Fear Factory disbanded in March 2002 following some internal disputes, but they reformed later that year minus founding member Dino Cazares adding bassist, Byron Stroud, and casting then-bassist Christian Olde Wolbers as guitarist.
The band has toured with the likes of Black Sabbath, Pantera, Iron Maiden, Slayer, System of a Down, Megadeth, Dream Theater, Mastodon, Misery Index and Rammstein; performed at three Ozzfests as well as the inaugural Gigantour and has had singles in the US Mainstream Rock Top 40 and albums in the Billboard Top 40, 100 and 200. They are currently in the pre-production stages of the recording of a new full-length album and, for the time being, are functioning independent of a record label. Prior to 2001 they have toured around 2000 shows. They have sold over 1 million albums in the U.S. alone.
They started out under the name Ulceration, apparently picked for no real reason other than that Burton C. Bell and/or other members thought it would "just be a cool name" for the band, but they subsequently shifted to Fear Factory in 1990; the new moniker being more reflective of their burgeoning new death metal sound, influenced just as much by early British industrial metal, industrial music and grindcore as much as it continued to remain firmly rooted in a conservative extreme metal approach; a facet of their music that eventually saw the band’s appeal spread out over a wider music audience.
The earliest demo recordings of the band are strongly reminiscent of the early works of Napalm Death and also Godflesh, an acknowledged influence of the band, in the grindcore driven approach of the former and the mechanical brutality, bleakness and vocal stylings of the latter. The demos are remarkable for integrating these influences into their death metal sound and for Burton C. Bell’s pioneering fusion of extreme death growls and clean vocals in the same song, which was to become a significant and influential element of the band’s sound throughout their career. The use of grunts and "throat singing" combined with clean vocals has later defined the nu metal and newer genres of metal. Many vocalists, in today's metal scene, use two or more methods of singing and vocalizing lyrics. The band contributed two songs to the L.A. Death Metal Compilation in 1990. They played their first show on Wednesday, October 31, 1990.
They retained the rights to the songs, however, many of which they re-recorded with a different producer, Colin Richardson, for inclusion on their actual debut release Soul of a New Machine, in 1992. Meanwhile, Ross Robinson obtained the rights to the recording, which he used to promote himself, subsequently finding enormous success during the nü metal explosion of the mid-late 90s when he worked with bands such as Korn, Limp Bizkit and Slipknot; ironically, bands that had little in common with the Fear Factory of 1991. The recording itself was eventually given an official release through Roadrunner Records in 2002 under the title Concrete during the band’s interim demise. It was seen as a controversial release, being issued out of the band’s outstanding contractual obligations and without the approval of all of the band’s members.
Although fan opinion has been divided over whether the Ross Robinson production properly captures the intricacies of band’s sound, with the finished product favoring a more straight-up brutal approach and Robinson’s distinct drum sound, the “secret” album has nevertheless become an important document for fans of the early Fear Factory sound and can be seen as a bridge between the band’s sound on their demo recordings and that on their debut release, Soul of a New Machine as well as a source of the blueprints for some of the band’s later songs and b-sides.
Based on the Concrete recording, Max Cavalera recommended them to the then death metal focused Roadrunner Records label, who proceeded to offer them a recording contract. While the band signed the contract at the time, it has since become the source of some controversy based on Roadrunner’s treatment of the band during the events surrounding their interim break up in 2002. This is supported by Burton C. Bell’s scathing lyrics on “Slave Labor” - the opening song on 2004’s Archetype, the band’s first album after their reformation – that do not mince their words about the band’s feelings on the matter. Andrew Shives was hired as a live bassist prior to the release of their debut album.
Due to the extreme nature of the music, the album was not successful in the mainstream and even today remains more of a cult favorite, never seeing the level of popularity attained by their later, more accessible works. Indeed, the band’s style progressively shifted further away from the death metal sound with every subsequent release and Soul of a New Machine can strictly be seen as Fear Factory’s final effort that lies firmly in the death metal camp.
The band added sampler/keyboardist Reynor Diego to the lineup and supported the album by embarking on extensive tours across the U.S. with Biohazard, Sepultura, and Sick Of It All and a tour of Europe with Brutal Truth, then Cannibal Corpse, Cathedral, and Sleep. The following year, they hired Front Line Assembly member Rhys Fulber to remix some songs from the album, demonstrating the band’s willingness to experiment with their music even at this early stage. The results took on a predominantly industrial/techno guise, and were released as the Fear Is the Mindkiller EP in 1993 (both Soul of a New Machine and Fear is the Mindkiller were re-released together in a new re-mastered reissue by Roadrunner Records in 2004).
