latest Walking Dead episode.

    • Dumptruck Full Of Nose Hair

      Damn good pick! All these years later, I still hear things on that CD I didn’t hear before. The layering on that CD is insane.

      • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

        Yeah, even though I’ve heard a lot heavier and a lot uglier music since, there’s a depth to TDS that keeps it harrowing time after time after time.

    • LobsterAttack

      Agreed. If it could have gotten old for me, it would have years ago; instead, it only gets better with each listen.

  • Tyree
  • Guest

    Thanks Dubz, same for me.

    • CyberneticOrganism

      Wtf disqus you cock

      • Guacamole Jim

        I like where this is going.

        • Is this going to be Boing! material?

          • Guacamole Jim

            Well, now that you’re here…..

          • I just do this to protect the foreigner visitants!

      • Herr Schmitty

        You’re welcome to disqus my cock any time you like, soldier.

        • CyberneticOrganism

          Negative.

    • Dr. Dubz

      Your heart is in the right place

  • Herr Schmitty

    I’ve never listened to Fear Factory recordings aside from what made my local rock radio as a kid…
    but I did see Fear Factory on Gigantour in ’05 and sincerely enjoyed them much more than, say, Dream Theater… but less than Megadeth and Symphony X. For whatever reason I really dug Symphony X a ton despite hating their lead singer’s vocals on record!

    Fear Factory: Meh recordings, fun show!

  • Call the Slambulance

    This is one of my all-time favorite albums. It just seems so perfect and, fittingly so, it helped me through a really shitty part of my life. Awesome fucking article, CO!

    • Scrimm

      You can’t put a price on album like that.

  • I jammed this album hard when it came out and enjoyed. As of today only Soul Of A New Machine remains. Your take on the djent influence is spot on.

  • Dumptruck Full Of Nose Hair

    Hardly groundbreaking. Many many industrial metal bands were doing this way before Fear Factory, and better. But, I did jam this CD a bit back in ’96, I’ll admit.

  • The Beargod

    I tried, no Fear Factory For Finn.

    • i’m more or less with you on this. i can’t do very much FF now but i totes jammed them in high school. FF’s “Obsolete” was the first truly heavy metal CD i owned, so they’re my primary gateway band. what irks me is the lack of variety in the sound, whether it’s the drumming or the guitarring.

      • The Beargod

        I was always of the same mind. I’ve tried countless times now and newer get very excited.

  • Scrimm

    One of the greatest albums ever, and a formative one for me. Blind buy because I knew I was going to see them open for Megadeth. Needless to say after hearing this seeing Megadeth was no longer my primary concern.

    • Mark Hunt’s Cardio

      I remember that tour in ’95…it was opened by Flotsam & Jetsam, than Fear Factory, than Korn, than Megadeth.

      We were all SUPER PISSED that Korn was on that tour, let alone getting billed above F & J & FF.

      • Scrimm

        For some reason the show I was at was FF Korn Flotsam and Megadeth. Don’t know why that happened. Maybe cause it was Flotsam’s home state. Either way car trouble cause us to miss FF and Korn. Half of that was a good thing.

  • Dagon

    That ending though. Great article, I know nothing of Fear Factory but I will make sure to check this out.

    • Scrimm

      So good. Pisschrist is my favorite track but there’s no really bad ones on here.

  • Formerly Known As Oli Sykes

    Well, a fantastic article about a fantastic album. I think Obsolete is a better album overall, but no one can deny the awesomeness of this album

    • CyberneticOrganism

      I love Obsolete also, I think it’s a great follow-up, not sure why most people dislike it.

      • Formerly Known As Oli Sykes

        One word, Edgecrusher.
        I think its an absolute choon, but it is quite Nu Metal-y.
        Then again, I am a Nu Metal apologist, so I am able to forgive the scratching, for the most part ;).

        • Yeah Edgecrusher is kind of unforgivable. Ruins the vibe of the whole album for me. I feel that Obsolete is a better album song-for-song, but Demanufacture has the advantage of popping my FF cherry, so . . . ew.

          • Formerly Known As Oli Sykes

            I’m guessing I won’t be seeing you at the Digimortal party Richter.

          • No, former assface. You will, however, be seeing me at the Digimortal Ruined FF Forever party. If you get the e-vite, that is.

