FEAR FACTORY – The Face Of Your Damnation

June 18, 2021, 5 months ago

By Aaron Small

feature heavy metal fear factory

FEAR FACTORY – The Face Of Your Damnation

Fear Factory will release their new album, Aggression Continuum, on June 18 via Nuclear Blast. Not only is it the band’s tenth studio full-length, but it’s the last to feature vocalist and original frontman Burton C. Bell. Aggression Continuum is undoubtedly a top-notch Fear Factory album, yet when listening to it, mixed feelings arise because Burton has since quit the band. 

That leaves founding guitarist and songwriter Dino Cazares, along with drummer Mike Heller and touring bassist Tony Campos in an unusual situation as Dino finds himself promoting a new album with his old singer, while searching for a new singer so that Fear Factory can tour in support of Aggression Continuum. “Yeah, it’s a little weird,” agrees Dino. “But I’m prepared for it, I’m professional. I’m looking forward to moving forward, to be honest with you. That’s his decision, that’s what he decided to do. But I knew about this three years ago. I knew about this since 2018. I didn’t say anything because it’s not my place, it’s his place to say it.” Yet, Burton didn’t officially announce his departure from Fear Factory until September 2020. “Yeah, but some people had ideas about it; some fans figured it out. They were asking me, and I couldn’t say anything.”

Aggression Continuum has been completed for quite some time; it was written and recorded in 2017, yet it’s just being released now in 2021. “Yeah, we wrote and recorded it in 2017; it was finished in one way or another,” affirms Dino. “It was finished, but at the same time, it’s kind of really hard to explain because at the time it was done, I had no control over the record because I was going through a legal… we were going through our own legal things separately. My legal thing was preventing me from working further with the band, meaning I had my hands tied behind my back. But I still managed to write the songs, write the music, get it done at that time in 2017. Now, fast forward to 2020, when things took a turn, and things didn’t work out so well for Burt in court; I was able to regain the whole name. At that point, I was able to take control of the record. I knew Burt was not going to be involved anymore.”

“Me and the record company decided that my idea was cool,” continues Dino. “I wanted to make some improvements, cause the record had been sitting there for three years. So, I had all this time to think about what I would do with it; if I had the trademarked name and was going to be able to call it a Fear Factory record. The 2017 version had programmed drums on it. We’ve already done that in 2012 when The Industrialist came out, and we got destroyed by our fans who were not having it! That record got cancel cultured just because it had drums programmed on it. It’s so ironic because a band like Fear Factory should be a band that somebody would understand that we would do that. I decided I don’t want to make that mistake again on Aggression Continuum. I wanted to hire our drummer, Mike Heller, who’s been with us for nine and a half years, to go into the studio and record drums. Then I realized what all this was going to cost! I wanted to put the ‘Dream Team’ back together. I wanted to get Rhys Fulber on the record. I wanted to get Damien Rainaud – a guy who co-produced the records with us. And I wanted to get Andy Sneap back. I realized, holy shit, it’s going to cost this much money. The label wasn’t willing to give me too much more money, so I had to do a GoFundMe campaign. Burt talked a lot of crap about that, and kind of tried to sabotage it. I don’t know why, but he did. But it didn’t really hurt it. I was able to explain everything that I was doing, I was clear about my intent; it was all positive. It turned out to be very successful, and I was able to use that money to get the ‘Dream Team’ back together and put out this amazing record. It was definitely a struggle for at least four years, since late 2016. It was definitely a struggle cause of lawsuits, going to court every other day. Then having to go bankrupt, losing everything that you own, and financially, paying for lawyers who are just sucking up the money. Then I lost my wife in the process (to divorce). A lot of stress! Uncertain about the future, as far as continuing with Fear Factory. Everything was on the chopping block. Everything was being taken away.” 