In 1994, Andrew Shives was forced to leave the band. In the same year, the band met a vacationing Christian Olde Wolbers (originally from Belgium) in LA, through Evan Seinfeld of Biohazard, whom they recruited as their permanent bassist. Although Christian joined the band with immediate effect, due to tight studio deadlines and Cazares’ regular tweaking of the guitar parts on the next album, he was unable to record the bass parts on all of its songs, with Cazares recording the bass for the remainder of the tracks.
The production was also more refined and the integration of atmospheric keyboard parts and industrial textures upon Cazares’ and Herrera’s precise musicianship made the songs sound clinical, cold and machine-like and gave the band’s music a futuristic feel; spearheading a sound described by some reviewers as ‘cyber-metal’. Many fans consider Rhys Fulber’s involvement with the band integral to this dimension of their sound. There were considerable contributions from Reynor Diego as well; adding samples, loops and electronic flourishes to the group dynamics.
Demanufacture is generally considered to be the band’s defining work and received much critical acclaim upon release, being awarded the maximum five K's rating in the UK’s Kerrang! rock magazine. It went on to become a fairly successful album. While Soul of a New Machine failed to chart anywhere, Demanufacture made the Top 10 of the Billboard Heatseekers charts and a video was filmed for the song "Replica". The song "Zero Signal" was featured on the Mortal Kombat film soundtrack in 1995. Instrumental versions of Demanufacture songs were later used in the Carmageddon video game for the PC.
Fear Factory spent the next few years touring with such bands such as Black Sabbath, Megadeth and Iron Maiden and appearing at the 1996 and 1997 Ozzfests, among other music festivals. During that time their jersey is seen in the video of Counterfeit by Limp Bizkit. In May 1997, the band released a new album composed of Demanufacture remixes by artists such as DJ Dano or Junkie XL (now known as JXL) called Remanufacture - Cloning Technology, which marked the band’s first appearance on the Billboard 200 and also appeared on the Billboard Heatseekers chart. Roadrunner Records re-released Demanufacture and Remanufacture in a 10th Anniversary single package reissue in 2005, similar to that of Soul of a New Machine in 2004. This edition also includes bonus tracks from the digipak version of Demanufacture, which was also released in 1995.
Obsolete was similar in sound to Demanufacture, but also saw the introduction of more progressive metal and alternative metal elements and for the first time, featured Christian Olde Wolbers recording with the band in his full capacity as a band member. It also featured Dino Cazares incorporating 7-string guitars into Fear Factory's sound for the first time, paving the way for a lower-tuned sound than before. The album is also notable for Rhys Fulber’s increased involvement with the band.
While Fear Factory had explored the theme of “Man versus Machine” in their earlier work, Obsolete was their first actual concept album that dealt specifically with a literal interpretation of this subject, telling a story called Conception 5 written by Bell that takes place in a future world where mankind is rendered "obsolete" by the Machines, and features characters such as the “Edgecrusher”, “Smasher/Devourer” and the “Securitron” monitoring system. The story is presented in the lyrics booklet in a screenplay format in between the individual songs, with the printed story parts linking the lyrics of the songs together thematically.
Bell explained the concept in an interview as follows:
Coincidentally released in the alternative metal boom of the late 90s, Obsolete, supported by tours with Slayer and later, Rammstein, along with a headlining spot on the second stage at Ozzfest in 1999 (as last-minute replacements for Judas Priest), went on to become the band’s highest selling album, marking the band’s first entry into the Top 100 on the Billboard charts. The album also spawned singles in "Descent" and in the digipak bonus track, "Cars", a cover of the famous Gary Numan song (featuring a guest appearance by Numan himself, on the song, as well as in its music video), that made the Mainstream Rock Top 40 in 1999 and was also featured in the video game, Test Drive 6. Incidentally, Numan also performs a spoken word sample on the album’s title track. A video was also filmed for the song, "Resurrection". To date, Obsolete remains the only Fear Factory album to have achieved gold sales in the US.
While Digimortal remained consistent with the band’s lyrical evolution, with Bell now singing about Man and Machine having become merged and unable to be separated without immense harm being caused, musically, the shift to simpler, more radio friendly song structures lost the band some of its more extreme metal fans and the album is considered by some to be inferior to their earlier releases. Fan opinion, however, remains strongly divided between those who view the album as a colossal failure, those who associate it with the nü metal movement and others who contend that the sound is still the same Fear Factory at its core and praise the merits afforded by the Rhys Fulber production.
A remix of the song "Invisible Wounds" was included on the Resident Evil film soundtrack, and an instrumental digipak bonus track called "Full Metal Contact" was originally written for the video game, Demolition Racer.
A VHS/DVD release called Digital Connectivity was released soon after, in January 2002, which documents each of the four album periods of the band via interviews, live clips, music videos and tour/studio footage. The video is not generally seen as exceptionally well put together.
