On Thursday 3 June 2010 I headed out to Jaxx again to see Fear Factory play on their so called Fear Campaign Tour. I get off of work kinda late these days, and when I got to the venue I realized it was another early show at Jaxx. I got there about 9pm and Prong was finishing up their set, which meant the next band was Fear Factory. Luckily I really wanted to see them headline more than anything, so not the end of the world missing the openers. The only Prong song I know by name is that old Snap Your Fingers Snap Your Neck tune, which never interested me anyways. I do wish I could have caught local support band Loculus but they were on far too early for me to see them. Upon entry I spent a few minutes talking to friends of mine at the back bar, then as usual I headed towards the front of the pit to get some good shots of the band.
Fear Factory is a band I liked a lot when I was younger, their first two albums really kicked ass. They had a unique blend of metal with industrial tendencies. What I always found interesting about their sound is they really tried to write songs that sounded mechanical or robotic, not just write metal songs with repetitive keyboards and sound effects added to give it that industrial sound. Then the nu-metal fad hit in the late 90s and while I did like some of the songs on their 3rd album, Obsolete, you could tell the band was changing direction and not in a way I cared about. I didn’t really listen to them much for many years, though a friend of mine would always get their new stuff so I did hear some parts of albums I’d consider forgettable. Through sites like Blabbermouth I’d heard about the band breaking up and reforming and various other bits of drama involving their line up, until at some point I guess they just stopped being a band all together. A few years passed and their original singer, Burton C. Bell got back together with their original guitarist, Dino Cazares, and they got the band going again. Their current guitarist was moved to bass and then they added legendary drummer Gene Hoglan (whose complete credits are far too long to list here) who has been in a wide array of metal bands, from Death to Strapping Young Lad to Old Man’s Child to Testament to the Cartoon Network’s joke band Dethklok. The buzz around this new version of Fear Factory interested me enough to check them out again, and I’m glad I did. Their new album, Mechanize, released in February this year, wasn’t just a return to form from the days I enjoyed them, but they had a new energy and excitement to their sound that had been missing for a while. When I heard they’d be coming to Jaxx on their reunion tour I was excited, I certainly wanted to see this band again. The last time I saw them was almost exactly 11 years before, when they played on the side stage of Ozzfest in 1999, but this new album made them a must see for me after a decade of apathy on my part.
So there I was, up in the front waiting for the band to come on. They started early, a few minutes after 9:30pm, but when they came out the crowd was already excited. They started off with the title track off their new album, Mechanize. People enjoyed it but when they started playing the next song, Shock, the crowd was definitely into the show. I saw a few crowd surfers at this gig, and I don’t know if Jaxx security was being lax on purpose or just slow to the draw this night, but they weren’t kicking them all out as I saw some of them back in the audience throughout the show. The band came out with a good energy, Dino was singing along to the lyrics of most of the songs while playing his 8 string guitar and Burton was getting right up on top of the audience. This set list was certainly tailored to older fans like myself, as they only played 2 songs from albums between Obsolete and their newest. They played the first 4 songs from Demanufacture (one of the best A sides in metal from the 90s if you ask me) and the first 3 songs from Obsolete. They only played 1 song from their first album, Soul Of A New Machine, the overly repetitive yet still catchy Martyr. They said this was the 17th show on the tour and you could tell between songs they were starting to get a little tired as the show went on. At one point they did break for several minutes to thank the other bands, and as a kind of cool gesture they actually learned a riff from a song by each opening band and played it saying the band’s name. I was rather impressed by that and I wish other bands did that sort of thing. The break then continued as they brought out the vocalist, J Costa, from the opening act Thy Will Be Done to do a rather stupid Christopher Walken impersonation to introduce the members of Fear Factory. This really did eat up a lot of time in which they probably could have played another song, but I suppose they were just trying to take a breather. Sadly, they didn’t play my favorite song off the new album, Christploitation, but they did play another song from it for the first time ever live, Controlled Demolition (video below). Luckily they didn’t play their awful Gary Numan cover of the song Cars, which they had a video for that actually got rotation on MTV back in the day (and not on Headbanger’s Ball mind you). They did seem to feel guilty for playing the song Descent and claimed they were playing it for the women in the audience, but I thought it showcased a different side to their typical songwriting and wasn’t a terrible song to add to the set. Their show did seem to be running out of steam towards the end though, and Burton’s voice didn’t seem to be holding some of the notes as well towards the end of the gig. He seemed to be having trouble hitting higher notes as well as holding the breath to sustain longer notes. Still, they put what they had left in the tank into Zero Signal, a personal favorite of mine from way back when, and the crowd seemed to really enjoy it as much as I did. They closed the set with Replica and didn’t do the tacky staged ‘encore’ thing so many bands do. They apparently stayed after the show to sign things for people as I saw a line formed in the main concert hall long after the set was over, that’s always cool of the bands who do that. I had a lot of fun at this show, I wasn’t bothered by security about my camera at all, and they played a set list I really enjoyed. I could see how people who weren’t as familiar with the older material would have preferred a set with more of the material from the past decade, and again I really wanted to see Christploitation live, but I really can’t complain about the set list. They might be a bit older now but they’ve certainly got me interested in the next album they’ll put out and I wouldn’t mind seeing them again in a year or two, just hopefully with better openers, and ones I can arrive in time to see too!