Fear Factory is back, but the band has left Roadrunner Records behind, along with original guitarist Dino Cazares. Maybe these two facts are connected, maybe not. Doesn't matter much, though, because Archetype is one of their strongest efforts. (They did pretty much invent the music they play, so the title's more modesty than braggadocio.)
Archetype is surprisingly bifurcated. The thrash stuff is fast and brutal, but straight ahead, as Fear Factory has always been. The band was too smart to start rapping when Korn et al. took over the metal world, and it's too smart to co-opt the tricky time signatures that now rule the underground. There's a slight problem on a few tracks, however: The synth washes and choruses that have always contrasted with the stomping and barking feel tacked on this time, more like a prosthetic leg than a pacemaker.
Still, vocalist Burton Bell manages to sell the new stuff. Even if the band's earliest material was its best, Fear Factory isn't sucking wind in 2004. And if they've abandoned the fixation on dance-floor trends that led them to issue remix versions of previous releases, so much the better.