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51rqGyulVL. SL100 Regardless of what you might’ve heard over the past year about bickering, legal troubles, lineup changes, and sheer internet gossip – FEAR FACTORY has returned.

With their first new album in over 5 years, the band celebrates their 20th Anniversary with the release of MECHANIZE (Feb 9, 2010, Candlelight), a 10-song set that makes you forgive the past couple of forgettable releases that bore the “Fear Factory” name. With a lineup including vocalist/sole constant member Burton C. Bell, the returning Dino Cazares on guitar, bassist Byron Stroud (FF since ’03), and new drummer Gene Hoglan (Strapping Young Lad, Dethklok), the latest FF offering returns to the classic mechanical/industrial sound that captivated listeners in the first place.

The album opens with the welcoming sound of industry courtesy of returning producer/programmer Rhys Fulber (Front Line Assembly) who helped craft some of the bands finest early-mid 90’s work. When the entire band kicks in around the 00:38 mark, any doubts you might’ve held are quickly destroyed. The tone, the power – all vintage FEAR FACTORY. Cazares’ guitar sound cuts like a knife, melding seamlessly with Hoglan’s crushing drum assault as Bell’s invigorated voice brings new soul to the FF machine. “Oxidizer”, “Industrial Discipline”, and “Powershifter” also stand out among choice cuts.

Also pleasing about MECHANIZE is the return to a production level not heard since 2001’s DIGIMORTAL. Listen to the entire FEAR FACTORY catalog in sequence and you’ll notice that the ARCHETYPE and TRANSGRESSION albums stick out like a sore thumb, noticeably underproduced when compared to their counterparts. Whether from rushed production or lack of funds, said error has been joyously corrected here.

While press materials for the album liken MECHANIZE to “a missing link between DEMANUFACTURE and OBSOLETE“, musically the album feels like a companion piece as opposed to a direct bridge – while the lyrical content undoubtedly seems to follow said albums in terms of theme, with the machine having evolved.

While falling short of reaching the same level of perfection found on the most classic of FF releases, MECHANIZE will hold its own among the best of the catalog, and has cemented itself as an early entry into the “best of 2010” category.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

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