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Fear Factory 

Concrete (Roadrunner)

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Fear Factory's first album was the best thing the band's ever done, and the fact it's emerging only now is a shame. Blending metal and electronica is an idea that still has potential, but few bands have ever executed it successfully. Even Fear Factory's returns diminished with each album; by the time the band was inviting Gary Numan to help out on its version of "Cars," the game was over.

Concrete was the group's first album, recorded with a then-unknown Ross Robinson in 1991, then shelved. Most of its songs turned up (reworked, unfortunately) on later Fear Factory discs. On Concrete, the band didn't have the budget for the kind of computerized tweaking it was already itching to indulge in, so the result is a kind of thrashier version of Godflesh's Streetcleaner. The album is heavy as hell, with Burton Bell screaming as though he's being branded. If Fear Factory had continued down this path of crushing minimalism, it would've had something.

Instead, the band diddled around with remixes and attempts at gabber techno (one of the most misguided musical ideas of the 20th century), and lost what made it a metal band. While Concrete may appear to be for obsessives only (since so many of its songs can be found elsewhere), nothing could be further from the truth. This is, in fact, the only Fear Factory record anyone needs.

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