Fear Factory may have recently passed on into heavy metal history following their latest album Digimortal, but the band's legacy lives on not only in their catalog, which includes the gold-certified Obsolete, but in the forthcoming release of their never-before heard album Concrete, produced by heavy music guru Ross Robinson.
On July 30th (2002), fans of the Southern California metal band will take a journey back to a time when the quartet was just beginning to develop its cutting-edge, death metal-meets-industrial sound. (And when drummer Raymond Herrera was still in high school!) Amazingly, the long-lost Concrete has never been leaked out in bootleg form or proliferated on the Internet, so it is a genuine surprise release.
“I'm very happy about it coming out,” beams Fear Factory co-founder and guitarist Dino Cazares. “It's something special for the kids, who never even heard it. They can see where we were coming from. Back then, we were gigging in East L.A. We didn't really have too much recording under our belts. We had recorded a couple of demos before that, but we had never worked with a producer like Ross Robinson.”
Recorded in 1991, barely a year after Fear Factory formed, Concrete is important for several reasons. Firstly, it established the band as a viable player in the metal world. While ultimately the group did not want to sign with Robinson's label, Fear Factory would use the 16-track release as a way to secure a deal with Roadrunner Records. Producer Ross Robinson, who later sold the album to Roadrunner, would use it as a calling card to produce future stars like Korn and Limp Bizkit. The album also offers a history lesson for people. Vocalist Burton C. Bell brought a melodious style to the death metal world, and influences such as Godflesh and Ministry would propel the band into the industrial and techno realms without losing their core audience.
“At the time [of Concrete], all these death metal bands were coming out, and a lot of people were afraid to cross those boundaries,” recalls Cazares. “Fear Factory was a band about taking chances. Not all those chances worked,” but at least they pushed the envelope as much as they could. While Fear Factory delved into technological realms, they were not able to do so right from the start. “At the time, we didn't have money to experiment with that,” remarks Cazares, but he confirms that the intentions were already there, and they began manifesting themselves on the 1993 release Fear Is The Mindkiller.
“Me and Ross bumped heads a couple of times on the whole digital thing,” recalls Herrera of the Concrete sessions. “As you know by now, Ross isn't very up into the high-tech production stuff. He likes the raw analog stuff, which is cool. I ended up not getting my way [then], but I did later,” he remarks with a laugh. Adds Cazares: “Honestly, I think Concrete sounded better than Soul Of A New Machine. Ross is really good at capturing the moment.”
Metal aficionados may find it amusing to learn that Concrete was recorded at Blackie Lawless' studio, where Robinson was then employed as an engineer. “It looked like a cowboy ranch,” says Cazares. “Everything was all wood. There were cowboy hats, guns, skulls, and cow heads. It was cool.” While the band officially recorded drums and vocals during the day, close friends Cazares and Robinson snuck in at night to record guitar and bass tracks, which explains why Dino says the $5,000 album has a $10,000 sound. “Maybe someday we can pay back Blackie Lawless,” he says with a laugh. “I'd like to thank him very much for letting us record there! We borrowed some of Blackie's bass equipment to record the bass, without him knowing it. And now he will. Blackie, if you're listening, I'm sorry!”
Eight of Concrete's sixteen tracks were re-recorded for the band's official 1992 Roadrunner Records debut Soul Of A New Machine. Four more have never been heard before: “Sangre De Ninos,” “Deception,” “Anxiety,” and “Ulceration”. Other songs are presented in their original forms before they mutated into, or became a part of, other songs. “Concrete” transformed into “Concreto” as a bonus track on 1998's Obsolete, “Soulwomb” became “Soulwound” for that same release, while the instrumental “Echoes Of Innocence” metamorphosed into “A Therapy For Pain” for 1995's Demanufacture. Then there is “Piss Christ,” an entirely different song than the one heard on Demanufacture.
Herrera notes of the four unreleased songs that “we never even went back and tried to fix or update them.” They represent early, raw Fear Factory, pre-sampling and pre-keyboards. “There wasn't a huge budget to do it,” the drummer says of the album. “We were all beginners.” But he makes no apologies. “It is what it is.”
Quite simply, Concrete represents the genesis of one of SoCal's biggest metal groups. “It shows where the band came from,” affirms Herrera. “This CD is the roots of Fear Factory.”