Some days you need a song to really get you going for the day. At times it can take a few to get the right one to hit the spot. This morning, while gearing up for my day I went through a few songs that could help get the blood flowing and then it all came together when I put on “Shock” by Fear Factory. From that point, it was on! This track is one hell of an opener and the way it begins their excellent album, Obsolete is pummeling! If you need a song to start your day, I highly suggest this to kick it off!
The year is 1995 and an album is about to be released that changes the heavy metal game for the future. This landmark album would not only put the band on the map but it would go on to be one of the most influential and inspirational albums of the 90’s metal scene and beyond. I’m talking about Fear Factory and their undeniable masterpiece, Demanufacture. There is one story I love about the making of this album that I have to share. The album was recorded at Bearsville Studios in rural New York. Also in residence at the studio was New Jersey rockers, Bon Jovi who were in the studio recording their album These Days (which is actually a really good album in the Bon Jovi catalog and quite dark too). Anyways the story goes that Fear Factory were in the studio next door and one of Bon Jovi’s engineers asked them to turn the sound down, as it was bleeding into Bon Jovi’s drum mics, during Bon Jovi’s recording sessions. But that’s a whole other story for another time. What I want is to focus on the title track of the album. The concept for the album is about a man’s struggles against a machine-controlled government, with each song a chapter in his life. The first song on the album is the title track “Demanufacture” and as a tone setter, WOW. This song is blistering. The riffs are pummeling and the drums blast like Thor’s hammer. Then when you add Burton C. Bell’s vocals of clean singing to heavier vocals, you just can’t beat it. What a way to start off an album and a classic one at best. This song has gone on to live in infamy as one of the best title tracks but also as a track one!
The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Fear Factory’s album Demanufacture is, Game Changer. At the time of it’s release, Demanufacture was unlike anything coming out. The concept about a man’s struggles against a machine-controlled government, with each song a chapter in his life, is quite a weighty bit of subject matter. Looking back on that idea 25 years later, it’s definitely quite interesting to see how things in today’s society have played out. On top of that, there are so many elements about this album that have gone on to influence and inspire countless bands throughout the years. Everything from guitar tones, drum sounds, vocals, lyrical imagery and use of electronics are found in so many of the bands you love today.
The moment this album starts, you can already tell that this is going to hit you like a ton of bricks. The opening riff alone is devastating along with the pulse of the drums and bass. Throughout the album too, there is no escaping the sheer magnitude the guitars and drums put out. Then before you know it, the vocals kick in and the whole thing comes together and leaves you in a bit of shock and awe. I could go song by song but, that won’t do this album the justice it deserves. Because it’s a concept album, it’s best to take it all in and let it all brew in your mind. that being said though, I do have my favorites on this album like, “Demanufacture,” Self Bias Resistor,” “Zero Signal,” “Replica,” “Hunter-Killer,” and “Pisschrist.” I will never forget seeing Fear Factory live in 1999 and the moment they started playing songs off this album, the crowd went completely nuts. It’s definitely worth mentioning too, these songs are absolute classics in the metal community. Even if you are at a show and in between bands one of the songs from this album comes on, people in the audience tend to get pretty damn excited.
Demanufacture is and will always be regarded as a metal classic. As I mentioned in the beginning of this piece, so much of this band and this album is found in so many bands you love today. One thing in particular is the vocal style. Burton C. Bell’s harsh vocals into clean vocals were pretty much unheard of at the time and now it’s a staple in metal. The style, speed and technicality of guitarist Dino Cazares, drummer Raymond Herrera and bassist Christian Olde Wolbers are often replicated but it’s not quite the same.
It’s a shame that this band is going through so much legal turmoil over the last few years. If this era’s lineup were to reunite, it would be quite awesome. And hopefully they could work on new music together and get back to what Fear Factory is all about. At least we as fans have these albums and if you were lucky to see them live back in the day, have the memory of how good they were. Well, here’s to the day that perhaps we can see that again.
Lately, I’ve been sharing some of the worst covers ever with you all and it’s been quite fun to read your responses. With that in mind I present to you a cover I’ve long considered to be on the cusp of horrible and mediocre. What do you think of Fear Factory’s cover of U2’s “I Will Follow?”
The “Sunset Strip” is one of the most legendary places in Los Angeles. The musical history that surrounds the area is rich and full of greatness. Everyone knows the stories of The Doors, Motley Crue, Guns n Roses, etc. Everyone has dreams of playing at the venues up and down the strip. The sad thing is that today in 2014, there isn’t much left of the greatness that once was such a legendary place. There is no scene anymore, and venues are closing down. The Key Club and The Roxy are no longer open. All that is left is the Whisky and The Viper Room, and the little bit of nostalgia that you get from walking around the area.
I recently attended a show at the Whisky to see Fear Factory. In my mind I thought this will be great to see them again and at the Whisky of all places. I remember seeing them there back when their album Obsolete came out. Boy was I wrong. First off they were horrible live and Burton C. Bell couldn’t hit the notes. They seemed like a second rate version of what they used to be, holding on to what they once were thinking that they still had “it”
The main reason for this piece is to detail how downhill the Whisky has become. Nevermind the history of the place, plain and simple this place is a hole in the wall now. The exterior alone needs a drastic update. The people working the ticket booth are some of the laziest rude people ever. It’s 2014 people, it’s about time to start taking credit cards to buy tickets. Security wise, I understand the need to pat people down, but don’t grab my ass. If I wanted to get felt up I’d stay home with my lady. Once inside the stench of mold, sweat, and filth fills the room. The carpet has got to be so old they are afraid to rip it up and see what lies beneath. The layout downstairs doesn’t make any sense. Why have booths downstairs in an area that takes away from the standing room? The Roxy had a different area for that, same with the Key Club. They understood the need for continuity in the building. The bathrooms, are a travesty to all ends. The upstairs area is where the booths should be. Thus providing the “VIP” experience. Instead there are plastic chairs that you would find at your local Home Depot. Another aspect of the place is the crappy sound system. It looked like they updated the board, but not the speakers or the direction of how the sound travels.
One of the worst parts about the Whisky is the way they stack the lineup for the night. It makes no sense to have 6 bands on a bill before the main band of the night. Not to mention have them sell tickets at an outrageous amount just to cover their own cost. Pay to play is one of the biggest scams ever. The sad reality is that most of the bands that do this really aren’t that good at all. During the night that I was there, not one of the bands that opened for Fear Factory were good. They were so bad in fact that my friend and I left and went to a bar next door to wait out the time till Fear Factory went on (thank goodness for the rule of in’s and outs for those 21 and over). One of the other main things that is wrong about the venue is their lack of crowd control. First of all there was way too many people inside. It’s almost like they oversold the event. The way they handle the “pit” is non existent. Not everyone wants to be involved in it. While my friend and I were leaving mid set (due to Fear Factory being horrible) we had to walk through the pit instead of a clear walk way. Perhaps they should get someone in there and prevent the large people from hurting the other people in attendance.
Times they are a changing, and the Whisky needs to do the same or follow in the footsteps of the other venues that closed down. There is no need for any of what I just mentioned to happen. For a place that once was a spot that bands dreamed of playing at, they really let it go. How about really taking the time and care about your place and make it that way again. Otherwise shut your doors and walk away.
Since I wrote this article, I’ve been back to the Whisky for countless shows and they really have stepped up and worked to make this venue better. The sound system seems new(er) and the rate of speed between bands seems to be tighter. Sure there is still room for improvement but, they are getting their act together. This venue is historic and special and needs to be treated that way. A coat of paint inside and good pressure wash could do wonders for the place.