The Industrialist is Fear Factory’s eighth proper canonical studio album, it is their second album since Dino rejoined the band and their second full-out concept album. It was recorded after a line-up change which saw Gene and Byron from Strapping Young Lad leave the band, to be replaced by Matt DeVries from Chimaira and a drum machine.
Lyrically, the album tells a story something along the lines of: an artificial intelligence is created that learns how to think, how to self-preserve and becomes a messianic figure teaching other robots that humanity is flawed, and then tries to stop the humans from disassembling the robots. Upon first listen the story isn’t as all pervasive as you may expect however, and it could take a decent amount of spins to get to grips with it.
Musically, you should know what to expect if you have heard a lot of Fear Factory material before, especially if you have heard Obsolete and Mechanize.
Sometimes Fear Factory get accused of making the same album all the time, but I think this is rather unfair. They do certainly have a signature sound; every album has Burton mixing low barking vocals with treated melodic singing, every album has a lot of syncopated mechanical sounding double-kick patterns along with similarly rhythmic riffs and most of their albums end with a cleaner, spacier track. Within that signature sound however, they have covered a lot of ground over the years.
Their first album had an more Death Metal and Grindcore influenced style, then they released the classic Demanufacture in 1995 which most people use as the basis for what they think Fear Factory sound like. The concept album Obsolete which followed took that sound in a few different directions and Digimortal simplified it. Then their primary guitarist Dino left and the band released the underrated and varied Archetype in 2004 and followed that up with the much more commercial Transgression, which was poorly received.
The album that The Industrialist most sounds however like is the album which it follows up, 2010’s Mechanize. Mechanize was an album which largely sought to replicate the sound from Demanufacture and saw Dino rejoin the band at the expense of long time members Chirstian Olde Wolbers and Raymond Herrera. Of any two Fear Factory albums in a row, the gap in quality and direction between The Industrialist and Mechanize is the smallest in the band’s career.
Many fans celebrated Mechanize as a return to form, however I have never personally been able to get all that behind it, despite listening to it a lot and giving it a really fair chance to win me over. The biggest thing I had always liked about Fear Factory was Raymond Herrera, and although Gene Hoglan (and now a drum machine) can replicate the general style that Ray played in, they both had a different feel to Ray.
I also feel that although stylistically Mechanize was right on the money, its actual songs were a little too samey and formulaic (a risk you have to take when trying to play your signature sound. It could always pay off as a consistent effort, or backfire as an overly samey effort) and ultimately just felt a little bit hollow to me. Few songs on it made a lasting impression in the same way as the older material was able to. There was nothing discernibly wrong with it but it still didn’t feel like a great record.
The Industrialist falls into this exact situation. Everything about it sounds right, but it doesn’t have any “better than the sum of its parts” magic. The Industrialist is another Fear Factory album, its some more of the same traditionally Fear Factory sounding songs to add to your collection and a few new songs to hear live or on compilations. It is all really well made, well produced and hard to criticize. Burton still sings well on record and the lyrics are actually pretty interesting as well, but despite having everything going for it, I just don’t personally love it. I only think it is OK. I don’t wish it hadn’t been made, but nor would I list it as my new favourtie album.
If you also felt the way that I did about Mechanize, then I would say that The Industrialist is going to make you feel the same way again. It doesn’t raise the bar significantly enough in the songwriting department to make everything memorable and distinct. The tracks are fairly interchangeable excluding the opener and the final two spacey tracks, and it is difficult to choose either highlights or low-points because it is all similar. It is all of the same style, same great quality and same lack of magic. I can absolutely understand how and why people would like it, but I just don’t personally get a buzz off it like I did from some of their other works.
If you personally think Mechanize was brilliant however, then The Industrialist will surely work just as well for you and I recommend that you check it out. Everything that was good about Mechanize is represented here too in fine form, and if you don’t have a mental block on the ‘added magic’ factor then this album is absolutely something you can enjoy.
If you haven’t heard a lot of Fear Factory at all before, it’ll probably stand up really well, as it won’t have to compare to existing Fear Factory material and so can just be enjoyed purely “as is.”
In summary, my recommendation would be that before buying, you should asses how you feel or don’t feel about existing Fear Factory work and then set your expectations accordingly. At the very least you will get some more OK versions of what you like and at the best you may discover your new favourite band.