VERSUS: Demanufacture vs. City
Welcome to another edition of Versus. The series where we look at two albums in metal history, and compare them to each other, and see which one was the better record.
In this edition of Versus, we are going to challenge our cybernetic AI overlords with two industrial albums. Two bands that some consider influential in the fusion of industrial music and death metal. Let's see which one of these industrial bands can take the digital crown I'm calling "The Battle for The Digital Crown"
Our first contender is Fear Factory, with their second album, 1995's "Demanufacture". Following up their debut release Soul of A New Machine, the band kept some of the death metal origins of the previous release, doubling down on the industrial elements and adding more of a groove metal sound to their repertoire, creating a distinct sound that would become a trademark of the band. Let's take a look at this record and see what it brings to the table.
The album opens with the title track, a song that shows the definition of a Fear Factory song. Featuring one of the main trademarks of the band, double bass and guitar syncopation. The downtuned guitars are so heavy and accented with the simple kicks, until they begin to start syncing up, is done masterfully. A strong opening riff leading into vocalist Burton C. Bell's aggressive shouting-style growls. A style of guttural, but high in range. I love the picked up pace in guitar and drum playing into a chorus that sounds great live. The spacious synth section before the breakdown at the three quarters mark is a nice touch. The track is quintessential Fear Factory. "Self Bias Resistor" continues that signature riff/drum kick matching. The song still has elements of death metal from their debut, but a better production of Bell's clean vocals. With "Zero Signal", the thunderous drums of Raymond Herrera add so much punch with the guitar notes hanging in the audio space. I love the galloping double bass sound in the drums and continued pummeling guitar sections with atmospheric keys behind it.
The lead single, and another standout track from this album, is "Replica". With its opening grunt and recognizable riff with matching drums, guitarist Dino Cazares cemented himself as a riff-machine with this song and the record. The anguish in Bell's vocal delivery, in both his screams and wailing cleans, before the main riff is so good. The main riff is almost robotic in it's playing, corresponding with the drums. The buildup at the end of teasing a sped up ending before giving it to you after another chorus is done so well and is one of the best tracks on the album. "Dog Day Sunrise" a Head of David cover is the band experimenting with taking songs and adding their own take on it. "Body Hammer" is just aggressive in its guitar tone, with building synths in the background, then single drum kicks adding anticipation of what's to come. With a slower tempo, the song is still intense with the drums and guitars hitting so hard in the mix.
Songs like "Flashpoint" and "H-K (Hunter Killer)" continue the relentless drumming and riff playing this band has perfected, almost an automated metal band. With such tenacity and aggression in the band's performance, this band was leaving it all in the studio, giving it their all until the final track "A Therapy For Pain". With one of the strongest second albums, a fan-favorite to Fear Factory fans, and one hell of a second album.
In the other corner, we have Strapping Young Lad, with their second album, 1997's "City". A more redefined follow up to the band's debut, "Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing". Now with a full band, adding Gene Hoglan on drums, bassist Byron Stroud and guitarist Jed Simon, front man and skullet aficionado Devin Townsend was ready to unleash the technical fury that Strapping Young Lad would deliver on what many fans would call the band's best record. Let's see if the fans are right.
Opening up is the short track "Velvet Kevorkian", opening with plinking industrial noises giving off a "where are we going with this?" then BAM!! Townsend's "Wall of Sound" style of production assaults the ears. With a heavy chugging riff with chanting and effects into Townsend's screaming, crazy man rambling, the listener is like what is this? Then we go into the standout track "All Hail The New Flesh", with one of the strongest openings I've ever heard. With a heavy opening riff, into insane double bass and blasts by Hoglan, topped by Townsend's screams and guitar is just one hell of a 1-2 punch of an opener. The song is classic Strapping with layer upon layer of sound and riffs with the drumming being so heavy and adding presence. Townsend sounding PISSED as all hell in the vocals. His range on the chorus is just insane. Showcasing how is one of the most talented vocalists out there. With insane riff after riff, and a unique flute playing in the background at one point admit the chaos, this is an insanely good song.
Following that track is "Oh My Fucking God", a literal example of organized chaos. With a heavy opening riff and corresponding double bass and Townsend delivering a goblin-esque shriek in the opener, this song is going for the jugular. Vocals are all over the place from frantic, fast paced screaming, gutturals and shrieks, Townsend has lost it in the performance. The band is a riff machine and know how to match or intensify the antics of its front man or go for the gusto and just deliver pure unadulterated aggression.
"Detox" opens with Townsend calling out in his angriest tone and then, what an opening riff. I can picture thousands of people banging their head along with Hoglan's snare hits. The song's main hook, along with the fast paced riffing and drumming, is a constant headbanger. It makes you wanna pick up the guitar and learn how to play it, sounding so simple but so heavy. Showing elements of groove metal, I wouldn't be surprised if Fear Factory influenced this record. "Home Nucleonics" continues that relentless intensity that the band delivers on this record. Townsend is pouring his heart out vocally and the band is just constantly non-stop fury in the music. With "AAA", we get a little reprieve from the heaviest with a low, groovy riff and build with Townsend delivering a snarly vocal delivery. The chorus kicks in and what a wake up call, thinking the song is going in one direction, but sideswipes you.
With "Underneath The Waves", the intensity returns. Townsend is unhinged in a chaotic frenzy of highs, shrieks, growls and incoherent babbling all over a blast beat. The band is just adding to the chaos with constant blasts, start/stop and speed up tempo changes trying to match the frenzy their front man is delivering. "Room 429", a Cop Shoot Cop cover, is almost twisted and contorted with Townsend's vocals. The album closes with "Spirituality", with layer upon layer of guitars, ambience and drums, building to a grandiose conclusion that Townsend would continue with later projects, closing out what I would agree is Strapping Young Lad's best record.
After listening to both of these records, who do we declare the winner? I would pick Fear Factory's "Demanufacture" the winner in a very close fight. This record was influential in industrial metal as well as maybe could have been one of the bands that laid the groundwork for djent with the guitar tone and usage of seven string guitars. "City" is an insane record. With "Wall of Sound" production, the insane vocals, the heaviness of the band's sound and going at it at an unrelenting speed, it becomes an audio journey where you are exhausted after listening to it. Potentially, maybe making it hard to introduce people to the band. I do love Strapping, but between these two records, I will choose "Demanufacture".
Fear Factory would continue with constant lineup changes. Lead vocalist Burton C. Bell would leave the band in 2020, his final release with the band would be 2021's Aggression Continuum. The band would get Milo Silvestro to join the band as their new vocalist. Strapping Young Lad would release three more albums before breaking up in 2007. Townsend would go on to continue work as a solo musician, while the other three members would proceed other projects. Gene Hoglan actually was a member of Fear Factory, who appeared on the band's 2010 album "Mechanize" before leaving the band to pursue other projects.
Do you agree with my decision? Who do you think should have won this battle? Cast your vote on the poll below, leave your comments on our social media, and your suggestions who you think should step in the ring next. I’m Justin, your friendly neighborhood metalhead, for This Day in Metal and this has been Versus.