Music25YL: Bjork, Pennywise, and Fear Factory

Every month, we’ll be looking back at the music from 1995 to explore why these albums are still relevant to us 25 years later. This month brings us Fear Factory’s Demanufactured, Pennywise’s About Time, and Bjork’s Post. Other releases from June ’95 including Nine Inch Nails, Soul Asylum, Primus, The Batman OST, Sleater Kinney and Paul Weller are talked about here.

Fear Factory- Demanufacture

by Laura Stewart

Industrial Metal has always been somewhat of an acquired taste to some. Not all bands with this sound are good by any stretch of the imagination, but there is no doubt that one of the pioneer bands of the genre is Fear Factory. They, along with Nine Inch Nails, helped Industrial music gain popularity during the ’90s. NIN had a more mainstream sound— I’d put that down to the slower tempo of their tracks on the whole—and NIN have been recognized more over their long career, but Fear Factory infused so many elements into their music from other genres (goth, death metal, gabba, rave) that gave them their definitive sound. On 1992’s Soul of a New Machine, the band presented something the world was not expecting. They merged the brutal aspects of a death metal album with clean vocals and melodies, which was rarely heard of at the time and set them on the map as one of the most intriguing bands in the early ’90s. I tend to think of Strapping Young Lad and Fear Factory as revolutionaries as they created a sound that was super heavy but also very accessible. In 1995, FF released Demanufacture, and with this album, they truly define their sound that has since become timeless.

Part of what made this album immensely popular and the reason why it has inspired countless metal bands since its release is that it has a sound that is very futuristic, brutal, and well…industrial. Vocalist Burton C. Bell brought forth a distinct vocal style that is integral to the Fear Factory sound. His screams and clean vocals are well executed throughout the album, most notably on the songs “Self Bias Resistor,” “Zero Signal,” and “A Therapy for Pain.” Guitarist Dino Cazares packs this album full of machine-gun riffs, never letting up from the assault until the album closer. His signature riffs on the title track set the mood for the rest of the record and are impossible not to bang your head to. Drummer Raymond Herrera is one of the most talented drummers in metal, and he, along with Dino, help create the cold and mechanical sound this album has. His fills and beats throughout Demanufacture form a dense, relentless sound. Critics accused him of using a drum machine to create this ‘million beats a minute’ sound, but nope, it was all Herrera and his click track and triggers that delivered the blistering speed and machine-like precision.

The concept of the album is one of its most interesting aspects. Each song tells a different part of a story about the struggle of a man against a machine-controlled government and world. The band have stated that they took inspiration from the film, The Terminator. This concept would be taken further on their next two records, Obsolete and Digimortal. As a result, the lyrics aren’t your typical cliché metal lyrics.

The title track will always be a standout, for it contains all of the elements of the bands sound and has a hefty and angry chorus. Herrera’s double-bass pedals combined with Dino’s fast riffing and mechanical noise set the album off, only to be followed by Burton’s first clean vocals that quickly turn to screams that bleed into the crushing chorus. “New Breed” is an excellent example of how FF can make a short but heavy track and mix their huge industrial influence into the mix. “Self Bias Resistor” and “A Therapy for Pain” are two of the best songs on the album, the former being a FF classic and having an incredible chorus that you will find yourself singing along to. The latter being the soft album closer which echoes a feeling of doom and despair. With Cazares letting go of the massive guitar assault for the entire nine minutes of the song, bassist Christian Olde Wolbers and Herrera are left to back Burton’s amazing and truly emotional vocal performance that finishes the album as it fades into electronic noise. “Zero Signal” is probably my favourite though, purely for the memories.

Listening to this album again 25 years after its release is a real joy. So many great memories of going mental on the club dancefloor—do rock clubs exist anymore? I mean I know nothing exists in lockdown, but I feel like there isn’t anything quite like them these days for the metal youth, and that’s a real shame. Of course, I may be completely wrong; I’m not exactly in the zone these days. Demanufacture still sounds like the future and is simultaneously monstrous and beautiful.

Pennywise- About Time

25 Years On… Definitely not a “Waste of Time!”   by Delyth Williams

Pennywise album About Time is 25 years old on June 13th. Hailing from the South Bay of Los Angeles, an area steeped in punk rock history, Pennywise formed in 1988, the same illustrious year as Sublime and Guttermouth. They have 11 studio albums, released through Epitaph. They even have their own beer “Pennywiser.”

When About Time was released in 1995, the commercial success of American punk like Green Day and Offspring was obvious. Pennywise, with two albums under their belt, found themselves caught up in a wave of public appreciation for a scene that was traditionally anti-mainstream.

There are quite a few interviews still in existence from that time—see Wade Chamberlin and Fungus Boy for examples. They make for interesting reading and show the resounding push towards positivity and social consciousness, within a punk aesthetic, Pennywise was attempting to achieve. Their earlier video for “Homesick” (Unknown Road, 1993) provided a commentary on gun crime, something that still rings horribly relevant today.

About Time resonates with all of this. Pennywise’s noted reluctance to sell records and make videos in the high era of MTV possibly accounts for their lack of sales for this highly-rated album. Perhaps, it was their decision to stick with Epitaph, despite interest from other larger record companies? Nonetheless, this screams integrity. Alongside this, there is an obvious massive appreciation for their fans. It is a testament to this energy-filled album that it stands out as era-defining.

