Cape Town, South Africa: the Cape Town weather was clear last night, yet sounds of thunder filled the air surrounding The Assembly live music venue in Harrington Street. And as such, headbangers from the immediate surrounds were drawn to it like moths to a flame and flung themselves into the blazing glory with the same awestruck fervour. Others drove the distance from further afield in the Boland region, and I ran into at least one soul who had flown in to the Mother City from another far-flung corner of our beautiful land. Doubtless there were others from far and wide to attend such a monumental occasion.
Young. Old. Nu-metal. Traditional. Technologically inclined? Fear Factory satisfies a hunger for all! With such varied roots in styles, the band has touched very many Metal music enthusiasts over their thirty-plus years on the international circuit, displaying a rare talent for bridging sub-genre cliques and avoiding – for the most part – condemnation from the various elitist circles. They seem to present a rare dynamism which offers a little something that absolutely anybody with a Metal bone in their body can take some enjoyment from.
My arrival at The Assembly was noticed already in the street outside by none other than Boargazm! The gentlemen… or ‘gentlepigs’ from Pretoria were catching their breath prior to showtime and were clearly thrilled at being in Cape Town under such grandiose circumstances. Yet soon enough our idle banter was swept aside by more and more arrivals of other familiars within the local metal community and, keeping an eye on the clock, it was time to go and grab that first beer before the start of Ill System who would be kicking off the show. It has to just be added that it felt quite cool walking into the venue and having my ears greeted by some local metal in the playlist whilst waiting for the live entertainment. It was particularly cool to realize this with the music being that of my own band! Timing is everything, they say, and that set my mood to even better than excellent for the rest of the evening. Very nice touch.
I’ve got a long history with seeing Ill System live on stage, dating back to around 2002 in fact. Whilst I heard some murmurs along among audience members about “who are these guys?”, or “weird choice for Fear Factory opener,” these folk had clearly not much idea of what they were in store for, but I could see some of the more confused members of the audience quickly warming up to the band as their set unfolded. It was only a matter of time before the crowd had acclimatized to what was being presented and found themselves adrift in the groove, and Ill System finishing their set with the powerful sledgehammer anthem ‘Dysfunctional’ and vocalist/percussionist Sean Olsen literally swinging from the rafters!
Boargazm followed in short order with their outrageously quirky theme of warrior pigs from outer-space, come to – save or destroy? – mankind. Although their style of music is perhaps a little more organic and chaotic than Fear Factory, they seemed a pretty ideal fit in many ways. These guys are experienced musicians who know a thing or two about the live entertainment game. Frontman Heine van der Walt’s easy and casual personality with the crowd and his thick “zef” accent brings a smile to the lips of every viewer, and in their sci-fi-inspired battle-suits, the band obviously had the good sense to capitalize on the available lighting rig to deliver a visually captivating show.
The main act, Fear Factory, took a little longer to get to the stage, allowing an opportunity for a little socializing in the bar. It was awesome to see so many old faces of people who have been absent from the live scene for many years. Most confessing openly to being “let off the leash” for the night from duties to family – something which the regular tour activity delivered by Witchdoctor Productions has been motivating more and more since 2014. It brought into reflection thoughts that perhaps Fear Factory might also be getting a little long in the tooth, although it was proven this weekend that they clearly are not. If anybody has ever witnessed a bar empty out as rapidly as last night, then a record has to be set. With the first hints of a backing track emulating some sort of automated machinery at work, quickly recognized as the intro to ‘Demanufacture’, everybody knew that they had dallied too long and now needed to rush into the concert area to claim a space in view of the stage.
Fear Factory are not the sort of act for grand theatrics and side shows. Their performance is carried along purely by the sheer momentum of intense diligence and powerful Metal. Technically, the band is brilliant not only in how they write, but also in how they deliver. Each instrument of the band’s collective sat perfectly in the mix so that at times one could also imagine listening to the actual albums. Burton C. Bell’s transitions from clean vocals to pitched guttural lines was flawless and awe-inspiring. The choice of songs selected for their live set effectively covered every highlighted milestone of the band’s career and then some, with anthems such as ‘Edgecrusher’ and ‘Powershifter’ being personal highlights, along with the entire final five songs back-to-back bringing the set to a monumental close with ‘Resurrection’, ‘Archetype’, ‘Martyr’, ‘Scapegoat’ and ‘Replica’. Legend! Of course, newer material which is less known to me from the band’s latest Genexus album was also featured, and I particularly enjoyed ‘Anodized’, but all-in-all, the choice of songs included in the set was just fucking splendid throughout.
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