Fear Factory Archetype
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For those who missed out, in recent events Fear Factory both broke up and reformed. Now featuring vocalist Burton Bell, bassist-turned-guitarist Christian Olde Wolbers, drummer Raymond Herrera and new bassist Byron Stroud the band has returned with a new effort. Without founder Dino Cazares, though, Fear Factory fans may wonder how much different this effort is than previous albums.

As the songwriting is done by Wolbers and Herrara, you'll quickly find this album to have a pretty familiar feel. While there are still some keyboard/synthesizer elements, a lot of the album has a more stripped-down metal feel to it, featuring some crisp and intense drumwork from Herrera and a great guitar/bass combo that shows both power and range. Bell's vocals are even more disparate in execution - his hearty barking rasp and well-harmonized vocal elements seem to be paced out among the tracks instead of flip-flopped at regular intervals.

To start the album off is one of the more catchy tracks, Slave Labor, where Bell begs "God! Help me pour this gas on me!" to a powerful staccato of drums, thrashy guitars and a otherworldly hum of keyboards that lays under the rest of the track. To follow this up is one of the more brutal and heavy-handed tracks, Cyberwaste, which pounds at the listener, broken up with some high-speed elements. Towards the end of the song, we're treated to Bell laying down a haunting wail over a groove-heavy break in the pace. Track three, Act of God, picks back up the staccato-drummed power metal of the opener.

Drones feels a lot like something straight out of Demanufacture or Digimortal, where the precisely performed metal has a very mechanical feel to it. Bells vocals bounce back and forth between his two disctinct style more often here than most of the other tracks. The title track, Archetype, is a more laid-back rock track that could easily see decent airplay to garner new interest in the band without compromising the band's style. To follow that up is Corporate Cloning, another power-metal track littered with high-speed double bass drumming and some nice harmonized/synthesized vocals that really help set the song off well.

Not all of the tracks prove to be as good as some of the earlier ones. Bite The Hand That Bleeds proves to be a little slow and boring, even for a rock ballad. It's easily skippable. Right behind that is Undercurrent, another track that strives for radio-friendliness, but instead feels somewhat plain and washed-out. Except for Bell's excellent harmonized vocals, there isn't much here to keep you listening.

Then Default Judgement jumps back in with its heavy bass and hard-thrashing guitars. Bonescraper follows, sticking to Fear Factory's tried-but-true formula of staccato drums and hard thrashy guitars. After this is a trio of tracks that finish the album on a down note. Human Shields is only slow, balladesque song that works for those wanting something a little more casual. Following this is Ascension, a Fear Factory/Rhys Fulber created ambient soundscape that leads to the Kurt Cobain song, School.

So, is this return worth it? For Fear Factory fans, I'd say that the album as a whole is worth your money, especially with the extra DVD that features a music video for Cyberwaste and live footage of the band performing. While not all of the tracks hit the mark, there's enough here to please most and maybe even draw in some new listeners.

- - Vane

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