With every passing release more fans seem to pick up on Fear Factory, who really do fit perfectly into the modern metal scene, especially at the fan base level which is too small to warrant MTV airplay but can still push a band to gold or possibly even platinum status. A case could be made that Fear Factory fit too well into the modern metal agenda, which dictates power over progression or individuality, and in fact, if there's one failing Obsolete bears, it's the lack of change promised by Roadrunner's pre-release hype machine. The new truly sounds like the old, and considering Fear Factory and Misery Loves Co. have taken to using the same vocal style on their respective choruses, this means an ever constricting bottleneck on the industrial hardcore genre.
Still, it's futile and even embarassing to try and deny the sheer colossal power these guys wield in the force of their pummeling riffs and ultra-precision beats. Believe me, a mere two days before penning this review I witnessed the band in concert, and even though I honestly haven't pored over their lyric sheets often enough to be able to identify one track from the next, the entire show was unmatched in kinetic intensity. And to be fair, songs like "Smasher/Devourer" are far catchier than anything Fear Factory have previously come up with (which is not a knock on their earlier work). Only time will tell if Fear Factory can continue to milk the same formula without staleness setting in.
First time listeners to Obsolete would do best to ignore (at least initially) the gimmickry casually provided to add the illusion of expanding the Fear Factory vocabulary and focus on the tracks that show the band doing what they do best: rocking out on a galloping riff with little by way of sonic tinkering to get in the way. On that advice you couldn't do much better than "Securitron" and the aforementioned "Smasher/Devourer", back to back volleys which recall "Demanufacture" down to the dotted i's and crossed t's. Fear Factory do strike out on a different path for "Descent", which has a HEAVY Prong influence while retaining the patented Factory sound. Another subtle influence that rears it's head briefly is the Pantera-like vocals on "Hi-Tech Hate"'s pre-chorus. For anyone keeping track, Gary Numan's guest appearance on "Obsolete" and the string section on the last two tracks wrap up the band's attempt at stretching out. The string section (on "Resurrection" and "Timelessness") was a nice idea, but it's place in the song(s) is too low key and mechanically mixed to make as much of an impact as producer Rhys Fulber probably intended. Call it an even split; "Resurrection" is easily the album's fists-in-the-air anthem, while followup "Timelessness" merely comes off as an incomplete outro to an otherwise great record. All in all, Obsolete marks the most consistent Fear Factory long player to date, sounding ever so familiar while adding little nuances that too close to the group's true style to identify on first or even second listen.