Fear Factory - Obsolete (1998)Release ID: 1641
Fear Factory's second album Demanufacture is a masterpiece, one that has revolutionized modern metal with its blend of metal heaviness with industrial electronics, and death growls with clean singing. 3 years later, the band decided to follow it up with their third album Obsolete, an album that has expanded their concept album idea into a more storytelling motive, filled with different characters and acts.
And yes, I like it! Any fans new and old can enjoy a lot of this album, with the longtime listeners experiencing nostalgia. As highly selling as this album is, reception might've been divisive due to leaning a bit into nu metal territory. However, the excellent writing is what make this album essential. Basically, the band is following the then-common idea of dumping all traces of death metal for a more pop-ish mainstream path, while staying in industrial metal. Brushing aside the accessibility, the greatly written songs are worth listening to, and even pure metalheads should try at least one of them.
Trying to distance away from Demanufacture's sound while clinging onto its edge results in clumsiness for the opening track "Shock". I still enjoy the heavy aggression, though it's a little hard to do so. "Edgecrusher" is more enjoyable for an unusual reason. The tough lyrics and hip-hop beat sound quite odd in the band's attempt to discard their death metal roots, yet it brings me great delight. Guilty pleasure, much!? Then we have the more underground "Smasher/Devourer". That song and the surrounding two tracks introduce the characters in the concept. "Securitron (Police State 2000)" is the last part of that "character introduction" trilogy and has memorable riffs and structure. I say it's a brilliant song to introduce metal newcomers to extreme metal, starting off with poppy accessibility before digging into the heavier underground.
Another excellent highlight "Descent" is the closest we have to a poppy song in this album. One song that's slightly mediocre is "Hi-Tech Hate". However, "Freedom or Fire" makes up for that a lot with its nice heaviness after a drum 'n' bass intro. And holy f***ing sh*t, that groove is heavy! Near the 3-minute mark starts the breakdown that is a f***ing crusher! I swear that's the heaviest the band has gotten in this album.
The title track starts with a spoken-word intro by Gary Numan, whose hit single "Cars" would be perfectly covered by Fear Factory in the digipak edition of this album. However, that title track is a bit of a slipper-upper, though not really a true offender. The album's standard edition and story ends with a couple superb melodic highlights, starting with "Resurrection", a standout anthem with a mighty chorus and riffing. "Timelessness" is one of the greatest tracks here with amazing cleans by Burton C. Bell, despite being a keyboard-only ballad. This shows how diverse an extreme metal album can be, adding a melodic poppy soft ballad to break the tone.
In a way, you can consider the album a bit like Slayer at that time, in terms of adding nu metal influences into the sound each band is famous for. Not to brag, but I have a more advanced diverse taste in metal. Fear Factory is a band I both wish and don't wish I could've discovered them 10 years ago, along with Meshuggah. Essential metal bands though would've been unfitting for me when I was starting out with power metal. The album is slightly bad in a few songs, yet still a great experience!
Favorites: "Securitron (Police State 2000)", "Descent", "Freedom or Fire", "Resurrection", "Timelessness"