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April 12, 1999; 9:30 Club; Washington, D.C.

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

Fear Factory are back on the road after the unfortunate theft of their equipment in Philadelphia back in January 1999 forced the cancellation of many shows during the Winter. Well, the weather was much nicer this time around which made the long wait worthwhile. It didn't take much to get the fans of this sold-out show excited at the prospect of seeing a four band line-up. The mood outside the 9:30 Club was of anticipation and excitement. Who could argue? With the industrial-tinged anger of Spineshank, the rap-metal hybrid of Hed(pe), the social consciousness of System Of A Down, and the glorious machine known as Fear Factory this was proving to be grand show for a variety of audiences.

I was eagerly anticipating seeing Spineshank for the first time. I really like their debut album "Strictly Diesel," but was very disappointed by their performance. However, there were a substantial number of people who appeared to be Spineshank fans by singing along with Jonny Campos at every chance. There was nothing remarkable of the performances of Mike on guitar, Rob on bass, or Tom on drums/electronic samples. The one song that really proved to me that this wasn't Spineshank's night was the less than stellar performance on "40 Below."  On disc, "40 Below" pulsates with nervous energy and a good balance between the natural sounds of the instruments and the electronica elements; in concert, the dynamics of the song were lost in a monotonous haze with little to distinguish itself from their other material.

Hed(pe) seem to be another band in a now endless stream of rap-metal coming out of Southern California these days. However, Hed(pe)'s more organic approach to the style may be their saving grace. Their attack-mentality wall-of-sound approach, which is not unlike Limp Bizkit, is a two guitar, bass, drum, and DJ set-up that has the leanings of being too "flavor-of-the-month". Early in Hed(pe)'s set I was convincing myself that I liked the concert performance better than their CD. At some point M.C.U.D. got into a terrible case of "holier than thou" ranting which he capped off by uttering the unbelievable and hateful phrase "if you're not dancing to our music you're sucking my cock" - well, buddy, nobody calls me a cocksucker and gets away with it. I'm not much of a business-minded person, but it doesn't take much reasoning to figure out that's no way to sell albums. I don't think it was a smart move to insult the majority of the audience when your band is number two on a four band bill; chalk one up for bravado, but chalk up ten for stupidity. Aside, from M.C.U.D. being brash and arrogant, I'll give some credit to Wesstyle, Chizad, Mawk, B.C., and DJ Product for keeping the music somewhat interesting.

Having already seen System Of A Down I knew what to expect - a smartly played, passionate set of tunes from this stunning live act. From the first to the last note, System Of A Down kept the audience's attention without fail. I've seen this happen before and I'm certain I'll see a crowd react like this again. Since the show was in Washington, D.C. I thought that Serj Tankian would feel compelled to take his political commentary to another level which would overwhelm the music. Luckily this was not the case; Serj kept his rants quite simple and not too different from his little speeches at OzzFest '98. Daron Malakian added a few quirky twists to the music which made the set very satisfying.  Daron is as much fun to watch as he is to hear. Daron manages to twist like a whirling dervish, dance like a manic, jump randomly, and pose in outrageous "shapes" all the while not missing a lick. Shavo Odadjian and John Dolmayan, bass and drums respectively, kept the rhythm solid all throughout the set which allowed Serj and Daron to work their magic.   System Of A Down played the strongest tunes from their debut album. The crowd reacted most favorably to "Suite-Pee," "War?" "P.L.U.C.K." and "DDevil". The marvelously playful "Sugar" elicited a near-universal shout-along; who can resist the chanting of "what do I do? what do I say? fuck you, it all goes away" especially when the energy level was reaching maniacal highs. There are very few bands that can bring passion to a live performance quite like System Of A Down. It isn't hard to understand how much they've accomplished in such a short time. I have no doubt that System Of A Down will someday soon be headlining their own concerts nationwide.

Fear Factory hit the stage on all cylinders in their technical glory.  Hearing the songs from "Obsolete" in a live setting for the second time has allowed me to appreciate the songs more than I did the first time (when they opened for Slayer in the Fall of '98). Fear Factory managed to play a fairly balanced set from all three of their releases. New tunes such as "Obsolete," "Shock," "Edgecrusher," and "Smasher/Devourer" took on new life in concert. Many performances were taken from the solid "Demanufacture" album including the title track, "Replica," "Self Bias Resistor," and "New Breed." "Pisschrist," one of my favorite songs of all time, is wondrously glorious in the live element.

Not only was Fear Factory pumped up due to their headlining status, it gave them a chance to loosen up ever so slightly because the time constraints were no longer an issue (as it would have been if they were an opening band). Raymond Herrerra, the human drum machine, was obviously aided with drum samples, but that doesn't take away from the power of his performance. Christian Olde Wolbers was his usual energetic self and seemed to be in his element in the larger setting of a decent sized club. It was nice to really hear Steve Tushar, Fear Factory's touring keyboard player, for once - his additions to the music had been lost to my ears due to the different halls' acoustics the previous times I'd seen Fear Factory. Dino Cazares had a blast - Dino's guitar rang loud and true and every little riff put the crowd into a near frenzy. Dino
kept the fans happy with his constant interaction with everyone from one end of the stage to the other. Burton C. Bell seemed very pleased to be presenting the material in a headlining setting - Bell was kind enough to recognize all the fans in the balconies. Bell's voice was strong and clear throughout the 90 minute set.

The show ended with the fan-favorite "Scapegoat" from the "Soul Of A New Machine" disc - always a fitting end to a Fear Factory show.

All in all it was a decent show. It would have been a fantastic show had Hed(pe) gotten lost on the sidestreets of D.C. - sometimes too many bands in such a short time can clutter the concert experience. The bottom line is that it doesn't take much to get me excited about seeing Fear Factory and I was not disappointed in that respect. Catch Fear Factory and System Of A Down this summer at OzzFest '99.

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Copyright 1999 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 23 Aug 2016 22:57:17 -0400.