Industrial metal powerhouse Fear Factory are currently on tour in the United States in celebration of the 20th anniversary of their seminal album Demanufacture. As a gift to their loyal and widespread fanbase, the band are playing the album live, in its entirety, at each date on the tour. Joining them are Swedish Metal superstars Soilwork, metalcore up-and-comers Spades and Blades, and a various assortment of local acts at each show. This review will cover the sold-out show at Aftershock Live Music Venue in the Kansas City area, and as such, will also feature Kansas City natives Moiré, who opened the show.
Moiré and Spades and Blades
Aftershock is not a large music venue, so a sold-out show will unsurprisingly create a “can of sardines” situation by the time the headliners play. What ended up being more surprising on the wonderfully mild spring evening of the show was the amount of fans in attendance from the get-go. After an unexplained hour-long delay in starting the show, local metal act Moiré was permitted to take the stage to a sizeable crowd of enthusiastic metalheads. Obvious subscribers to the “riff, blast, growl, and mosh” ideology of classic death metal, Moiré’s music provided the vital energy needed to kick-start the show. The most impressive part of the band’s set was the unexpected amount of movement in the crowd for an opening act, with a sizeable circle pit of proud Kansas Citians breaking out halfway through.
Los Angeles-based metalcore four-piece Spades and Blades was up next, bringing a more refined, but no less heavy sound to the stage. Vocalist Jason Todd stood out immediately, perched atop a front-of-stage platform for the majority of the set, gripping the metal scaffolding which lined the low ceiling of the “rock bar” venue. His throaty shout pierced the thick instrumentation with welcome clarity, however the same unfortunately cannot be said for guitarist Justin Bullock’s cleanly sung choruses in songs like “Domination”. Whether it was the fault of the mixing, equipment, musician, or even listener positioning is unclear, but Bullock’s vocal lines were naught but a faint squeak among the pounding music. This barely took away from the band’s overall performance, though, as its highlights were numerous. Particularly enjoyable was bassist John Douglas’s wild stage dive, which concluded the enjoyable set in true metal fashion.
Visit Moiré at their Facebook page here.
Spades and Blades can be visited at their website here.
Providing direct support to Fear Factory, and touring in support of their latest album The Ride Majestic, long-established Swedish heroes Soilwork opened with the same album’s title track, which explodes with energy and showcases much of the band’s strengths, namely, their thrashy riffage, driving yet melodic hooks, vocalist Björn “Speed” Strid’s astounding vocal versatility, and drummer Dirk Verbeuren’s inhuman dexterity behind the kit. The band showcased a setlist which spanned 16 years of work, reaching all the way back to the title track from 2000’s The Chainheart Machine – a song which embodies turn of the century Swedish melodic metal.
Throughout the set, crowd reaction was fairly mixed. While there were always multiple hands in the sky, some songs were received more warmly than others. Fan favorites such as “Nerve” enticed loud cheers from the audience, while the more traditional and hook-driven “Let This River Flow” left fans anxious for the next rager, though still happy to sing along for the time being. Surprisingly well-received was “The Living Infinite I” off of the band’s previous 2013 album, while unsurprisingly, the set closer “Stabbing the Drama” immediately jolted the crowd into action. Upon closing, the beaming smiles upon the faces of Verbeuren and guitarist Sylvain Coudret made it evident that the band, which is normally used to headlining its gigs, was still more than happy to deliver some Scandinavian style to the American midwest in a supporting role.
Visit Soilwork at their website here.
By the time Soilwork had left the stage, the venue was nearly overflowing with attendees who had already taken their places for the band they had come to see – the mighty Fear Factory. The band’s promise to perform their industrial metal classic from top to bottom was seemingly too enticing for fans to pass up. As the house lights dimmed and the stage lights powered up, the band emerged to uproarious applause before vocalist Burton C. Bell delivered a singular message: “This is Demanufacture.”
The title track, being the first of the album, immediately set the moshing into motion. As Bell chanted the song’s well-known refrain, “I’ve got – no more – goddamn – regrets” over the band’s signature machine-gun riffage, a fan was seen crowd surfing his way up to the front of the house – a sight rarely seen in such a modestly-sized venue. The energy level rarely dropped throughout the rest of the album, while guitarist Dino Cazares moved from side to side of the stage to engage with as many fans as possible. Cazares’ presence was both charming and awe-inspiring, as his performance exhibited noteworthy accuracy in picking and timing, all while thrashing his head about to the blistering pace of the music. Also commendable was the band’s obvious attention to detail in re-creating the album’s original mix and translating it to the live setting with much-appreciated authenticity. The aggressive, machine-like quality of the music is one which translated quite satisfyingly to the stage, and it can be clearly seen in experiencing this tour that this calculated auditory assault was the main contributor to Fear Factory’s rise to fame in the 90s.
Upon finishing out Demanufacture, the band members took a somewhat extensive break from the stage, before returning to candidly thank the audience for their support throughout the years. The second part of the set consisted of a few songs from their latest album Genexus, as well as other assorted selections. The high point of this part of the show came during the final moments of “Archetype”, in which Bell flaunted his impressive vocal stamina to a sea of outstretched hands – offering one of his most powerful sustained deliveries after having already growled and shouted into the microphone for an hour. The band closed with a fan favorite, leaving the audience with a combination of sweet nostalgia from experiencing a classic album, and satisfied exhaustion from rocking out to hits both old and new. Of the seemingly constant stream of album anniversary tours being put on these days, the passionate Fear Factory fans which turn out to each date in swarms will certainly attest to the claim that Demanufacture is one which is well worth the time.
Check out Fear Factory’s website here.