Although Digimortal had a successful start, the sales did not reach anywhere near the levels of Obsolete and the band received little tour support. The direction of the album coupled with strong personal differences between some of the band members created a rift that escalated with time, to the point where Bell announced his exit in March 2002. The band disbanded immediately thereafter. The band’s contractual obligations remained unfulfilled however, and Roadrunner did not release them without controversially issuing the Concrete album (originally from 1991) in 2002 and the b-sides and rarities compilation, Hatefiles in 2003.
During his time away from Fear Factory, Bell started his side project along with John Bechdel, called Ascension of the Watchers, who released their first EP, Iconoclast, independently via their online store in 2005.
Over time, it emerged that the rift between the members was largely between the guitarist Dino Cazares and the other members, particularly Bell.
Cazares was the first to speak out after the break-up, proceeding to make claims and allegations against Bell and the other members in May 2002 in a Blabbermouth.net interview. Almost all of these allegations were subsequently addressed and refuted by Herrera in a counter interview, speaking on behalf of all the other members.
Olde Wolbers and Herrera got back together later in 2002 and laid the foundations for what was to become the return of Fear Factory. With Cazares now permanently out of the line up, Bell was approached with their demo recordings and was impressed enough to rejoin the band and Fear Factory was formed once again. Byron Stroud of Strapping Young Lad was approached to join the band as their new bassist, and has been their bass player since 2003.
Dino Cazares has continued recording and performing with his side project called Asesino, a Mexican deathgrind band featuring Tony Campos of Static-X on vocals. As of 2007, he has also started a new group called Divine Heresy, featuring Tim Yeung, formerly of Hate Eternal and Vital Remains, on drums.
Archetype saw Fear Factory returning to an alternative and partially industrial metal sound and is generally considered to be a strong and 'back-to-form' record, if not a particularly innovative effort, with most of the trademark elements of the band firmly in place.
Videos were shot for the songs "Cyberwaste", "Archetype" and "Bite the Hand that Bleeds", with the latter featuring on the Saw film soundtrack. Further tours with Lamb of God and Mastodon in the US and with Mnemic in Europe put the band back on the worldwide metal map. The new Fear Factory has largely abandoned the direct "Man versus Machine" theme prevalent on earlier releases in favor of subjects such as religion, war and corporatism.
The resultant album, Transgression, was released barely a year after Archetype on 22 August 2005 in the United Kingdom, and on the following day in North America to highly polarized reviews, with some critics hailing the album as a diverse and progressive effort and other reviewers not receiving the record very well. Although the album starts off as a Fear Factory record, subsequent songs include mellow/alt-rock numbers in "Echo of My Scream" (featuring Faith No More’s Billy Gould on bass) and "New Promise", a pop-rock song in "Supernova" and a faithful cover of U2’s poppy, "I Will Follow".
Christian Olde Wolbers has expressed disappointment with the finished product, calling it only half-finished, and has blamed the label for the severe time constraints imposed during the recording sessions and for the inclusion of the U2 cover, but Burton C. Bell has maintained that he is proud of the album and sees it as the band "stepping over boundaries". Over 2005-2006, Fear Factory went on to promote the album on their successful "Fifteen Years of Fear" world tour in celebration of their fifteenth anniversary, inviting bands such as Darkane, Strapping Young Lad and Soilwork to join them on the US jaunt and Misery Index to join them on the European jaunt. Late 2006 saw Fear Factory tour the US once again on the "Machines at War" tour, with an all star death metal line-up of special guests in Suffocation, Hypocrisy and Decapitated, playing certain old classics from Soul of a New Machine such as "Crash Test" which they had not performed live in many years.
The band has often been called a "stepping stone" leading mainstream listeners to venture into less-known/more extreme bands, and are consistently appreciated.
In the Soul of a New Machine re-release, Machine Head vocalist Robert Flynn, Chimaira vocalist Mark Hunter and Spineshank guitarist Mike Sarkisyan have cited Fear Factory as an influence in the liner notes. Robert Flynn stated his vocal style was influenced by Burton Bell's vocals and that Machine Head have been wrongly credited for the vocal style. Mark Hunter stated that Chimaira's drumming was heavily influenced by Raymond Herrera.
|Title||Date of Release||Label||US Charts||US Sales|
|Soul of a New Machine|| August 25, 1992|
October 5, 2004 (Reissue)
|Demanufacture|| June 13, 1995|
November 7, 1995 (Digipak)
June 7, 2005 (Reissue)
|Obsolete|| July 28, 1998|
March 23, 1999 (Digipak)
|Digimortal||April 24, 2001||Roadrunner||#32||182,000|
|Concrete|| July 30, 2002|
|Archetype||April 20, 2004||Liquid 8||#30||143,000|
|Transgression||August 23, 2005||Calvin||#45||75,000|