Despite everything — a now-dated industrial metal style, endless tabloid drama regarding lineups, and a sub-.500 career batting average — Fear Factory are still relevant. One reason why lies in the intro to the video (see below) for "Fear Campaign," from their new album Mechanize (Candlelight, 2010).

It was not necessary to camouflage the insanity of the world of today within a science fiction setting. The world today has become the world that writers predicted long ago.

Unlike the futuristic imagery for which the band is known, the video portrays real world ills: guns, drugs, money. The band's future has become its present. Singer Burton C. Bell's aging is visual proof. But if the world has become mechanized, Fear Factory offer no solutions. They offer soundbites in the form of lyrics and riffs. Like much of metal, they are descriptive, not prescriptive.

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But in this case, description is sufficient. The Latin phrase res ipsa loquitur (the thing speaks for itself) comes to mind. Still images are visual soundbites, and here they speak for themselves.

Above are recent depictions of cyborgs in pop culture: Fear Factory and Hypocrisy on the covers of Decibel and Terrorizer, respectively, and posters for Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, a TV series starring Summer Glau, and Surrogates, a film starring Bruce Willis. The man/machine topic is still a hot one. See, for example, a new device that literally prints out, inkjet-style, human tissue and organs, and Roxxxy, the world's first sex robot.

Another reason why Fear Factory are still relevant is that their sound is no longer futuristic. The ultra-tight, mechanical sound they pioneered on Demanufacture is now standard for mainstream metal. Yes, Fear Factory are to blame for today's glut of click-tracked, triggered productions.

But what so much of that stuff forgets, and what Fear Factory did best, is the soul in the machine. Bell's voice and Dino Cazares' riffs are immediately recognizable. Mechanize plays up these strengths and recaptures the vigor of Demanufacture. It won't win change any opinions — there is a vigorous backlash against this sound — but now the potential fan base is much larger, due to a new generation of fans raised on the high-gloss metal Fear Factory spawned. As with most metal, the source is more potent than the tributaries.

— Cosmo Lee
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