“Luckily, things took a shift in the legal department for me, I was able to regain everything that I owned, while Burt was losing other things that he owned. Burton’s assets went up for auction. You have to claim your assets when you go bankrupt. Some of your assets you get to keep, some they take. In Burton’s case, some of his assets were taken away. What they do is they sell your assets to pay back the money you owe to the person or the reason why you’re even going bankrupt. Raymond (Herrera – former drummer) and Christian (Olde Wolbers – former bassist and guitarist) were the creditors. So, when Burt’s half of the trademark went up for auction, anybody could bid on it. It’s like eBay! I’m gonna bid on it. That way, me and Burton can continue. He couldn’t own it, so I’m going to buy it, and we can keep going as Fear Factory. To me, it didn’t matter who owned it; we were still going to be 50/50 partners. But other people were bidding on it as well. Raymond and Christian had the option to bid on it, but I turned out to be the winner, the highest bidder. I don’t know what would have happened if Raymond or Christian owned it! I just don’t know. The thing about it is, like I said, they sell your assets, and they take the money to pay back the people you do owe money to. In other words, me buying Burt’s half of the trademark, was paying part of Burt’s debt to Raymond and Christian, who he owed money to. That was the weird thing. It didn’t matter to me. I was like, great, I got the name, let’s go. But things took a different turn and Burt decided to quit the band. So now here I am, the full owner. I’ve polished up the record, it came out fucking intense! The drums added more energy to the album. You can hear the heavy parts are more aggressive, and you can hear the melodic parts. I think the contrast works really well, and I’m very happy about that. You have all the classic elements of a Fear Factory record.”

At the time of this interview, fans had not heard the whole album. Only the first single “Disruptor” was available. The reaction was overwhelmingly positive, with numerous online comments describing the song as Obsolete meets Demanufacture. “I agree with whatever anybody wants to say about it as long as it’s positive,” laughs Dino. “But for me personally, hearing the record, I go back to Mechanize and Genexus. I think it’s a combination of those two.”

Before diving into the nuts and bolts of Aggression Continuum, Dino elaborates upon his search for a new singer. “I’m going to say well over 200, probably closer to 300 (people have applied). A lot of them were okay, and a handful were amazing. All that’s left is chemistry. Because of the COVID restrictions, some of the people can’t get here to California, in a rehearsal room with me, getting to know each other, that kind of thing. I’ve already found the talent, it’s about chemistry. There’s some details I can’t give you yet. Whoever I choose, that’s going to be a big announcement. I think the best way to announce it will probably be through a livestream. In other words, introduce the new singer, and then play some songs. That way people could see and hear what he looks like and sounds like.”

Expect that potential livestream to include a brand new single; a song that’s not on Aggression Continuum. “I’ve already written music,” reveals Dino. “Now it’s just about getting into the studio with this person and working out a new single. I want to get a new single out before I do touring next year. Everybody’s going to want to know, so the best way to do it is give it to them in one big event.” Will the new singer have free reign lyrically, or will you want this person to continue the man versus machine theme that has become synonymous with Fear Factory? “I think we should give the person free reign, but at the same time, they have to respect the 30 years of what we created. In other words, they need to stick to similar things, just as long as they’re good. The only time we really strayed from the theme is probably Soul Of A New Machine, cause we were first starting. And then Archetype and Transgression, I think they strayed from the theme. ‘Slave Labor’ was about record contracts, there was a song about Internet trolls. When we got to Mechanize, it was back to business. When I came back to the band, it was back to the theme; the heavier, darker elements of the industrial side of us. To me, The Industrialist, Genexus, and Aggression Continuum are a trilogy. On The Industrialist you see the face, Genexus you see the chest and the torso, Aggression Continuum you see the whole android, the autonomous combat system.”

“End Of Line” really sticks out on Aggression Continuum. It’s the end of the album, and it also seemingly marks the end of an era. The last line sung by Burton is, “How can this be reality?” A lot of fans are struggling with that notion on many levels – the fact that Burton’s gone after 30 years, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic and all that’s entailed. After Burton, the machine says, “Fear is the mindkiller. When the fear is gone, only I remain.” That takes it back to almost the beginning, as Fear Is The Mindkiller was the title of Fear Factory’s 1993 remix EP. “Okay, you want me to tell you about all that?” asks Dino. “Well, a lot of that stuff Burton didn’t put in. Burt wasn’t around for half the dialogue on the record. The opening track, ‘Recode’, the intro – it’s kind of like an example of how we got fucked over. It’s more of a play on Terminator Salvation, where Christian Bale was talking to the Resistance through a CB radio. Then the first line goes, ‘Imagine your life taken from you.’ That describes the struggles we went through or were going through – and it continues through the whole record. Then when it gets to ‘End Of Line’ – ‘Fear is the mindkiller. When the fear is gone, only I remain.’ I put that there because that’s exactly where I’m at right now. What I’m trying to say is that I’m going to continue.”

