Short Cuts: Fear Factory, Atreyu, TesseracT

CD Review: Fear Factory – Genexus
Nuclear Blast Entertainment
All Access Rating: A-

Fear Factory - Genexus 2015
Visionary chroniclers of unsettling dystopian nightmares that exist in elaborately conceived, sci-fi concept albums, veteran industrial-metal insurgents Fear Factory have signed on for yet another tour of duty in what's become a never-ending war for the soul of mankind in the face of a hostile takeover by the machines. Visceral, creative and majestic, Genexus covers much of the same well-trodden ground Fear Factory has marched through in the past, but unlike the mechanical and overly precise The Industrialist, the latest from Burton C. Bell, Dino Cazares and company balances cinematic beauty and hammering, roaring brutality with breathtaking artistry in the stampeding opener "Autonomous Combat System" and tension-packed punishers "Anodized," "Dielectric" and "Soul Hacker" – all of which eventually open into rapturous choruses and oceanic melodies, before again turning apoplectic with rage. Moody synthesizers and orchestral string pads leaven the screaming, teeth-gnashing violence of Genexus, as the almost proggy epic "Regenerate" rises to glorious heights and starry dreamworlds "Expiration Date" and "Enhanced Reality" offer a calming respite from rugged sonic beatings. While verging on becoming formulaic and predictable, Fear Factory is also still a work in progress, further establishing its literary and musical identity with Genexus, a flowing, dynamic work with imaginative storytelling that rivals their masterpiece Obsolete.

Atreyu – Long Live
Spinefarm Records
All Access Rating: B

Atreyu - Long Live 2015
Five coffins are littered about a gloomy landscape on the cover of the ironically titled Long Live. For pioneering metalcore comeback kids Atreyu, it at first blush seems an oddly depressing choice, considering this rebirth they're undergoing at present. Then again, they have been vacated, perhaps signaling a resurrection of sorts. Visitors won't find this tomb entirely empty, as Long Live runs the gamut of strong emotions – going from spitting mad and vengeful to broken hearted and pained in short order – and contains a good variety of fresh musical ideas, especially from guitarists "BIG" Dan Jacobs and Travis Miguel. Their creative mix of crunching, furious riffs and frenzied, fiery leads can make one forgive the uninspired emo melodic backwash and stereotypical screaming impotence of the title track, the staggering "Labor to Live" and "Cut Off The Head" – songs that would otherwise be considered chaotic, gripping and intense, with surprisingly unexpected breakdowns and tempo changes that demand your attention. However, it's their rather subtle and tasteful execution of the gorgeous acoustic piece "Revival (Interlude)" that's remarkable. While Long Live initially struggles to break out of a modern-metal mold Atreyu helped form, it does eventually hit its stride, as "A Bitter Broken Memory" blossoms into a widescreen, melodic epic and the stomping feet and hand claps of "Do You Know Who You Are" give a tip of the hat to Queen, adding some organic texture and natural feel to an album in desperate need of it. Swinging heavily, with pummeling, ferocious urgency, "Heartbeats and Flatlines" is bruising and raucous, but it's the satisfying, strong hooks, vicious anger and frayed punk nerves of "Brass Balls" that win the day. Running on a half-full tank of furious energy and instrumental vitality, Long Live could give Atreyu a second chance at having a musical life.

eOne Music/KScope Music
All Access Rating: A

TesseracT - Polaris 2015
Take any track from Polaris and pull it apart, like a curious child examining some beautifully complex piece of machinery. Even the cleverest and most imaginative of engineers would find it difficult to reconstruct any part of the miraculous third album from progressive-metal cartographers TesseracT. It would take hours of focused study to adequately trace the meticulously mapped out arrangements of Polaris and explore all of their gloriously enigmatic rabbit holes. For music that is this adventurous, complex and clinically experimental, it also happens to be unexpectedly accessible, atmospheric and lush, with inside-out, acrobatic melodies that twist and turn in the most delightful ways. Dreamy currents, earnest supplication and reflective lyrics carry "Hexes" almost imperceptibly into unsettling puzzlement and then a blustery volcanic eruption, where the bounding, menacing "Dystopia" throws listeners around like rag dolls almost from the start. Inviting warmth and expansive settings seem to beckon sonic travelers into the wondrous worlds of "Phoenix" and "Messenger," only to crash their vessels on rocky shores or in sudden storms that don't reveal themselves until its too late to escape. There is great drama and utter sincerity in TesseracT's vocal designs. They practically swim in the majestic swells of "Seven Names" and wander about spacious confines of "Cages," aware of its mystery and illusory character and not knowing what to expect next. Though engaging, soulful and intelligent, and as cinematic as Porcupine Tree or Radiohead ever were, the brilliantly conceived Polaris can also explode into staggering, hard-funk violence, as it does in "Survival," and its sheer unpredictability, fully engorged grooves, intricate virtuosity and propensity for taking bold risks makes it one of this year's most stunning works.
– Peter Lindblad

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