Soul of a New Machine

Fear Factory

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Soul of a New Machine Review

by Jason Birchmeier

Soul of a New Machine ushered in the '90s alternative metal era, even if few realized it at the time. Fear Factory were quite ahead of their time in 1992, the year Roadrunner Records released Soul, their debut album (though not technically their first, which would be the later-unearthed, Ross Robinson-produced Concrete demo album). The band didn't fit neatly into any of the metal camps of the day: thrash metal (Pantera, Slayer, Sepultura), crossover metal (Metallica, Megadeth, Ozzy), industrial metal (Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, Godflesh), death metal (Morbid Angel, Death, Obituary), grindcore (Napalm Death, Brutal Truth, Lawnmower Deth), and so on. This fact alone made Fear Factory an anomaly among the market-driven metal field of the day. That Roadrunner even gave them a chance regardless goes to show how much promise Fear Factory exhibited at the time -- market or no market, Roadrunner sensed there was something special about this band and decided to take a chance. And indeed there was something special about Fear Factory, as Soul of a New Machine went on to demonstrate. One of the top two death metal producers of the day, Colin Richardson, flew from England into Los Angeles (only days after the 1992 riots had ravaged the city), and for the next four weeks, he produced what would become a downright groundbreaking metal album.

Soul of a New Machine was so groundbreaking because it fuses together some of the best aspects of numerous metal subgenres: the rhythmic crunch of thrash, the melodies of crossover metal, the syncopated man-machine lock-step of industrial, the growling low end of death metal, and the blitzkrieg impact of grindcore. Just as importantly, it did away with the generic aspects of each subgenre, resulting in a unique sound that was in no way whatsoever clichéd (though it would later become a cliché itself years later). Granted, Soul of a New Machine isn't Fear Factory's best album, not even by a stretch, and it didn't shake up the metal world at the time of its release. However, a few years later, once the band broke through with Demanufacture (1995), there were myriad bands mixing and matching different metal equations, thus bringing about the "alternative metal" descriptor. So if you're curious about where it all began, Soul of a New Machine is arguably ground zero. If you're simply looking for some kick-ass metal, though, there's plenty of that here too, especially the first half of the album, with "Martyr," "Scapegoat," and "Scumgrief" standing out as particular highlights. And if you like what you hear here, you'll also want to pick up the Fear Is the Mindkiller remix EP that followed a year later. It takes the music a logical step further, to amazing results (courtesy of Bill Leeb and Rhys Fulber of Front Line Assembly). Roadrunner thankfully remastered and reissued both in 2004 as a single deluxe package.

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