Obsolete, by Fear Factory
Suggested by Craig Scott
It’s a pressure gig, this project.
Let me stress immediately that I’m loving it. The music, the writing, the interaction, the whole nine-yard kit, caboodle and ballgame. Nevertheless, it’s a lot of work, and there are daily deadlines. Sometimes it feels like a slog. Sometimes the words don’t come. And sometimes all I want to do is watch telly and eat crisps.
The goal, as you know, is three reviews a day. It’s doable, even on a workday, but it’s harsh. If I’m being honest, the correct number of reviews per workday is likely two rather than three, but I like a stretch goal and I’ll put my shoulder into it as best I can.
Today is Monday the eighteenth of January. Yesterday, after a prolonged period of incremental slacking, I conquered most of the backlog by throwing out seven reviews Each was backed by an album listen, and each was suitably measured and considered. On top of that, I listened to a further two albums to eradicate my listening backlog completely.
The realities of time and its passage meant I absorbed Fear Factory’s Obsolete at 2am, dead tired, after reviewing six albums on the day and while writing the seventh.
I’m not complaining, although it sounds like a whine. I’m more than grateful that my lifestyle accommodates such wanton frivolity, but, even after checking my privilege, the stark truth is that I was bone-tired and empty. My listen felt inadequate, almost incomplete, and I feel unequipped to give Fear Factory’s Obsolete a fair hearing.
For starters, while I plodded wearily through all ten tracks, I did not pick up that Obsolete is a concept album. I’m glad I didn’t, mind, as that would likely have tarnished any enjoyment I could muster. And I was mustering enjoyment, as best I could in my addled state. The Fear Factory sound, that heady mix of alt metal, industrial metal and significant orchestration, would have thrilled another me in another time, even if the lead singer’s shouting vocal did straddle the line between shouting and growling.
I thought my standout track came early, with the vibrant and excitable Edgecrusher, the angry vocals powering along with a wanton disregard for my delicate state, but as the album wended a path through my brain’s dark forest I found myself drifting towards whatever was in my ears at any particular moment. The swirling opening and thunderdrums of Hi-Tech Hate became standout, as did the stutter-gun drums on the title track Obsolete, but I eventually handed the laurels to the melodic and operatic Resurrection, in part because it’s the song with the best singing-to-shouting ratio. The bonus cover of Gary Numan’s Cars, which includes Gary Numan himself, did run it close.
Once the album finished, I struggled to parse a truly reflective score. I enjoyed it, but I couldn’t pinpoint why. Even now, a cool twenty-four hours later, I’m reticent to commit to anything concrete. I felt, and feel, that I couldn’t trust my own faculties after a period of frenetic and extended overuse. So I’ll be giving Obsolete a generic 6/10, operating on muscle memory alone, nodding towards the warmth I felt but ready to embrace the album, and the band, at a more conducive time for their appraisal.