What are the chances of that? No good metal gig around this neck of the woods for months and then two within days of each other: first Down, now Fear Factory. Although FF’s height of popularity was quite a while ago (and not a very good time ago), a previous gig in Luxembourg City two years back attests to the fact that they still have a decent following around here. As always, fans flocking from the neighbouring countries play a great a part in filling up this country’s venues, and tonight is no exception.
By the time we arrive inside this former slaughterhouse-turned-venue, Devin Townsend Project is already in full swing, assaulting the senses with facial contortions and a large screen projecting animation. That’s not to forget the music, of course. Providing a real contrast to the cyber fuelled machinations of the headliners (and the sci-fi futurism of Strapping Young Lad), the Devin Townsend Project seems less concerned with a particular style, and more with following the music wherever it takes them. Now in theUK, the man has a very strong group of devotees. Here, however, it takes a while before the majority of the ‘folded arm brigade’ are prepared to enjoy themselves. Bearing in mind that this is Devin’s first time in Luxembourg, and that the greater part of the crowd are obviously unfamiliar with him, I just assumed that such lethargy was part uncertainty and part ‘pre-headliner energy conservation’. If that makes any sense. Although it’s not as if it bothers Devin Townsend. At one point he provides the ultimate response to a reveller’s stony faced disinterest by staring them out and simultaneously playing a solo which takes his unguided left hand all over the fretboard. ‘Cool’ is an understatement.
By this stage of my vague write-up, it’s fairly obvious that I am not a Devin Townsend disciple. Beyond the first two Strapping Young Lad albums and a gig with Godflesh ten years ago, I have never really followed his musical endeavours. That previous gig (boasting an absolutely wasted but spot-on Gene Hoglan) was a testament to Townsend’s unhinged genius and manic energy. Tonight, he seems more settled though it is obviously still there, directed into less angry territory. What really impresses is the tectonic nature of some of the riffs and rhythms which cut you down the middle. Compared to the snippets of his latter material that I have heard on the inter-the-web, live it is brought to a different level of being heavier than a really heavy thing. Combined with some groove and swing, which seems particularly to get the ladies moving, the band gets down and gradually wins over more of the crowd. From the bizarre and most un-metal bounce of ‘Lucky Animals’ to the fury of ‘Juular’, there is something for everyone to enjoy provided they lighten up and use their ears. Endorsing love, parents and masturbation, the charismatic Canadian embraces everyone here. After the set, a fair number of shirts are gobbled up by happy punters.
Speaking of shirts, Fear Factory were selling one which I would have snapped up fifteen years ago. Bearing the text ‘Fear Factory’, ‘Demanufacture’ above and below the poster image for the film ‘The Terminator’ on the front, and that immortal quote ‘Fuck You Asshole’ on the back, this t-shirt embodied what FF was circa 1995: the unofficial soundtrack to those first two cinematic masterpieces. Tonight I don’t have a spare 20 Euros or the energy to provoke people with rude words on my clothes. Well, not often anyway. The overall point being that the first two Fear Factory albums are classics whose material I will probably never tire of seeing live. Over the last few years since ‘Mechanize’ and the return of Dino Cazares to the fold, it’s also clear that the band has been re-instilled with some of the energy that inspired those early releases. Launching straight into ‘The Industrialist’ and ‘Recharger’ from the new album, drummer Mike Heller (formerly of NY grinders Malignancy) proves that he is more than capable of matching the drum machine used on that release. When the band plays ‘Fear Campaign’ from 2010’s ‘Mechanize’, he proves similarly capable of conveying the mighty Hoglan’s parts too, which added a really different dimension to FF’s sound.
Throughout the opening tracks, the majority of the crowd remains almost as uninterested as they did for Devin Townsend. It’s not really until the ‘Obsolete’ material, ‘Shock’ and ‘Edgecrusher’, emerges that any real participation is forthcoming. Even more bizarrely (or perhaps not), it’s the ‘Digimortal’ pairing of ‘Acres of Skin’ and ‘Linchpin’ which seems to arouse the most excitement of the night. Although personally those efforts from 1998 and 2001 reek of nu-metal’s nauseating influence, live they translate so much better. The heavy crunch of Cazares’ riffs stamp their authority on every part. As with the last time I caught the band though, the drums are undoubtedly a tad louder than everything else. Given their studio emphasis on an immaculate, robotic drum sound you can understand why this is the case but it particularly pisses all over Burton C. Bell’s melodic vocal parts to the point that sometimes they are drowned out. Come the latter half of the set, with each album represented in small chunks,Bell announces that tomorrow (Halloween) represents twenty two years since FF was formed. Correspondingly, three tracks from the excellent debut – ‘Martyr’, ‘Scapegoat’ and ‘Self Immolation’ – are cranked out. Although I was hoping for ‘Scumgrief’, you can’t have everything…
The final four tracks are naturally dedicated to the band’s 1995 highpoint, ‘Demanufacture’. As much as I love that album, it was somewhat disappointing that the band played four of the five same tracks that they played two years ago, namely, the first four from the album. I was hoping for ‘H-K (Hunter-Killer)’, ‘Flashpoint’ or ‘Pisschrist’, but again, that’s just one fan’s fantastical hope. As it is, the choice naturally kicks arse, although ultimately, nothing can detract from the fact that this was one of those gigs at which the crowd just wasn’t there. Whether it’s because tonight was a Tuesday or everyone was gigged out after Down on Saturday, it’s hard to tell. It’s only the second night of the ‘Epic Industrialist Tour’ so undoubtedly things can only get better for these bands, both of whom deserved a greater response than they got.
Fear Factory Setlist
Acres of Skin
Self Bias Resistor
Review by Jamie Wilson