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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

LIVE REVIEW: Fear Factory roll back the years, but keep the passion

JESUS wept! 'Demanufacture' was released 20 years ago. Well, who would have thunk it, and why does that make us feel old?

Fear Factory seem 'young' to those us bred on the 1980s metal, but then again Fear Factory began life as Ulceration in 1989...

To tour with the entire 'Demanufacture' album as the hook could be seen as an attempt to rekindle past passions among the fans. If so, it was also a risk to have two support bands of top calibre on the bill.

Opening in Belfast on Friday 11th December was Dublin act Dead Label. This trio produces a noise that defies the tag of opener.

Dan, Danny and Claire are a potent force and use their limited slot to good effect. The likes of they're Bloodstock appearance in August has helped hone tracks such as 'Ominous' and 'Salvation in Sacrifice' to cut with savagery.

Surprise of the night for many was Once Human. Logan Mader, ex-of Machine Head and Soulfly, had been away from the live music scene for almost a decade when he assembled Once Human.

Mader's return went largely unheralded and for many the release of 'The Life I Remember' in September was low on the radar. With this tour there is no way Once Human will be overlooked.

On album they are good, but live they are sensational - a combination of classic thrash and groove as well as a contemporary 21st century metal feeling. Lauren Hunt is a talented front person for the band, providing a focal point with her range of vocals and goading the crowd yet further.

Of course, 'Davidian' gets the loudest response, but the tracks of the September release earn their stripes as 'You C*nt', 'Terminal' and 'The Life I Remember' each get a more than warm welcome.

Fear Factory have earned their stripes the hard way, touring, fall-outs, failed experimentation are all part of the history and histrionics that make up the Fear Factory mythos.

With new album 'Genexus' out, why the hell are they playing 'Demanufacture' in full? There may be a simple reason, once you sit down and contemplate for a while with 'Dog Day Sunrise' playing in the background.

'Genexus' sits well alongside 'Demanufacture' and the under-rated 'Digimortal'. And, to 'tour' Genexus on it's own would mean the band would have had to include much of Demanufacture anyway. Therefore, to boost interest in the tour the happy coincidence of the album's 20th birthday was the proverbial 'no-brainer'.

When Burton C. Bell and Dino Cazares take to the stage for the opening apocalyptic riffs of the album's title track no-one cares the rhyme or reasons as the surge of familiarity breeds furious joy not contempt.

There's no real need to list all the tracks but suffice to say the likes of 'New Breed' and 'Body Hammer' still feel fresh as they did 20 years ago.

Mike Heller and Tony Campos are more than bit part players on stage. Heller has been pounding the skins for three years now and Campos seems more than just a touring member on bass.

Bell seems to be enjoying himself, and Cazares was seen to break a smile a couple of times, but there is a conceit that Fear Factory can't get away from. While the metal is pure and powerful to capture the sound at times requires the effects and synth sounds.

Where they dispense with these the essence of the album tracks disappears and it becomes a straightforward metal track: not bad enough to be bad, but still.

Where they deploy the backing tracks and synth sounds some might think they are over-topping - yet they are not.

The dichotomy within this conundrum matters not a whit as this is a set that blasts through the Limelight. New tracks such as 'Dielectric' and 'Regenerate' could have seen some drift to the back, but the majority stayed put until the final strains of 'Martyr'.

Fear Factory have been one of the preeminent bands of  'industrial' metal, but have been plagued with inconsistency. However, when they played Belfast that faded into the background. They delivered everything that could be expected: sounds from glory days brought to old and new fans alike and delivered with aplomb.

Review by Jonny
Photos by Darren McVeigh

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