Yet another album I have not listened to for some time and again on vinyl. Surprisingly now, I enjoy it much more than when I first bought it. It must be something to do with the lack of polish it has compared to later efforts, though I still prefer “Demanufacture.”
“Soul Of A New Machine” is Death Metal with sprinkles on. The DM core is complimented with aspects of Industrial, Grindcore and Alternative Rock. In fact there are various cross-pollinations evident, though the jackhammer brutality is the most consistent aspect to the album. Travelling at a clear tangent to the rest of the Death Metal scene, Fear Factory produced a self-defining statement that encapsulated their live power and later spawned many an imitator. The cyber-punch was to follow and despite the rawness of SOANM in comparison, the future was hinted at, though not obvious.
Perhaps the most noticeable feature of this debut was Mr Bell’s vocal delivery, we’re all aware of it now, but back then it was an eye opener. The clean sung passages leant an almost religious tone to tracks like “Martyr,” it also meant that you could actually sing along without having to take a box of lozenges with you to work afterwards. These passages are not as effectively used as on later work, but there is the bonus of having Burton cough his lungs out at you in true rough as a badgers arse fashion. Add in the occasional use of keyboards and FEAR FACTORY were leaving recognisable footprints at the scene of the crime.
So after opener “Martyr” with its beseeching clean vocal sections, we are sucker-punched with some Death Metal proper, including the ripping “Flesh Hold.” Even on the more straightforward tracks the porridge pot is full to overflowing with ideas that make “Soul Of A New Machine” anything but a linear ride. A range of tempos are offered for your delectation, from a slow paced pummel to beat on the brat blasting, and though rough-edged, the precision delivery is there. There is a lot of building the moment before pushing it from the precipice where it hits the jagged rocks below stopping dead, wrecked and bloodied.
The shaping of FEAR FACTORY continues with “Scumgrief” with its avalanche descending riff in the chorus and further defines itself with “Big God / Raped Souls” that has that quintessential clean voice / dry husk bellowing. Here again is a song you can merrily sing along to, something that is common on this album, not to mention the almost inevitable neck ache. Rapid fire assault courtesy of “Arise Above Oppression” leads into “Self-Immolation” which has a distinct Alt-Rock flavour, especially in the chorus.
Diversity never gets in the way of a good stormer though and “Desecrate” delivers a deluge of down-hill riffs over glorious bass runs, chuck in some punk belligerence and you’ll find it hard to hold on. You will notice a distinct lack of guitar solos, unusual for the time, but this does not detract from the whole as the band produce a new card with each flick of the wrist. You also get a cracking bass sound, flat and discordant which compliments the beat perfect drumwork. Lets not forget either that this is heavy stuff, we are talking Homer J. getting on the scales here. And whilst we are on the subject of those who offer pearls of wisdom, the lyrics are succinct, intelligent and poetic with a hard edge.
Despite the glut of good, some classic, songs on the album, there are some that are a tad nondescript such as “W.O.E.” but with 19 tracks who’s complaining. “Soul Of A New Machine” shows that you can be pumped full of testosterone and still have a sensitive side, albeit a teeny weeny one, which does allow you to express yourself how you please. It also means you can be a big hairy tattooed headbanging motherfucker with a cabbage patch doll collection in your bedroom. (Online January 29, 2005)