A heavyweight mainstay of Metal over the past three decades, there can be no doubt about the influence of Fear Factory on the Industrial style of music that they have brought to our ears. A band who can crunch bones with the best, they’ve often been more notorious for the fractious relationships within the band.
SWX, Bristol – 4 November 2023
Words And Photography: Paul Hutchings
But underneath all the chaos and legal wranglings, there’s a unique and instantly recognisable sound that crosses genres and has reverberated across the world of Heavy Metal since their formation back in 1989.
Stoked by the three sets before them, the crowd was always going to be onside for the arrival of the headliners. There’s minimal intro. A brief bit of the theme from The Terminator, something the band has used for as long as they have been playing. The legendary Dino Cazares leads out his troops.
It’s a new look Fear Factory. Havok drummer Pete Webber is behind the kit covering for Mike Heller. Veteran bassist Tony Campos, absent due to his Static X commitments, is replaced by drum and guitar tech Javier Arriga for this leg, whilst most eyes are on newly installed vocalist Milo Silvestro.
The Italian has big boots to fill, with the shadow of Burton C Bell still looming large despite his several exits from the band, including the permanent departure in 2020. To his credit, Silvestro doesn’t at any point look overawed by the job and, along with the rest of the band, turns in one of the finest performances Fear Factory has ever delivered in this part of the world.
My mind is still haunted by their 2012 show at the O2 Academy, a mere hop, skip and jump from tonight’s venue. They were awful that night, with Bell unable to hit a note.
This show is a million miles away from that car crash. In fact, Fear Factory really have no right to be as good as they are.
They explode out of the traps. Silvestro screams, “This is Shock,” and the place erupts. Temperatures ignite further as Edgecrusher pounds the very fabric of the venue. It’s a brutal one–two, igniting the first waves of crowd surfers, who continue to fly over the top for the rest of the evening.
Behind the front rows, the pit, already warmed up after the Butcher Babies, is in full flow. Arms flail and heads bang as the industrial power of those Cazares riffs flow in unrelenting blasts from the stage.
Dino is the main man. He’s not any younger or slimmer, to be fair, but he’s still a commanding presence, swapping sides with Campo through each song, flicking the horns, smiling at fans, and generally delivering the goods.
Campo’s thunderous bass is made for Fear Factory songs. After he takes centre stage during Edgecrusher, he’s content to hold down the earthshaking low end as the band roars through their set.
It’s heavy on the classics, with over half the set unsurprisingly drawn from Obsolete and Demanufacture. Freedom Of Fire is simply brutal, with Webber’s drumming unworldly. There’s not a huge narrative between songs. Given the incoming curfew so that the venue can prepare for its usual club night, that’s unsurprising.
We still get gems. Archetype gets a rare outing, whilst Dino introduces the sole track from the band’s debut Soul Of A New Machine. Martyr is spine snapping in its ferocity.
Eyes remain on Silverstro, and whilst he’s clearly using some gadgetry to support parts of his singing, he’s generally on point. It’s difficult to assess whether he’s still finding his feet or not, but you can see that he’s still coming to terms with the boots he’s filling. He does this admirably, and by the time we are deep into the pulsating Demanufacture, he’s well at home.
There’s little let up in the crowd either. After the punishment of Demanufacture, the triple whammy of Self Bias Resistor, complete with audience participation, Zero Singal, and the bruising Replica ensure that this is one gig that isn’t stopping until the final note.
Fear Factory dips into Obsolete for a final time with Resurrection. It’s hard not to conclude that this lineup has given the name a fresh impetus.
It isn’t perhaps the swansong that some might have predicted. The Disrup Tour is a signal of intent, and the dawn of the latest chapter for this seminal band.
This article was updated on 6 November 2023. Javier Arriga has replaced Tony Campos for this leg of the tour.