Fear Factory was one of the first “serious metal” bands I ever heard, and it was a good place to start, because they are also among the best. “Demanufacture” is one of the most revered metal albums of the 90’s, and it’s easy to see why. The album is packed with crushing, thrash-inspired riffs that continue the tradition of bands like Slayer, Pantera, Metallica, etc. But Fear Factory are not just rehashing the sounds of those bands, not in the least. They are one of the most original bands in the genre, and their innovation is just as evident as their ability to make your head bang.The album starts off with the title track, beginning with frontman Burton C. Bell singing softly over a thrashy industrial riff, finally elevating into a brutal growl. In this one song, we get a glimpse of the extent of Bell’s amazing versatility. He can sing in a unique, ethereal voice, and switch to unbridled aggression in the blink of an eye. “Self Bias Resistor” is further proof of his vocal ability, featuring an excellent melodic chorus to contrast with the overall heaviness of the song. Likewise, electronic keyboard sounds underscore the crushing riffage, adding unique flavor to the familiar metal-isms.From here, the greatness is nearly nonstop. “Zero Signal” begins with an eerie, ambient intro, finally erupting into ferocity by the end. “Replica” and “Body Hammer” are crunchy groove-monsters, while “New Breed” and “HK (Hunter-Killer)” are fast and relentless. The album is propelled by Dino’s machine-gun-like rhythms, and Ray Herrera’s pounding drums. Both are accused of being “simple” musicians, due in large part to Ray’s lack of conventional fills, and Dino’s lack of shredding solos. However, both are undeniably skilled. Listen to Dino’s jackhammer of a right hand, or Ray’s impeccable double bass control, and you’ll see what I mean. The album ends on an unexpectedly soft note, with the incredible 9-minute “A Therapy for Pain”. The song is uniformly slow and moody, with overwhelming ambience and beauty. The guitars and keys lay down a huge, encompassing backdrop, and Burton’s vocals are just unreal. The song gives the feel of being surrounded by a dark, cold, futuristic setting (think “The Matrix”, minus Keanu Reeves). Maybe I say this a lot, but this is one of those songs that you just have to hear for yourself.Despite all of the things that make this album so incredible, there are a few small shortcomings. The cover track “Dog Day Sunrise” is glaringly weak, as compared to the rest. It’s not really bad, per se, but amid all the other great songs, it definitely stands out. Even if you aren’t aware that it’s a cover, it still feels as though it shouldn’t be there. Also, the production is a little weak. Burton’s vocals feel a little too pushed back in the mix, and they don’t pack quite the punch that they should. On the follow-up release, “Obsolete”, the growls just hit you like a freight train, and here the music almost drowns them out at times. But that’s a minor complaint. It’s really not that distracting for the most part. Anyway, the important thing is this: “Demanufacture” is a masterpiece of metal, with few flaws. If you love music that’s equally heavy and creative, you have no excuse not to have this in your collection. Buy it, or forever be unmetal.