Hot off the heels of their support of Megadeth with their appearance on Gigantour, Fear Factory was back with a short headlining tour. For the fans this band has this would be a welcome thing as Fear Factory was one of those Gigantour bands that was only afforded 30 minutes of performance time and this is just not enough to have when you are a band of this capacity. They also made sure to bring along some incredible groups as support and to give every fan their money's worth without question. They labeled this "The Transgression Tour" which was smartly going to keep the name of their new album fresh in your mind. Joining Fear Factory on the tour would be Darkane, Strapping Young Lad and Soilwork. All of these bands are under the Nuclear Blast/Century Media Records family, and it made for an overall potent line-up. Sea of Tranquility's Ken Pierce and Pete Pardo were on hand for this great night of metal. Included as well are interview comments from Fear Factory's lead singer Burton Bell, who talks about Gigantour as well as the new album Transgression
Read on for the full story!
Darkane: This Nuclear Blast Records artist brings a different level of precision to their delivery of the technical Metal that they perform. The group released Layers Of Lies and this CD is a brutal effort. They have a sound that is along the lines of Soilwork and this made them fit very well on the tour. They would only perform for about 30 minutes but the audience certainly ate them up and this is good when you are first up out of four bands. If you have not heard this CD yet, make sure you give it a sample listen for I think this band will be making some appearances on tours in 2006. They are certainly worthy of the attentions and support. Due to the terrible lighting used during their performance I was unable to capture any pictures of them as they played. I am sure I will get the chance in the future.
Strapping Young Lad: Witnessing Devin Townsend and the guys in Strapping Young Lad is an introduction to Metal insanity. I caught SYL as part of the "Sounds Of The Underground 2005" tour over the Summer and this is really one of those bands that you have to experience in person. Townsend is a madman onstage and he comes out immediately berating the audience with off-color names and comments and all the while the audience is screaming for more. Their latest album Alien on Century Media Records is an explosive collection of Metal riffs and drumming. On the kit is Gene Hoglan who is a monster player and does things on the drums that will rattle your bones. He is also not the stereotypically proportioned drummer and instead a giant that makes you wonder how he moves that fast. Metal fans might also find this interesting as Strapping bassist Byron Stroud does double duty with this band and Fear Factory as well. On a show like this he has his work cut out for them. The music delivery of SYL is something that does need to be more in the public eye as it's a great level of heavy. Devin often yells to the crowd that they will now perform the only song they know by the band and with this perform "Love". He is not far from the truth to the new listener but after your introduction to them you will find yourself investigating further. It's an interesting adventure to say the least.
Speed of Soilwork
Soilwork: I first caught Soilwork at their recent headlining tour which was in support of their Stabbing The Drama album. This tour also featured Mnemic, Hypocrisy and Dark Tranquility and it was easy to find yourself blown away by their overall intensity that night. Very simply put this is a band that is getting a long overdue amount of attention over here in the States and every cheer from the audience is well-deserved. At the onset of their performance with their opener "Stabbing The Drama" from the album of the same name it was apparent by the audience reaction that this band was going to be in command for awhile. There is tightness to the technical Metal that Soilwork brings to the table and guitarist Peter Wichers is a stellar guitarist that shines on every tune. Speed, their lead singer ,does a great job in holding the audience in his grasp for the set which also featured tunes like "Lord Of The Flies". Soilwork is one of the best examples of this type of Metal and I hope to see them in a headlining set once again in the near future.
Fear Factory: As I mentioned earlier, Fear Factory had just finished a successful run on the Gigantour but similar to Nevermore and Symphony X they only performed for 30 minutes. Tonight there would be a full and killer set as they touched upon new and old material. Their latest release Transgression is a really good album that fans must listen to a couple of times before writing it off. There are some covers on it that might place the most hard core Metal head aback. It is not typical to what fans might expect, but there is a number of thrashing moments that bring it back old school around the CD. Lead singer Burton Bell certainly is a great front man who keeps everyone on the edge of excitement during the set. The show was completely sold out which is always a plus and as soon as the band began the moshing was in full sway. Wolbers does a fine job on guitar as Herrera does on drums (a brutally fast player by the way on top of this). Stroud did not seem to lose any steam from his earlier performance with Strapping and you have to admire the ability to play two sets of intense Metal in one evening. This is not a neighborhood cover band type of setting and requires a lot more energy and drive. The best part for me was getting to see the full length set this time around. Those who designed Gigantour need to re-assess the lineup times for some of the name acts before launching their next one. I had heard that Bell was not feeling well this evening but I hardly noticed as the band went on to perform for almost two hours.
