In the early '90s, many years before Killswitch Engage and Shadows Fall started combining strangled growls with catchy vocal melodies, and Static-X and Rammstein began blended pounding staccato riffs and jackhammer beats with electronic samples, Los Angeles future-thinkers Fear Factory were reinventing both death metal and industrial rock with an arsenal of sonic styles. After releasing four critically acclaimed albums and two industrial remix EPs, selling over a million albums in the process. Following a grueling tour with Machine Head in 2002, the creative core of Fear Factory imploded due to personal differences and sheer over-exertion. Guitarist and songwriter Dino Cazares went on to play with Brujeria and Asesino and vocalist Burton C. Bell took a few months off before eventually reforming the band and releasing two more records over the next few years. Without Cazares in the mix, however, Fear Factory was missing a key element of its sound and wound up feeling like a shadow of their former selves.
"It just didn't feel complete," says Bell. "I realized that Dino and I were a real integral part of Fear Factory and we needed each other to make it work, and without the both of us it lost that intensity."
As time passed, the chance of a reunion between Bell and Cazares seemed less and less likely. Then in April 2008, a full six years after they had last spoken, Bell, then touring with Ministry, ran into Cazares at the band's Los Angeles show and reopened the lines of communication. "I just said 'hey, how you doing?' and it started from there," Bell says. Not long thereafter Bell and Cazares were jamming again. With bassist Byron Stroud and drummer Gene Hoglan (Dethklok, Strapping Young Lad), Fear Factory was back and ready for action.
The result of their union, Mechanize, is a full-fisted blast of passion and innovation that sounds like the missing link between's 1995's caustic, groundbreaking Demanufacture and 1998's more texturally nuanced Obsolete. Songs like "Industrial Discipline" and "Powershifter" are crushing and colossal, melding rhythms as fast and precise as uzi blasts with vocals that pinwheel from raw and scathing to hauntingly melodic. While "Fear Campaign," which features harrowing spoken word passages, quickly segues into a showcase of punishing beats, rapid-fire riffs and ghostly keyboards. And for the first time in years, the band's industrial roots glimmer through its street-lethal metal, thanks in part to the co-production efforts and keyboard programming of Rhys Fulber, who worked on Fear Factory's industrial remix albums Fear is the Mindkiller and Remanufacture.
"I didn't want any of the soundscapes to sound natural. I wanted them to be really mechanical because I wanted that aspect of Fear Factory to really shine again," Bell says. "I feel it kind of got dulled over and that's the aspect that I really enjoyed a lot about Fear Factory because I brought that to the table. I was a huge fan of industrial music and still am. And you don't hear much of that these days anymore."
While Mechanize is instantly reminiscent of Fear Factory's most potent moments of discovery, it's hardly a stroll down the old assembly line. Be it the orchestral keyboard swells of "Christploitation," the keyboard-infused dirge of "Final Exit," the taped screams and radio transmissions of "Controlled Demolition" or the last gasp-under-shattered-glass samples of "Metallic Division," the combination of technological advancements and experience of Fear Factory have evolved like a computer virus, constantly reconfiguring itself to maximize its destructive impact.
Mechanize was inspired in part by Bell's recent reading of Alvin Toffler's 1984 treatise Third Wave. "That book was really inspirational to me as I was working on Mechanize," Bell says. "It starts off describing the first wave, which was agricultural, and the second wave, which was the industrial revolution. And it's describing the death of the industrial revolution and the coming into the third wave. Even though the book was written twenty-five years ago, it's so pertinent today.
The origins of Fear Factory date back to 1990 in Los Angeles, an era rife with political turmoil, racial tension and economic hardship. At the time, Bell and Cazares were living in an eight bedroom community house and were playing in different bands. Bell was wreaking havoc with the industrial noise outfit Hateface and Cazares was in the grindcore group Excruciating Terror. After hearing Bell singing a U2 song in the shower one day and realizing he had a voice as well as a ferocious growl, Cazares asked him if he was interested in jamming. The two formed Ulceration, which evolved into Fear Factory.
The band landed a record deal based on a self-financed recording they made with producer Ross Robinson (Slayer), Concrete, and immediately entered the studio to record their first proper full-length, Soul of a New Machine. Released in 1992 it transformed death metal almost overnight with its blend of throat-abrading screams and melodic vocals, and sci-fi lyrics about a machine that was invented to control and contain mankind.
"A lot of people didn't get it and really ridiculed us," Cazares says. "Because of the different vocals some people were like, 'whoah, this is cool, this is different.' And other people were like, 'he's singing melodically? That shouldn't be on a fuckin' death metal record.' It took a while for more people to catch on to that style of singing, and now it's everywhere."
