In 1995, L.A.'s Fear Factory released Demanufacture, one of the top industrial-metal albums of its day. Over the next 15 years, the band achieved modest financial success, released four albums of varying consistency (read: glitter-laced effluvium) and engaged in tabloid-worthy infighting and pseudo-breakups. Mechanize finds Fear Factory back in top form. Founding guitarist Dino Cazares has returned after a two-album absence and is once again preaching the gospel of muted chugging and limber tremolo picking. Absent is founding drummer Raymond Herrera, whose staccato double-bass gymnastics acted as the band's lynchpin. In his place, the band brought in veteran Gene Hoglan, known for his work in Dark Angel and Dethklok. Hoglan blasts a bit more than his predecessor, but executes complex double-bass maneuvers in perfect tandem with Cazares' syncopated picking — a feat that should please even the most jaded Fear Factory fan. Singer Burton Bell is as confident as ever, whether shouting his throat raw or singing with a melodic gloss. Mechanize's crystalline production and often subtle use of digital effects brings to mind the finer moments of the band's 1998 Obsolete album; it's great ear candy but still pummeling. Highlights include the familiar-yet-different brutality of the title track, the dizzying stop-and-go of "Powershifter," the Meshuggah-with-a-twist-of-Cynic antics on "Designing the Enemy" and the surprise ballad "Final Exit." Mechanize exceeds nearly all expectations for a Fear Factory album. — Nick DeMarino
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