I have to say that this was one of those overall great shows with every single band being impressive and performing to the greatest they could for the fans in attendance. So often you are cheated by either having a lackluster supporting lineup or performance from the major who is unhappy with the venue, sales, response or something. This was not the case tonight and watching everyone leave the venue in total exhaustion was further proof of well-done show. Check out these artists latest albums as we referenced them for you to do so. Metal is back in the underground and this fact is something that will allow it to remain pure, unadulterated and brutal.
Pete Pardo: On paper this looked to be a killer line-up for this short tour, and it did not fail to impress. Irving Plaza was packed to the gills on this night, and it was a case of each band having their core fans in attendance, all of whom really seemed to dig each band. Darkane, a great technical Swedish thrash band, opened the show with a thunderous 30 minute set. Their sound was a little muddy, which usually happens during the first band's set as the soundcrew irons out the kinks, but the fans seemed to dig them just the same. It's probably true that many in attendance have not heard their latest CD Layers of Lies, but my guess is that quite a few would have purchased it afterwards, and hope that the band makes it over again in the near future. Darkane have a bright future ahead of them, as their melodic and technical songs with killer twin guitar attack is pretty damn special.
Devin Townsend of Strapping Young Lad
The insanity of Strapping Young Lad was up next, and Devin Townsend and the boys are another band that really slays a live audience with their brand of maniacal cyber thrash metal. Songs like "All Hail the New Flesh", "Love?", and "In the Rainy Season" sees the band pummel the audience with brutal precision, blasting away with dual guitar might and the amazing drumming of monster player Gene Hoglan. Townsend loves to spew all sorts of venom and joking monologues at the audience, who come to expect that from him and love every minute of it. The new album Alien was well represented on this nite, as the band tore into "Imperial/Skeksis" and "Love", and mixed that in with a few other favorites from the past albums, especially the classic City. Overall this is an incredibly tight band that ironically does not focus at all on solos, but pure tight and demonic thrash metal that is as technical as it is manic. In the end, their set was too short for many, but we can always look forward to another headline run from Strapping Young Lad in the future, and we will be counting the days till it happens.
Soilwork were really on fire this night, and in my opinion played a much better and more powerful set than their headline set a few months earlier at BB Kings. This night they seemed a little more sure of themselves, or perhaps it was just an overall better crowd environment this night, as their headline tour saw them play in front of a lot of death metal fans due to Hypocrisy and Dark Tranquility being on the tour. On this night they raged through a tight and energetic set of songs from most of their albums, especially their latest Stabbing the Drama and the classic Natural Born Chaos. Songs like the "Stabbing the Drama", "Figure Number Five", "One With the Flies", and "Nerve" mixed well with older classics like "As We Speak", "Follow the Hollow" and "Bastard Chain". Sadly, due to time restrictions, the band would not be able to play their early death metal classic "Chainheart Machine", but we did get to see them perform that during their headline set earlier in the year. Thanks to a few recent visits to the area like their headline tour and Ozzfest, the fans were well into their set and sang and thrashed along to every note, with vocalist Speed doing a great job of riling up the audience. Overall a great set from the band, that sadly was to be the last time the New York fans would see guitarist Peter Wichers with the band as he announced he was leaving shortly after the tour ended.