In the six years that have passed since the original Fear Factory splintered, lots of transformation has taken place. Bell has formed the gothic rock band Ascension of the Watchers, which released the album Numinosum on Ministry frontman Al Jourgensen's 13th Planet Records, and recently formed City of Fire with Stroud. Cazares has put out two Divine Heresy discs and toured extensively. Stroud and Hoglan have recorded and toured with Strapping Young Lad, Zimmer's Hole and Dethklok. For Bell, the myriad projects have only provided creative ideas and inspiration for Fear Factory. "In this day and age you gotta keep busy because you can't just rely on one band," he says. "That's something we've all learned from time and years of experience. You need to keep busy and keep working. Not only is it good to support yourself, it also keeps you going creatively." While both Bell and Cazares agree that it's sometimes hard to juggle all the projects they're working on, they've both got Fear Factory on the front-burner and they're as excited about the band again as they were in the early '90s. Moreover, they're approaching it with a new level of maturity and professionalism.
"We've all changed a bit as people over the years," Bell says. "We've developed patience and we've had some humbling experiences. And when those things happen you realize that the types of battles we had in the past are just a waste of time. And time is precious."
Voivod has been touring and recording since 1983. They recently curated the legendary Roadburn festival in Holland, where they performed their classic Dimension Hatross album.
"Target Earth" (to be released this year) is the first record of new material from the line up of Snake, Blacky, Away and Chewy. It is significant because the three original members of the new formation have not written together since 1991's Angel Rat.
A film about Voivod is underway. Long overdue, it will document the band's career, a story of perseverance despite the challenges.
The global touring since 2008's reformation has been extensive (Japan, Chile, Mexico, Europe, Canada, USA) and continues in 2012 with more shows in support of Target Earth and special shows featuring classic Voivod records. A summer US/Canada tour as part of the Shockwave Festival, some festivals in Quebec and a European tour this fall are also scheduled.
You don't name your band Cattle Decapitation if you're looking to subtly insinuate your way into the consciousness of the masses. Equally, unleashing some of the most intense, horrifying, and extreme metal known to mankind will not ingratiate you with those of a sensitive nature, for the San Diegan's boundary-pushing music is designed to turn heads and snap necks, and not necessarily in that order. Returning with their seventh full-length, the devastating Monolith Of Inhumanity, the band have never sounded more focused, more aggressive, or more determined to get in the faces of those who erroneously believe they have already experienced the band at their extreme best. "One of the main things this band has done since the very beginning was to try to break tradition and break the mold of what's acceptable, in any given genre we're working in," states vocalist Travis Ryan. "I'm really happy that with this record we've been able to successfully push those boundaries further than we ever have, and without going into the 'suck' realm or sounding contrived. We've gone so far out on a limb on this one, and I'm just ecstatic that we've pulled off what we were trying to achieve." This achievement stands as one of the most volatile, ambitious, and impossible to aptly categorize records you will hear in 2012. Dragging their ever-evolving deathgrind sound kicking and screaming into the epic territory inhabited by the likes of Dimmu Borgir and Anaal Nathrakh, the quartet redefine all perceptions of what Cattle Decapitation is. "The mindset of this band has always been abrasive and balls to the wall, and like a car accident where there's no fucking stopping it. Throwing melodic vocals or guitar work - or dare we say catchy elements - into that is tantalizing," says Ryan. That such elements have been woven sparingly into their turbulent racket does not mean the band have in any way diminished the sheer visceral impact they are known for. "There can be hooks and catchiness without compromising what the band - or any individual in the band - is all about," asserts guitarist Josh Elmore. "Having these elements at our disposal is just another tool with which we can build the best songs that we can. It was great also having input from Derek (Engemann, bass, who makes his writing and recording debut with this album), who added some new dynamics to some of the songs. We also spent a lot of time thinking about structure on this record, wanting every moment to count, no matter what the tone of it was." After one exposure to Monolith Of Inhumanity it's evident that these more melodic elements truly enhance the power of the tracks, and make for a more diverse and involving collection. On "A Living, Breathing Piece Of Defecating Meat" the band unleash a chorus that manages to be hideous and infectious at the same time, while the towering "Your Disposal" and "Lifestalker" wield sweeping, dramatic sections tinged with apocalyptic fury, which are all the more gripping for the inclusion of Ryan's melodic shrieking. "I was waiting for the guys to write parts I could use that kind of melody on, and as soon as they played me "Your Disposal" I dropped the song I was working on and just went for it," enthuses Ryan. "This is the first record where I really listened to