          • Formerly Known As Oli Sykes

            No, unfortunately I have to teach my shadow clone how to ‘sing’ most of my old band’s first album so he can play it live (I don’t know why he’d want to, its fucking shite, even by our standards, but he insists).
            I’m gonna be attending the Digimortal has some good songs but is mostly mediocre party though, we have blackjack, and hookers.

          • Your references are lost on me. I don’t actually know who Oli Sykes is. Because he wasn’t in Total Recall. I only know Total Recall references. (Sykes, Start the reactor!!!)

          • Formerly Known As Oli Sykes

            He’ll make a cameo in the second reboot, to bring in the scene kids and the arsehole pit ninjas.

          • The reboot has no more validity than Digimortal. As they say around these parts, *FLUSH* (twice for common decency).

          • Formerly Known As Oli Sykes

            Well, I suppose it was coming. That’s what you get for being a former member of BMTH I guess.

  • Dumptruck Full Of Nose Hair

    I’ll leave this bad boy over here.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjPXAHl63_o

  • Maik Beninton

    I always recognize this album because of the drum sound (especially the snare).
    It’s awesome.

  • The Beargod

    Spam The Night Away!. The New Grunt Rules!

    https://grunt-finland.bandcamp.com/releases

  • Guppusmaximus

    I always thought Ministry covered this ground first…

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLCZhQX_Fm0

    • The Beargod

      I always liked Ministry more. Well at least when the albums where they are most mechanic (more so than FF ever) and the ones where they best blend the Indu-rock-metal to catchiness (guess which one).

      • Guppusmaximus

        Yea, Psalm 69 was my all-time fav. But, I have a fondness for this tune because it kills and because it was in the movie Harley Davidson & The Marlboro Man – though it’s not listed in the soundtrack

        • The Beargod

          I think this is maybe my favorite Ministru album. Probably.

  • I never got into FF that much but I love Mechanize. Good album. I even have it on vinyl.

    • Dr. Dubz

      I rather enjoyed Mechanize. The follow-up to it was a bit disappointing.

      • Further Down the Metal Hole

        Fingers crossed they have more of a banger again this year.

  • Max

    I bought Soul of a Machine (which I always thought of more as a grindcore album personally, since there were about 17 songs on it and no guitar solos), was bored by the amount of filler, and basically lost interest in Fear Factory from that point onwards – although I did quite like the remix EPs.

    That said, I think you make the case very well for Demanufacture as a now-seminal record; it didn’t occur to me how much impact it’s had until reading this.

    Hell, your own music quite clearly takes a few leaves out of the FF book! I prefer yours, though…

    • CyberneticOrganism

      Many thanks for the huge compliment Muad’Dib! You really can hear a lot of its blueprint in many other bands.

  • CT-12

    I’ve heard a lot about this album, but have never really listened to it. So far, sounds pretty good. I found some Fear Factory CD’s in a free bin a while ago and took them but haven’t checked them out really yet, maybe this article was the push I needed to finally get them on my MP3. Thanks for the article CO!

  • Stockhausen

    Raymond Herrera is a cool cat and a super nice dude. *drops name, walks away*

    • Stockhausen

      But srs, robot, great write up. This is the only FF album I can really get into.

  • Oh, THIS FF article. Right . . .

    I still wuv this album. Killer article, CybertronicOrgasm.

  • Further Down the Metal Hole

    Demanufacture is unfuckwithable. Hail to thee, glorious machine overlord.

    • Further Down the Metal Hole

      Also, I didn’t regret clicking on every single link.

  • Coolstorybro

    Surprising how a string of T-2 references makes me want to listen to this album immediately

  • Pc

    Great post. I don’t think this album gets enough love for how original and important it was.

  • AndAnotherThing

    Old article and necro-comment, but:

    Fear Factory’s (FF’s) “Soul of a New Machine” (1992) is sub-standard Pitchshifter, who, at the time were sub-standard Godflesh.

    Front Line Assembly (FLA) remix the album on an absolute killer EP “Fear is the Mind Killer” (1993)

    FLA release their seventh album “Millennium” (1994), infusing their usual electro sound with guitars (played mostly by Devin Townsend). This album is very much in the vein of the FF remix EP and an absolute giant of the genre.

    FF release “Demanufacture” (1995), very much an electro-guitar fusion, hugely influenced by the remix EP and featuring none other than Rhys Fulber, of FLA, on keyboards, samples, etc, etc.

    “Demanufacture” is a decent album, but as is often the case, the true groundbreakers are relatively unsung.