Fear Factory are headliners, plain and simple. While seeing them on Gigantour over the summer was very cool and they kicked ass, 30 minutes is just not enough time to experience the FF juggernaut. Hot on the heels of the Gigantour trek and the release of their new CD Transgression, the band seemed really stoked to be playing in NY in front of a sold out crowd. We caught up with singer Burton Bell, who offered some comments about the Gigantour experience. "It went great actually!" says Bell. " After a few months of recording it was great to get back on the road. The crowds were very diverse, and we had some different flavors of metal on the tour. Some nights were difficult depending on the crowd, but for the most part it has been pretty good. Some places we hit on the tour we had never been to, so the crowds didn't really know our music too well. But, as long as you are up on stage and giving it your all, with a smile on your face, the crowd will pick up the positive vibe and get into the show." When we asked how the bands got along on the tour, he responded, "We got along great with all the other bands on the tour, and there was no ego's at all. Basically we hung out with Nevermore, Symphony X, Dillinger Escape Plan, just about everyone hangs out like a big community."
The band hit the stage to a frenzy from the crowd, launching into "540,000 Degrees Fahrenheit" and "Transgression", both from the new album. We asked Burton how we felt about the new album. "I'm very excited! I think it's going to surprise a lot of people, as it's the most different sounding record we've ever done, but without losing the FF vibe. I'm very happy with it." The crowd seemed to echo his statements, as they moshed and thrashed mercilessly to these new songs as if they were old favorites. When asked about the band's current record label, Calvin Records, the singer had some good things to say. "The record label has been really good to us-they are learning a lot. Obviously Archetype was the first metal record they have worked, ever, and we are still like their only metal band. So the last record was basically the label trying to find their footsteps into this genre, and I think they have it down now and are doing all the right things. We have 100% support, you know there are no other bands on the label that can distract them. We are a big fish in small pond so to speak."
Burton Bell of Fear Factory
One question we had to ask was who decided to do a cover of a U2 song on the new album? "It was all of ours actually" said Burton. "They are a great band, and I've always wanted to do a U2 song, but not necessarily an obvious song. We all agreed that it would be a good song to cover for the album." The topic of influences and inspirations came up, and where Fear Factory's music is today, and after some thought Burton gave an informative response. "For me, I draw inspiration not really from metal, I'm all about melodies, but I draw influences from say Neurosis, who I still think are a great heavy band, as are Mastodon, and Slayer. They are all great bands. I like industrial a lot. I also listen to a lot of older music too, like the Carpenters for instance. Some fans always want FF to be death metal, and most fans will get the new album, but some just won't. A few years ago Death Metal was just huge, and you had all these great labels and bands, but like everything else it gets over saturated. So many bands sound the same to me today."
On stage at Irving Plaza, the band tore through many FF classics like "Demanufacture", the raging crowd pleasure "Edgecrusher", which had every fan singing along and thrusting their fists in the air, "Replica", "Archetype", and "Cyberwaste", among many others. Singer Bell was in fine form, and if the rumors of him having a bad cold or the flu were true, you couldn't tell, as his vocal mix of death metal growls and melodic clean passages was spot on. Guitarist Christian Olde Wolbers is fitting in fine with the band, as his heavy, some times technical riffs create a huge wall of sound, while the rhythm section of bassist Byron Shroud (fresh from his set with SYL earlier in the evening) and longtime drummer Ray Herrera pound away with reckless precision on the rhythms.Overall, FF has a pretty unique sound, mixing elements of industrial with death metal, and progressive metal, closest perhaps rhythm wise to Meshuggah, but a different beast altogether. This was a triumphant night for them, and should help cement their popularity going forward in the NY area. We asked Burton if any other medium's other than live playing and the internet were helping get Fear Factory music out to metal listeners, and he replied "Satellite radio plays some FF songs, especially since we have been around for 15 years as well as the fact that metal is making a comeback. That's really cool in my book." And ours too. Check these guys out next time they make the rounds in your town.
Fear Factory Set List
1. 540,000 Degrees Fahrenheit
3. Slave Labor
5. Self Bias Resistor
6. Zero Signal
10. Big God
14. Acres Of Skin
Official Web site: www.FearFactory.com
Official Web site: www.StrappingYoungLad.com
Official Web site: www.Soilwork.net
Official Web site: www.Darkane.com