'Aggression Continuum' Is a Bittersweet Last Hurrah for Fear Factory's Core Members

'Aggression Continuum' Is a Bittersweet Last Hurrah for Fear Factory's Core Members
The question as to which band will be the "next Metallica" comes up every now and again in the metal world. Usually, it means which band will take up their mantle of mainstream popularity. The general consensus is that no one will. Yet, if we think about what Metallica is known for beyond their massive success, one thing has to be the inter-band drama that was embarrassingly immortalized in the 2004 documentary, Some Kind of Monster. If there's any other metal band that can out-drama Metallica, it's Fear Factory

The industrial metal pioneers' new album follows what has seemed like an eternity of messy legal infighting between past and present members of the group over the rights to the Fear Factory name. At one point, it seemed like frontman Burton C. Bell and guitarist Dino Cazares would emerge with a victorious new record and the Fear Factory machine would receive a massive upgrade, coming back more efficient than ever. But that desperate hope was shattered last fall when Bell left the group and subsequently vilified Cazares in the media.

Aggression Continuum still features Bell's vocals, which proves to be one the best things about it. But the record raises some big questions: mainly, can the music be separated from the drama, or will it be overshadowed? This is tricky to answer. It's a safe bet that nearly everyone who listens to the record will have some idea as to what's been going on with the band. Through its 10 blistering tracks, Aggression Continuum struggles at maximum capacity to outweigh the real-life strife and stand on its own as an album.

Furious vocal performances, razor-sharp guitar licks and bludgeoning drums — and what a good thing it is that this one has real drums — all show up in abundance on Aggression Continuum. Classic lineup or not, there's no doubt this is Fear Factory at full efficiency, from the Terminator-esque spoken word intro of opening track "Recode" to the dystopian climax of aptly-titled closer "End of Line."

No soul is spared by the robotic synchronicity with which the guitars and drums run, and it's clear throughout this apocalyptic wasteland of an album to see why Fear Factory has had a lasting influence on some of the most exciting current up-and-comers in heavy music. Lead singles "Disruptor" and "Fuel Injected Suicide Machine" have some of the biggest choruses of the band's career, and there's not a track that isn't rife with massive riffage. There are robotic electronic elements aplenty, as well as touches of synths and strings that enhance the songs — but, truthfully, it's the chemistry between Bell and Cazares that makes Aggression Continuum the unstoppable killing machine that it is. 

This being said, the other big question is whether or not Fear Factory will keep the attention of fans past this record. It's already obvious that things will never be the same without Bell's vocals and presence. Whether the band is able to continue or not, Aggression Continuum definitively marks the end of an era for Fear Factory. It may not be the triumphant return fans had hoped for, but it's not a desperate gasp for one last breath either. It's somewhere in between — a bittersweet last hurrah. Demanufacture from 1995 will always be the rusted jewel in Fear Factory's scrap metal crown, but Aggression Continuum is a worthy final program before an inevitable systems reboot. (Nuclear Blast)