Wayne Static formed Static-X in 1994 alongside bassist Tony Campos, drummer Ken Jay and guitarist Koichi Fukuda, after his previous band Deep Blue Dream split up. Four years later, they released their debut album Wisconsin Death Trip (which was the original name of the band), which went platinum in 2001. Five more albums followed until the band went on hiatus in 2009, allowing Static to focus on his solo project Pighammer. After a brief reform in 2012 where none of the original lineup except Static were present, the band finally split up, owing in part to a disagreement between Static and Campos, over who could use the Static-X name.
Static-X emerged at the same time as nu metal and as a result had many similarities to bands from that scene. However, their sound also incorporated a lot of industrial metal elements, notably electronics and keyboards, as well as a mix of mechanical and clean vocals, pioneered by genre leaders Fear Factory.
Yesterday it was announced that Wayne Static had died, so to honour his work within the metal scene I want to guide you through Static-X’s six studio albums.
Wisconsin Death Trip (1999)
The debut album of Static-X is a bone-crushing affair, leaving little time for reflection. The album’s style is traditional industrial metal; the guitars, bass, drums and even Static’s unique bark, all march together as a ferocious, percussive attack, allowing the electronics to stand out and provide melody. Most of the tracks come within four minutes, some within three, with the exception of the heavily electronic The Trance Is The Motion and the album’s dreamy conclusion December. Wisconsin Death Trip is a solid debut, showcasing their ability to write industrial metal songs, but it lacks the diversity and refinement that experience brings, shown best with Love Dump’s cringe-inducing lyrics.
Machine is everything that Wisconsin Death Trip tried to be; the electronics have purpose, the riffs are more clinical and Static’s vocals have improved vastly. There is also a little more diversity on the album: Get To The Gone is a bulldozer of a track, Black and White is a catchy nu metal song, Machine is a brilliantly experimental and Cold is a slower track with a hugely melodic chorus. There is still the odd track which needs refinement, but overall Machine is a much more focused and better produced effort than its predecessor.
Shadow Zone (2003)
Shadow Zone marks the first major change in the sound of the band, as they swayed towards a nu metal approach that relies a lot on melody, both in regards to the vocals as well as the guitar riffs. The Only, Invincible and So bear little resemblance to the industrial crunch of the previous albums, instead they rely on massive hooks in the choruses and use clean/melodic vocals heavily. In fact only Monster and Destroy All would fit in with their earlier albums, showing just how much the band’s sound had evolved. Naturally this change caused a divide between fans, but I personally enjoyed the melodic approach to this record, as it brought with it greater musicianship and refinement.
Start a War (2005)
Start a War is my least favourite album of the six and is happens to be the only Static-X album that I don’t own. The record sounds like the missing link between Machine and Start a War, as it has an equal measure of industrial brutality and melody, however it fails to deliver the same standard of songwriting featured on those records. Although there are some good moments, Start a War sounds a little too contrived; The Enemy reminds too much of Get To The Gone, whilst I Want To F****** Break It seems forced and is a step back to the immaturity of Wisconsin Death Trip.
From least favourite to most favourite, Cannibal returns fully to the style of the first two records, except now the band have matured and are able to finally pull off the industrial, ‘evil disco’ sound they have been trying to create for years. The whole album seems much more balanced, allowing the brutality to exist in harmony with the electronic, dance-oriented elements and despite Cannibal being their heaviest album, there is still room for some melody amongst the aggression as singles Cannibal and Destroyer show. Cannibal is also their first album to heavily feature guitar solos, which adds to the well-rounded nature of the album and it also gives a chance for lead guitarist Koichi Fukuda to shine.
Cult of Static (2009)
Cult of Static is a continuation of Cannibal, helped in part by both albums having the same producer John Travis. However, this album isn’t as heavy as its predecessor and has a slightly greater emphasis on electronics, especially in Tera-Fied and Terminal. As their final album, Cult of Static does a good job of concluding their discography, because it amalgamates elements from all of their records without sounding forced and is probably the best place to start for new listeners.
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