“Then you’ve got ‘Aggression Continuum’ where an Automaton thinks it’s human, cause ‘Recode’ is all your memories that are taken from you. It’s your life, your consciousness, your soul is being basically stolen from you and uploaded into an Automaton; so, the Automaton will think it’s human. In the middle of the song ‘Recode’, he breaks free for his soul to keep. But when you go to ‘Aggression Continuum’, there have been Automatons who have uploaded fake souls, I guess you’d call it. So, the intro to that is a conversation between a man and an Automaton; the guy is telling him that you’re not human. You were put on the Earth to inflict death. And the robot’s like, ‘No, I’m human.’ ‘No, you’re not, I’m a man. You’re a machine.’ He says, ‘I’m a machine?’ he doesn’t know, he’s being told that. It all ties in together.” 

“The one song that kind of strays from the subject is ‘Fuel Injected Suicide Machine’. That’s based off the guy in Mad Max called The Nightrider, from the first movie. It’s the perspective of him, of what he sees. One – he’s living on a high, but two – when Mad Max comes in, he’s like, ‘Oh f**k, I’m dead.’ So, it’s his perspective. The intro of the song is the dialogue – all this stuff is replicated; we didn’t take it from the movie. It’s a dialogue where at the beginning of Mad Max 2, there’s a part where it says, ‘In the roar of an engine, he lost everything.’ In other words, the car is what he lives by, the engine. By that engine, he lost everything. It kind of sets the dialogue for the song. That’s the only time we really strayed. ‘Purity’ is kind of like where the Automaton is saying, ‘No, I’m one of you.’”

“Purity” is an absolute standout song. It’s everything that Fear Factory is, encapsulated in three minutes and 51 seconds. It showcases Dino’s machine gun-like right hand riffing, the Fear Factory double-kick drums, and both styles of Burton’s vocals – the clean and the growl. It’s the Reader’s Digest version of Fear Factory if you will. “Yeah,” chuckles Dino, “Definitely, for sure. ‘Purity’ is one of the standout tracks, so is ‘Monolith’. Those are probably the two as far as the melodicness goes. But there’s so many different elements of Fear Factory. If you go through all the records, there’s so many epic parts – ‘Resurrection’, ‘Final Exit’, ‘Expiration Date’. Then you’ve also got songs like ‘Mechanize’, ‘Recode’ – these are different types of dark, aggressive, mechanical, industrial sounding, bleak moments in the concept. And I love the contrast. That’s what Fear Factory’s been since day one, is the contrast. You have the futuristic, post-apocalyptic sound and intensity, and darkness. Then all of a sudden you go into this beautiful – you see the light at the end of the tunnel when the chorus comes in. Okay, there’s some hope.”

Persevering throughout all the legal issues, as well as Burton’s resignation, surely there must have been times when throwing in the towel seemed like a very viable option. Thankfully, Dino stayed the course, and as a result, Aggression Continuum is not only an incredible tenth album from Fear Factory, but also a huge turning point, as there’s going to be a brand new Fear Factory on the horizon. “2022 I’m going to say. We’re going to start touring in 2022, we’ve got a lot of offers. That’s the future; announcing the new singer. It’s kind of a little early to talk about because I really want to focus on the record. Everybody’s focused on, ‘Who’s going to take Burt’s spot?’ Some people are like, ‘Oh my God, nobody can take Burt’s spot.’ Or ‘Fear Factory’s done. No Burton, no Fear Factory.’ People do say that, and that stuff really pushes me, it challenges me even more. I love having to prove myself all the time. That’s how I feel on every record. That’s what drives me. I’m not just proving to the fans; I’m proving it to myself that I can go somewhere else and still be intense and killer. I need to prove to myself that I can do album 11 that’s going to be sick. I can’t wait.”

(Photo credit: Stephanie Cabral)

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