There is something about this kind of music that appeals to slightly wayward teens. In 1995, I had mostly reached this category. Firmly stuck in the depths of White Trash Two Heebs and a Bean, I was mostly aghast at my friends’ preferred more grungy or indie exploits. I was more than proud of my full discography of NOFX records. So, already enthralled by NOFX, Rancid, and Offspring, it was only a matter of time before I made space for Pennywise. About Time was my first foray into their music. And to be honest, on first listening, I found it a bit cheery. I was entering pre-metal goth confusion at this stage, so I feel I should be excused.

Nevertheless, by 1997, my Pennywise hoodie, a beautiful (*cough*) khaki colour, emblazoned with the synonymous “meh” (designed by Fred Hidalgo in 1991) was my go-to school jumper. Despite the maroon of our actual uniform, I managed to wear it to school almost every day for the final two years of my formal education.

To me, my best memories of About Time came, like many from this time, came a few years after the event. The Deconstruction tour of 2001 was my first chance to experience Pennywise live: a high-speed mash-up of other awesome bands, such as Lagwagon, Snuff and Capdown. We barged about in swirling circle pits, with varying levels of sunstroke, mainly thanks to the slow filtering entrance line. All while screaming out lyrics to “Perfect People,” all baggy trousers, elbows and swinging arms.

Beyond the marauding exhilaration of circle pits, Pennywise provided socially conscious punk hyper- attractive to influential teenagers. They, like many of the other alternative bands of the period, gave people direction amongst the leftover ‘80s yuppisms (yes, I made up a word) and dayglo day wear.

As Jim Lindberg hollers: “Screw perfect people/F*Ck they all look the same.”

Anyway, this album holds good time memories for me. Way before life really started. Buckle down, grab a beer and enjoy the nostalgia.

25 years on what was, and is your favourite About Time Song? Mine is still “Perfect People.”

Bjork- Post

Bjork's face and black hair stick out from her white robe. Behind her is an abstract collage in purples, oranges and Laura Stewart

After the release of Debut, a critically well-received record which proved the artist carried heaps of dormant potential just waiting to be cashed in on, the stakes were astronomically high for Björk to take advantage of the possibilities her career could take. The saying that diamonds come from pressure doesn’t ring more true than does within these finely documented moments—the result after two years of silence between 1993 and 1995 resulted in the masterful Post, a more complex, ambitious and well-made endeavour than Debut. The results are a bit more eclectic, accomplished and fully realised than before; where Debut felt like just a collection of songs with a signature quirkiness to them, Post asserted itself as an easily freeform yet conceptually tied opus.

As definitively Art Pop as Kate Bush, as electronically diverse as Aphex Twin, and as chameleonic as the late David Bowie, Post is both a great coming of age as well as a grand awakening. Album opener “Army Of Me” borders on Industrial while her newly discovered infatuation to step outside her comfort zone results in a perfect punk rock ethos. Her bizarre experimentation makes its first emergence here, and it’s the perfect opener, showing the radical shift in dynamic and sound from Debut. While the sonic geography of Debut felt distinctly Iceland, Post bleeds with England’s multicultural charm and wears it on its sleeve. The song is a blustering flurry of thick, heavy vocal performances while she angrily sneers “and if you complain once more, you’ll meet an army of me” over the surface of the track.

The secondary track “Hyper-Ballad” finds Björk giving some of the finest sonic imagery of hers to date in her career; giving a vivid narrative in the first leg of the track. The imagery is artful and surreal, keeping listeners with a sharp mental picture to keep in mind while listening. On “Enjoy” Björk finds “sex without touch” as she describes it over a euphoric sheet of production, while “You’ve Been Flirting Again” is found making a song reflective of the human patterns of flirting. “Just give her some time” she advises listeners. “How you reacted was right.”

Inspired by magical realism and the concepts of surrealism within musical art, “Isobel” displays vivid musical imagery as she tells the story of a young girl born in a forest, who later sends a message to the inhabitants of a nearby city in a communicative effort. “Crawling in silence, a simple excuse,” she says. It’s one of the many perfectly placed moments on this record, with just enough nuance and time in between vocal deliveries and melodies that create a breathtaking moment.

On “Possibly Maybe,” the use of Trip-Hop and dim Ambience helps the song swell into a gorgeous blend of catharsis, a shimmering example of emotional and artistic beauty. It’s melancholic, it’s sad, it’s lonely, yet it feels so alive and burns with an intense human energy that’s distinctly Björk. “I Miss You” also sees the singer keeping up with her desolate and saddening perspective on romance as well. “I miss you. But I haven’t met you yet. I remember, but it hasn’t happened yet.” Moments that feature writing like this on Björk’s end are so beautiful, gorgeous and affectively human that it can conjure a sense of sadness even within the coldest of hearts. “You are gorgeous. But I haven’t met you yet.”

Post was declarative of the moment in which Björk hit an incredible stride of musical maturation and sought out new atmospheres and soundscapes to play with, bending them at a moments notice. During the age and era of when Grunge was at its height and phenomena like Indie Rock were getting some of their greatest contributors yet, Björk found where the future of Pop music would lie and took advantage of it. Her use of atmospheric electronica and sublime production techniques solidified Post not only as an indisputable piece of musical influence  but also a clear cut, boldly created, shimmering classic.

With the star not being tied down by the weight of anything but the limits of her imagination, Björk was a full decade ahead of her peers. While Radiohead were still just coming into their own with The Bends, and most electronic artists were also just beginning to blossom into their own, Björk carved out her own path for others to follow—and 25 years later, its stature and musical power remains uncontested.

Like what you read? Check out more in this series!
Music25YL: Filter, Pocahontas, & Pink Floyd

Music25YL: Jewel, Tricky & The Fall Albums, February ’95

Music25YL: Moby, KMFDM, and More

Written by TV Obsessive

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