Fear Factory

Transgression

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When Fear Factory's Archetype LP came out in April 2004, the adversity surrounding it (personnel departures, fleeting breakups, record company woes) fueled the album's most ferocious moments. The band's 2005 effort, Transgression, shares that ferocity, but it's more loosely applied -- it isn't as desperate or on edge as Archetype, instead precision-channeling its rage into ambitious and efficiently written songs. Best of all, Raymond Herrera's totally insane drumming continues to drive the band's explosive heart. Opener "540,000° Fahrenheit" overlays its rhythmic chop with sputtering guitars and a typically mirthful vocal from Burton C. Bell, while "Spinal Compression" crosses and sparks the tension wires of thrash and death metal. The continued, focused intensity of Transgression is evident in the way Fear Factory manages its volatile nature against keyboard lines that glower with drama and turns toward more accessible song structure. Bell himself is a barometer for that volatility. As usual he shifts between a vengeful bark and a contemplative singing voice. But it's where he chooses to use either style that makes songs like songs like "Empty Vision" and "New Promise" really effective. They might not be as immediately heavy, but they're powder kegs of potential. Producer Toby Wright understands where Fear Factory needs some echo, and where they absolutely don't. So Bell's vocals hit some Queensrÿche highs, but he's direct and pissed off when Herrera's at his most vicious and Christian Olde Wolbers' guitar starts scratching barbed wire on steel. Whether at its loudest or most dramatic, Transgression is Fear Factory at their most confident. Whereas on Archetype they delivered a searing take on Nirvana's "School," Transgression features a surprisingly faithful version of Boy-era U2 classic "I Will Follow." The introduction's so close it could almost be a remaster of the original, Bell's just a throatier Bono, and the only real metal concession is the chunkier rhythm guitar and some screaming to punctuate the backgrounds. Now how's that for confident?

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