The 2011 Arsies: January 12, 2011

January 12, 2011

Geritol presents today's grudge match between two bands that, combined, have been serving up metal for over fifty years. For once, I'm not exaggerating: today, Exodus (born 1980) challenges Fear Factory (born 1989). If that doesn't bring a tear to your metal-loving eyes, you've been in the pit one too many times.
Let's start with Exodus's ninth album, and the longest album name of the entire competition: "The Atrocity Exhibition... Exhibit B: The Human Condition." Was that really necessary? Do we really need a thrash-metal treatment of the Rape of Nanking? Do you need these answers? The answer to all three questions is "nope," as the album broods and shreds whether you care or not. I think that Exodus got a new lease on life back in 2004 with "Tempo Of The Damned," and as with every subsequent album, "Exhibit B" keeps that feeling going. Even with their rotating door personnel policy, the band is self-assured and not afraid to experiment. This album is intelligent, heartfelt, and not as beholden to the thrash formula as I'd come to expect from Exodus.
"Mechanize" is Fear Factory's seventh album, and features guitarist Dino Cazares' return to the band. It also marks the departure of drummer Raymond Herrera from same; he's been replaced by everyone's favorite percussion heavyweight, Gene Hoglan. These are not trivial changes to the lineup of the band, so you'd expect changes to the band's sound. And there are changes here to be sure, although not the kind you might have predicted. Dino doesn't come back with the thunder of "Demanufacture," for example, but he does deliver a darker, thrashier aesthetic overall -- and for the first time in the band's history, he's got solos! As for the drummer change, the difference is hard to hear in the face of the usual synthetic quantization that is still a hallmark of the Fear Factory sound. After a few listens, I came to believe that this new incarnation of the band is one album too early, that the new lineup just hasn't had a chance to congeal into their truly destined form. This is still a very enjoyable album, but I can't help but think that they've got better in them.
Certainly, both albums exceeded expectations, and showed that these elder statesmen still have a few tricks up their sleeves. Between the two albums, "Exhibit B" sounds more solid. I give props to Fear Factory for their reinvigorated sound; that said, I give the round to Exodus! Let's see how they do in a few weeks, when they go up against Dimmu Borgir.
In the meantime, tomorrow Forbidden takes on crowd favorite High on Fire.

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