what the fans were saying they wanted, and many of them wanted a lot more of those weird, epic, melodic parts that crept into The Harvest Floor (2009), and I'm like okay, done, because luckily I agree with you this time!" As with all of the band's releases, Monolith Of Inhumanity revolves around a central concept, building upon Ryan's potent distaste for contemporary civilization and the damage wrought in the name of progress. "Whereas The Harvest Floor focused on sort of rounding up the populace and getting rid of them, this record is about what would happen had we let them go. It's about where humanity will end up if it continues the course it's on," the vocalist explains. This concept, inspired in part by 2001: A Space Odyssey, is once again captured in the cover art by longtime collaborator Wes Benscoter, depicting a bleak apocalyptic future and the regression of mankind into apes. "The monolith really represents technology, and the cover's this trash heap with the monolith atop it and humans scavenging all around it, because that's all they're able to do any more. It's where we're headed on the course we're on, and yeah, a lot of kids will say that's a really negative, shitty attitude to have, but is it not correct?" In realizing the record, the quartet - rounded out by drummer Dave McGraw - travelled to Denver, Colorado to collaborate with producer Dave Otero (Allegaeon, Cephalic Carnage). "Dave brought really good performances out of everybody, and he gave the record a lot of clarity while the heaviness is still there," states Elmore, though it was the producer's suggestions on how to better flesh out the songs that made the most profound difference in the guitarist's eyes. "The guy really knows what he's doing. I do a lot of layering after the basic rhythm track, and if I came to a point where I wasn't sure about something someone would always pipe up and say you realize everything Dave has suggested so far has worked? Try it!" he laughs. That the record is as accomplished as it is also belies the fact that the schedules of the members made it difficult for them to focus on writing it over the year they had allotted. "As it turns out we work really well under pressure," Ryan says with a wry smile. "But we were all so busy it's literally a wonder that we got it done at all in that year, let alone what we came out with. It makes me feel like we're capable of anything, and that's really a new development." The visual aspect of their output having always been important to them, the band are enthused to have the album released as a gatefold vinyl, and to have Tom Bunk, creator of The Garbage Pail Kids collectors cards from the 1980s, design cards for the individual members of the band, which will be available with pre-orders. "Collecting those cards was one of my favorite things when I was a kid, and our friend and ex-manager is a complete nerd about it and has known Tom Bunk for years, and put us in touch with him. This is an older guy that doesn't have to be fucking around with some deathgrind band who isn't going to push him to new heights, but he thought it sounded like a fun project and he was very cool about everything. It still hasn't really hit me that we quite literally have our own Garbage Pail Kid cards!" Ryan grins. "The funny thing is that it also inadvertently ties right into the theme of the record, which has so much focus on garbage and waste. It didn't even occur to me until months later, but that's the beauty of this band, things happen for a reason. For instance, for the first time, going into this record I didn't have the whole concept worked out in my head. Usually I have it in mind as much as a few years before we get around to making the record, and I need that, it has to make sense to me or it's just not going to work. I was so scared it just wasn't going to come, but one day it literally just hit me. The title, the concept, the cover, all of it, and suddenly everything fell into place, and now it's done I think this is the first time we've all been one hundred percent proud of what we've created - and for good reason."
We got together and formed the band, then started putting out music.
Formed in February of 2004: HAVOK is the thrash metal powerhouse reigning from Colorado that continues to win over thousands of fans from various parts of the world. Incorporating blisteringly fast guitar riffs, machine-like drumming, groovy bass lines, searing leads, and hard-hitting vocals, HAVOK is able to maintain that *punch-you-in-the-throat* style of music. Although there are many other thrash bands out there, there is one thing that sets HAVOK apart from the others. This band puts their own stamp on the genre by employing a more technical side of music, while maintaining the feel. HAVOK's live show is where the band really catches peoples' attention, with their non-stop energy level and their ability to get the audience involved. They are a must-see for any fan of live music! This Denver outfit has had their name compared to the likes of Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax, Pantera, Testament, Overkill, Exodus, Suicidal Tendencies, Motorhead, etc… And for good reason! They possess a distinct approach to thrash: one that emulates the abrasive styles of classic 80s thrash metal, but with a much-needed fresh edge. HAVOK has received tons of positive feedback for their efforts to make thrash a mainstay in modern music: and they will continue to spread the intensity until they decide the job is done! Given their talent, determination, and constantly growing fan base, HAVOK is destined to become a mainstay in this scene!