Ascension of the Watchers - _Numinosum_
(13th Planet, 2008)
by: Jackie Smit (4.5 out of 10)
Let's face facts: the last three Fear Factory albums were not up to scratch. Not even close. Considering that this was a band whose innovative alchemy of militant industrial and death metal still pervades a sizeable chunk of what passes for heavy music today, the likes of _Digimortal_, _Archetype_ and especially _Transgression_ smacked of severe disinterest on the part of its creators. Naturally the rumours have been swirling through cyberspace as to the reason for this, but the one that seems to stick is Burton C. Bell's steady decline in fervour for the troupe's boisterous antics.

Enter Ascension of the Watchers, a project some eight years in the making, and a vehicle for Bell's distinctly less abrasive interests. Claiming to draw influence from luminary names like Fields of the Nephilim and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, it soon becomes painfully clear that Burton and his new crew lack both the dynamic sensibilities of Carl McCoy and Cave's knack for penning interesting, engaging narratives. Indeed, for a project that's been stuck in the throes of gestation for as long as this, _Numinosum_ is every bit as bloated and confused as it might have been had it been pieced together in the space of a week. Virtually as a rule, songs drag ass like a flea-infested Labrador on its last legs -- never more so than on the painful two-part odyssey that forms the intro and the album's first song proper, "Evading". That track ironically formed part of the band's 2002 demo, _Iconoclast_, and sounded significantly more promising than its latter-day, OAP-friendly counterpart.

Meanwhile, Burton's ham-fisted attempts at love balladry on "Canon for My Beloved" and "Moonshine" sound every bit as bile-inducing as their titles would suggest. In fact, it's only on the disarmingly atmospheric "Residual Presence" and an emotive reworking of a Simon & Garfunkel's "Sound of Silence" that Ascension of the Watchers ever truly "works". Had someone pointed that out to Burton at some point during this disc's recording, _Numinosum_ could have been an entirely more captivating offering.


(article published 7/11/2008)

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