Fear Factory Concrete/Hatefiles
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Fans of Fear Factory have had to go through a lot in the past year. In March, Fear Factory supposedly broke up, but by October, they had reformed without founder/guitarist Dino Cazares. Apparently, vocalist Burton Bell and Dino didn't get along too well, so Bell left, but as things progressed, it appeared that Dino and the rest of the band likewise had their differences. Now, Burton, bassist-turned-guitarist/bassist Christian Olde Woblers and drummer Raymond Herrera have reformed and are working on a new album called Archetype for release in 2004. Confused yet?

Apparently, between the break-up and the reforming, someone (I'm thinking the label Roadrunner) decided to release what amounts to a B-side album in Hatefiles. While Monte Conner at Roadrunner was quoted as saying "..This is not some hodgepodge compilation that was quickly thrown together with no planning or regard for quality..." one might wonder if this was just some way to fulfill a contractual obligation. In all honesty, Hatefiles is an obvious means by which to empty Roadrunner's vaults into one album.

Hatefiles opens with four tracks written and performed for various videogames, including Terminate (for a Terminator game, go figure), Frequency and Demolition Racer. Each of these songs are pretty good but don't hold the strength that some of Fear Factory's album-oriented pieces provide. Along with these are a large number of remix tracks, including revisions of Resurrection, Edgecrusher, Zero Signal and New Breed. There's also a redone version of their cover of Cars featuring Gary Numan on vocals, which is an odd way of coming full-circle and really just sounds like the original in so many ways (maybe too many ways).

Too be honest, the remixes on this album just don't hold a candle to those featured on Fear is the Mindkiller and Remanufacture. Not that they're bad, but they just don't seem too much of a progression for my tastes and the few moments that they do progress away (as in the Edgecrusher Remix) seem to be overpacked with digital bells and whistles by the remixer to be enjoyable. The rest of the album is filled with a live version of Replica, a demo version of Invisible Wounds, originally titled Dark Bodies, and some rare tracks in Cyberdyne, Refueled and Manic Cure.

After giving Hatefiles some time, I would have to say that it only appeals to the collectionist Fear Factory fans. None of the tracks are overly great and the whole album feels like Roadrunner's last gasp to make money off of Fear Factory. If you are a casual fan or don't care for remix or B-side albums, this one will not change your mind.

Along with Hatefiles, Fear Factory had released Concrete, which will strike long-term fans of the band oddly. And, by long-term fans, I mean people who bought Soul of New Machine and enjoyed Fear Factory before they made the radical shift from industrial-death metal to a more techno/heavy metal between Soul and their second album. Concrete was apparently recorded in 1991 before their first album came out in Blackie (W.A.S.P.) Lawless' personal studio. Once Fear Factory got on with Roadrunner, they re-recorded a lot of the tracks from this initial effort for their first official release. Because of that, fans of the first album will probably be surprised to find so many familiar tracks in their initial forms.

Concrete is what Fear Factory would have become if they had stayed a pure death metal act. Burton belts out some viscously harsh vocals and the music is simplified yet punishing. There's no over-inclusion of samples or synthesizers and just about every tracks is an audio blast, ripping into the listener. It's actually quite interesting to see old familiar tracks with different song titles or in a different track order - the album opens with Big God/Raped Souls and goes into Arise Above Oppression, which showed up late in the order for Souls. Along with these are original recordings of Self Immolation, Suffer Age, Desecrate and Crisis.

For those who wore out Souls of a New Machine, there are some previously unheard tracks on this offering which may necessitate a purchase. Ulceration, Anxiety and Soul Womb all offer something nice to the Fear Factory diehards. If you're were a fan of Fear Factory's newest stuff, this album may not appeal to you as the production is a little rough and Burton makes no attempt at harmony in his vocals. Add to that the fact that the music is no-holds-barred death metal (without the excessive cheese found in acts like Suffocation and Cannibal Corpse). If you're a diehard fan of the old Fear Factory and want to hear what they sounded like originally, by all means track this one down.

- - Vane

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