After a long and quite tragic hiatus, the previously shelved 2017 recording originally titled Monolith (which I still think is a far better title) is finally upon us. As we all know, this also marks the final performance of longtime frontman Burton C. Bell from the band and even I’m uncertain as to whether or not I’ll follow the band post-Burton, because he IS the voice of Fear Factory. Nevertheless, the fact that a band who has been around since the nineties era of computer gaming (Anyone remember Messiah?) is not only still relevant, but still jams as hard as they did during their prime era is truly noteworthy.
What listeners are getting here is quite iconic Fear Factory and it’s a record that I’ve loved so much that I actually had to stop playing it. To be honest, the earworm that is “Purity” has been stuck in my head for weeks now and is probably one of the most memorable songs on a disc of many powerful moments. Though I felt “Disruptor” was a far better introduction than the lackluster “Recode” I still wouldn’t have given it the single treatment. It’s a decent one, but if it was a toss-up of “Disruptor” and “Purity” I would have given it to “Purity” in a heartbeat.
Interestingly enough, the album’s second single “Fuel Injected Suicide Machine” is one of the best tracks here and sounds much better within the context of the album than it does as a music video alone and that should be enough to assure you that you are getting a cohesive experience. The entire album flows fairly well from track to track and seems to echo a sort of wasteland dystopia, a bleak sort of Mad Max world if you will. It doesn’t feel like Terminator Salvation in that regard, even though the sound clips might have you believing otherwise.
In fact, Burton’s original commissioned artwork just seems to fit better than what we got at the end of the day. I know, it now looks like a weird kind of toy robot and is quite removed from anything you’ll get on this bleak and depressing album (with albeit some rather lighthearted notes) but you can’t judge this beast by it’s cover. Even so, I’m going to refer to this record as the “Monolith” album and I’m going to change the cover in the metadata as well. I just don’t feel Dino was right this time around and Burton got the atmosphere for this one perfectly. It’s a shame that these two men seemed to have fought over this recording, because at the end of the day, it’s an incredible album and far better than the snooze that Burton’s new project, Ascension Of The Watchers offered up last year.
Aside from the singles, listeners are also going to get a monolithic pounding within the album’s title track, “Collapse” (which offers an incredibly beefy portion during the breakdown), “Manufactured Hope” and “Cognitive Dissonance.” The original title track “Monolith” is here as well, feeling more like a radio rock meets industrial metal outing that manages to hit harder than you may expect and features an oddly out of place guitar solo that no one asked for, especially considering the fact that it’s what I’d classify as a “radio rock solo” rather than the kind of shred-fest that would have surprised me.
As for the switch to live drumming, I would say that the work here on Aggression Continuum is right up there with Gene Hoglan’s work on Mechanize and makes it feel like a sequel to that album, with some notable changes. I think this one’s actually a bit better than Mechanize and I definitely loved that album. Yep, you heard me right – whatever in the heck was going on with Fear Factory those many years ago was a high water mark for the band and this record is proof that they did have more to offer than the highly praised Genexus. If not for the lawsuit and other instances that plagued the band for many years, we might have gotten another two or three stellar discs in this vein. It was the beginning of a resurgence after the not so well received The Industrialist record which still does nothing for me to this day.
Even so, part of me still wants to hear this record in it’s original Monolith form, just to compare and contrast the differences. According to what I’ve read, Burton considered the album complete and handed it over to the label in 2017 with it’s original artwork, liner notes and so-on. However, Dino claimed that the record still needed some work and in all fairness considering we live in a post Snyder-Cut world, I don’t think allowing fans to hear the original completed version of the album is all that much to ask for. Perhaps a special edition of the album will come out later with the original Monolith cut of the album in all of it’s digitized drumming glory, so that the fans can make their own decision as to what version of the album we like better. As long as I know that something like this exists out in the wild and that one or more people may have heard it, I’m going to want to get my hands on it. And honestly, you can’t blame me for that.
All of that aside, I still think that Fear Factory fans will be more than pleased with this experience and I would not be surprised if it ranks up into Demanufacture or Obsolete levels of acclaim on sites like Rank Your Music. Aggression Continuum is really that good and if this truly is the last we hear from Burton fronting Fear Factory, then he’s gone out with a monolithic bang, rather than a whimper. I couldn’t honestly be more pleased with this record, which is why I had to stop playing it so much!