Through March and April, Fear Factory have toured the US celebrating the twentieth anniversary of their album Demanufacture. Though Demanufacture was not the band’s first album, it is considered the album that marked their ascension in the Metal scene upon its release in the summer of 1995. For over two decades since, the California based band has maintained a dominant presence in the Metal scene with their explosive sound, which deftly combines Industrial, Death, Groove, and Thrash Metal. Achieving multiple radio hits, Fear Factory has done more than achieved commercial success, the band has consistently put out music that stands on its own as well as the test of time. With that said, the band brought the celebration to Tempe, Arizona on Friday, May 6th, to tear up the Marquee Theatre with special guests Soilwork, Spades and Blades, and OmniKage. The varied ages among the fans at the show was a testament to how long Fear Factory has entertained Metal audiences, and there was no telling what surprises the evening would bring.
Setting the mood was OmniKage, a band hailing all the way from Milan, Italy. Established in 2009, the members of OmniKage wanted to choose a band name that they felt reflected their emotions, such as frustration, love, hope, power, and freedom. Jumping on the Demanufacture tour with Fear Factory just a few weeks ago, it is American’s introduction to the aggressive outfit. It was a great time because it was just before the release of their debut album, Acceptance, which will be available May 30th via Art Gates Records.
Being the opening act is never easy, but OmniKage was fully prepared. Clad in black, The Monk (vocals), Sly Jackson (guitar), Dominick Sawyer (bass), and Ian Torrance (drums and electronics) wasted no time delving into their set. Their songs had a “bassy” and chunky Metal sound with a prominent groove that quickly drew the crowd’s attention. Though OmniKage is a five-piece band, Rhythm Guitarist Marcus Weylyn was not present. Jackson, Sawyer, and Torrance played loud and confidently. The Monk was also the consummate front man. His screams easily kept up with the music, and he was not afraid to express emotion while he sang. By the end of their set, OmniKage had clearly impressed the audience.
Continuing the momentum of the night was a band representing the Los Angeles Metal scene, Spades and Blades. After sharing the stage for several years in a band called The Havoc, Vocalist Jason Todd, Guitarist Justin Bullock, and then Lead Guitarist Josiah Wiswell decided to part ways from their Hardcore Punk sound and create a new project. The members endeavored to create a heavier sound, and their new band, Spades and Blades, gave them the opportunity to explore their musical creativity and push themselves to find a sound that was undeniably their own. Though it took the musicians a few years to hone their band’s identity, their patience was well-rewarded. Todd, along with Bullock, John Douglas (bass), and Tommy Jean Stiles (drums) garnered attention with their aggressive, crunchy riffs and emotive vocals. In the last year, Spades and Blades have toured the US relentlessly and even opened for such bands as Incite and Straight Line Stitch. Two-thousand and sixteen is proving to be yet another busy year for the group. In addition to touring with Soilwork and Fear Factory, the band has recently released their third studio album, The End Is Near.
From the moment the band started their first song, Jason Todd took command of the stage with his piercing screams and high energy stage presence. He often covered the stage, making sure he was giving attention to everyone in the crowd. At one point, without missing a beat, he jumped off the stage to embrace the mosh pit. Douglas was also very mobile throughout the set, running across the stage and balancing on any elevated platform he could find. Bullock and Stiles were equally charismatic. Stiles thoroughly looked like he was having a great time, and he always stayed in the moment with the crowd. In addition to playing heavy and aggressive guitar riffs with perfect precision, Bullock sang the clean vocals. His voice was just as solid as his guitar playing, and his vocals served as a good complement to Todd’s screams. The audience was completely engaged with the music. Fans pumped their Metal horns into the air and a sizeable mosh pit quickly ensued. By the end of Spade and Blades’ set, the audience was cheering and more than warmed up for Soilwork and Fear Factory.
