This Fear Factory article was written by Mat Taylor, a Gigsoup contributor. Edited by Zoe Anderson. Lead photo by John Gilleese

‘Demanufacture’ was the album that took Fear Factory from relative thrash metal obscurity to international success. In 1995 the boundaries between metal and other styles of music had already started to blur thanks to the likes of Rage Against The Machine, Biohazard and White Zombie. Fear Factory took industrial, techno and thrash, welded it all together and released a futuristic concept album based on the story of man’s struggle against a machine controlled government. This tour saw them teaming up with Once Human to celebrate the success of an album that inspired several generations of metal fans and musicians.

Once Human are a new band from L.A that have all the stage presence and grit of artists years in to their career. Their set was tight and front woman Lauren Hart was engaging and endearing enough to win over the large crowd pretty quickly. Fans of metal will be aware that Logan Maider, formerly of Machinehead and Soulfly plays guitar in this band and his influence is clearly felt in every sludgey power chord they grind out. The switch between clean and distorted, screamed vocals that was largely pioneered by Fear Factory is a technique Hart uses extremely effectively. Her singing voice is clear and powerful and her guttural scream is raw and searing.

Once Human’s own songs are excellent and will be something that any metal fan will enjoy but the best crowd reaction came from the band’s incredible cover of Machinehead’s anthem Davidian. When support bands create mosh pits, they’ve done something well; when support bands create enormous circle pits littered with fallen bodies and lone, jagermeister wielding weirdoes, they’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty. Thanking the crowd once again and explaining how honoured and excited they were to be on tour with Fear Factory, Once Human continued with more material from their album “The Life I Remember.” They had clearly attracted a few of their own fans who made up the first few rows of boisterous, baying metalheads.

As the opening drone of machinery rang from the speakers and the band took to the stage the crowd started to get restless and that characteristic wave of movement rippled from one side of the Ritz to the other. The double kick drums clicked and the savage snarl of Dino Cazares guitar growled through the packed venue as the band delivered title track “Demanufacture”.  It was amazing to see how much the band have progressed in the last twenty years. Advances in production techniques and sound engineering have certainly helped this band polish their performance to an almost mechanical level of precision.

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‘Self Bias Resistor’ shows off front man Burton C Bell’s vocal range to devastating effect and the insanely complex rhythms that the band manage to hold together still sound futuristic and ahead of their time. Math rock and Math metal and various other ludicrously titled sub genres may have explored bizarre time signatures and drum patterns but this album was one of the first to do it so brutally and so well. Tonight’s rendition was arguably better than the album version and the crowd seemed to agree.

“Demanufacture” was heavily influenced by the popular culture and real life events at the time it was recorded. Drawing some industrial and sci fi influence from films such as The Terminator as well as absorbing some of the devastating social conflict that was taking place in L.A at the time, the band produced a timeless slab of industrial thrash metal that was part escapism and fantasy, part social commentary. At the time, some critics were quite scathing and there were accusations of prog and experimental thrown around like warm beer in a musty smelling mosh pit, but the mix of smiling and (happily) screaming faces in the venue tonight prove that the album has cross generational appeal.

The crowd knew this album so well almost half them shouted Burton C Bell’s now famous opening “HAH!” before the fourth and probably best known track from the album ‘Replica’ kicked in. The band seemed to appreciate the humour and exchanged gig grins before launching in to the howling, industrial power ballad that sounds as melodramatic and powerful as ever.

‘New Breed,’ with it’s relentless gabba kickdrum and apocalyptic lyrics got one of the best responses of the night. The circle pit spilled over in to the side lines as hundred of maniacs gleefully set about each other, stopping the simulated violence only momentarily while they picked up a few of the fallen and launched them back in to the fray. Although there are definitely subtle and nuanced moments on this album, this track is not one of them and it’s the simplicity and raw aggression of this track that make it so satisfying.

‘Dog Day Sunrise’ is a cover version and was always my least favourite track on the album. 20 years later I can appreciate its gothic overtones and I think the live version has an extra layer of crunch that seemed to be lacking on the original recording. This served as a short recovery period for the insanely enthusiastic moshers who took this opportunity to engage in some medium level head banging rather than slamming in to each other at speed.

The pace remained relentless until the closing song from Demanufacture, “A Therapy for Pain.” This unusually musical finale always highlighted the innate talent that this band has. Although the majority of their music is so extreme it can transcend the boundary between music and noise, this song shows there is a lot more to Fear Factory than double kick drums and angular riffs.

This band clearly believe in giving their all when they’re performing and their encore included so many songs it felt like a second show. Returning to the stage with “Shock” followed by fan favourite ‘Edge Crusher’ the band showed no signs of easing up. Burton asked the crowd if they were still out there in his characteristic southern drawl and seemed disappointed by the breathless response that came back. Being a showman and an archetypal metal front-man, it didn’t take him long to generate some more energy and three brand new album tracks from the band’s latest release sent yet more bodies sailing over the barriers at the front of the stage like ragdolls. ‘Soul Hacker’ and ‘Regenerate’ got the best response but it’s clear that the band haven’t stopped doing what they do best. They haven’t really changed a thing but when you were 20 years ahead of your time in the first place, you don’t really have to.

In the mid 90s, metal was exciting, aggressive and totally different to anything that was available in mainstream music. Since the rise and fall of Emo and it’s endless sub genres its fair to say that a lot of popular rock music has lost it’s teeth. Having seen Korn and Sepultura play incredible shows this year, it seems its the right time for that era of metal to enjoy a resurgence in popularity. There will always be cynics, but Fear factory look and sound better than they did 20 years ago and that is definitely testament to their work ethic, their loyal fan base and the love of what they do.

Fear Factory '20 Years of Demanufacture Tour' - The Ritz, Manchester (9th December 2015) - LIVE REVIEW

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