The future of Fear Factory has hung in the balance for quite some time. Their last album Genexus was released 6 years ago, and since then the band almost ended due to a lawsuit involving former members and Burton C. Bell quit the band last year. Their follow-up to Genexus was rumoured to come out under a different name in the midst of all this chaos, but nevertheless here we are- their tenth studio album Aggression Continuum is here, under the Fear Factory name and featuring vocals from Bell from 2017.
One could imagine this record going a couple different ways; perhaps there will be a lack of cohesion and direction due to the tensions that lead up to where Fear Factory stands now, it could be the last glimpse of when everything and everyone was solid and together, or it could be an example of a band in creative transition. The opener “Recode” does seem to lean to the latter; “Disruptor” falls more into the realm of traditional FF. Maybe it’s because of who’s been in the band and who’s still there, but the title track along with “Purity” and “Fuel Injected Suicide Machine” sound like a hard-hitting hybrid of Bringer of Plagues-era Divine Heresy and Strapping Young Lad circa The New Black. Regardless of what parallels can be drawn, it still sounds like standard, kickass Fear Factory at the end of the day.
Where “Aggression Continuum” and “Fuel Injected” rip and riff at high velocity, “Collapse” scales back on the speed and makes up for it in pure sledgehammer heaviness. Outside of Dino Cazares’ impenetrable wall of downtune, Mike Heller’s drums elevate “Manufactured Hope” to a new level of heavy and lace up “Cognitive Dissonance” with all kinds of intricate limb-play. “Monolith” reiterates FF’s industrial metal credentials and sets the stage for the closer “End of Line”, one last number to put a cap on the Burton C. Bell era, one chock-full of pounding, synchronous kick-and-riff ear candy at that.
Aggression Continuum shows some signs of gradual, necessary refinement and creative sophistication, but largely sticks to the script nevertheless, something longtime Fear Factory fans will surely appreciate. It’s a great close, however melancholy (or acrimonious) it may be on a personal level to the Bell era of FF and a formidable finale to look back on years from now; nothing fancy, dazzling or spectacular but pure, crushing metal from a highly influential act in the genre. Where the band goes from here is anyone’s guess, but with an end like this to one chapter of Fear Factory, you can’t help but be optimistic for the next.