Almost from the moment Björn “Speed” Strid and Peter Wichers formed Soilwork in the mid 1990’s, their music garnered attention in the Swedish Metal scene. The riffs are both progressive and heavy, and the explosive drum beats, and huge choruses make Soilwork’s music ideal for large venues. The darkened stage was lit with only blue and red lights, but when Strid, Sylvain Coudret (guitar), David Andersson (guitar), Sven Karlsson (keyboards), Dirk Verbeuren (drums), and Markus Wibom (bass) started their show with “The Ride Majestic,” from their latest album of that name, it was as though the entire stage was illuminated with unbridled energy and excitement. Andersson, Karlsson, and Wibom showed great chemistry with the crowd as well as with each other as they played on with songs like “Nerve,” “The Chainheart Machine,” and “Follow the Hollow.” Verbueren’s drumming punctuated the power that has helped make Soilwork one of Sweden’s best Metal imports. His playing was fast, precise, and aggressive. Keyboardist Karlsson added another texture to the already big sound with his melodies, which created a theatrical atmosphere.
Besides being able to easily and seamlessly switch from screams to clean vocals, Speed showcased his ability to create vocal harmonies that both complemented and stood out against the backdrop of the music as heard on tracks such as “The Living Infinite I,” “Let This River Flow,” and “Late for the Kill, Early for the Slaughter.” Soilwork fans were more than just excited to see the band play. The head-banging and moshing only got more intense. Just when it felt the enthusiasm of the crowd could not be any greater, Speed announced that the band would be headlining their own tour in the fall. Soilwork ended their set with the favorite “Stabbing The Drama,” and brought Spade and Blades Guitarist Bullock to join them on stage. With the fall headlining tour ahead, Soilwork fans can soon look forward to a longer set full of killer songs from the band’s extensive discography.
Minutes before Fear Factory took the stage, the intensity in the venue swelled. Fear Factory’s setlist promised the entirety of Demanufacture, start to finish, as well as songs from their 2015 album Genexus, and fan-favorites. While the show at the Marquee Theatre came near the end of their US tour, Burton Bell (vocals), Dino Cazares (guitar), Mike Heller (drums), and Tony Campos (bass) showed no signs of slowing down. The band’s music is known for its ominous sound, but, even with all the heaviness, there is always that signature groove that inspires head-banging and crowd-surfing. This was boldly present during “Replica” where the fans eagerly sang along with Bell.
The cohesion between Heller, Cazares, and Campos was tight. Heller, whose influences go beyond Metal and include Latin Jazz and Funk, played with incredible adeptness as they continued on with Demanufacture. A relatively new addition to the Fear Factory family, Campos added to the crisp rhythm with his solid bass playing. Meanwhile, Cazares’ familiar crunchy guitar sound and “in-your-face” riffs along with Bell’s emotive screams affected the entire venue through classics such as “Zero Signal” and “Self Bias Resistor.” Everyone from the mosh pit to the back of the room moved to the music and relived the magic of Demanufacture as they wrapped up the album with “Pisschrist” and “A Therapy for Pain.”
Departing after a full performance of the album, fans knew there was still more to come and that began with the encore that saw the band rattle out Obselete’s “Shock” before newer song “Soul Hacker” and “Regenerate.” A jolting second wind, Fear Factory closed the night with “Edgecrusher,” inviting members from the other bands to join them onstage. The entire room were so engaged, that it was not until the house lights came on, that the crowd realized the concert was over.
A feeling of satisfaction was felt among the crowd. For an entire evening, fans got to hear music from some of Metal’s most talented bands. OmniKage and Spades and Blades gave 100% in their performances, and they left indelible impressions on the crowd. Soilwork transported their fans with their theatrical and melodic Metal, and Fear Factory put on an awe-inspiring show and proved why they remain one of the most prominent American Heavy Metal bands. Though the tour has come to an end, none of these bands are slowing down. Fans will undoubtedly have another opportunity to see these bands again.