Review: “Wisconsin Death Trip” by Static-X (20th Anniversary)

Since the sad passing on Wayne Static in 2014 and subsequently his wife Tera Wray, there has been a lot of talk about the legacy of Static-X and with the remaining members of the band reunited with original producer Ulrich Wild and some lost vocal takes a new album entitled “Project Regeneration” is on the way. The band are currently touring the globe on the 20th Anniversary Tour for their 1999 Industrial Metal debut “Wisconsin Death Trip” so we figured it’s time to do a retrospective review of the beast!

Consisting of guitarist, vocalist and programmer Wayne Static, bassist and backing vocalist Tony Campos, guitarist Koichi Fukuka and drummer Ken Jay, Static-X arrived on the scene from Los Angeles California. The album title came from the book of the same name by Michael Lesy written in 1973 and cited as an influence. The book records and photographs the deceased in the Black River Falls region.

Mick Olszewski helped the band create an iconic video for debut single “Push It” featuring clay figures as well as footage of the band themselves. The track is a fine example of what the band would later call their Evil Disco sound with Tony Campos providing a big in the mix bouncy baseline and some dark growls which are in line with the sort of vocal elements System of a Down employed on their masterful debut. Laced with industrial sounds and a groove riff, there is an influence of Ministry that would be more evident in later works. The second single from the album “I’m with Stupid” has a music video directed by David Meyers and using the same creatures from the first single tying the pair together nearly. The track itself is a voice sample rich affair complete with eerie synth breakdown alongside classic industrial riffs. Static takes an interesting lyrical perspective and if there was ever a floor filler on a Static-X album it’s this one. An insight into Static’s mental health “Bled for Days” was later used as the audition piece when former Seether drummer Nick Oshiro replaced Ken Jay on the drum stool. The song features a big programmed drum sound with industrial noise breaks that is underpinned by the live kit itself so the drum work has to be metronomic to work. Static shows an ocean of vocal range on the cut from his brutal trademark bark to an almost clean sun quality that he later became known for.

Proving that Static-X are so much more than a one trick pony “Love Dump” builds the atmospheric pressure with buried synths and programming that could be more akin to what you might here at a Rave than a Metal show but smashed into the ground by some looped guitar riffs and a big drum sound that is heavy on the bounce. A tune primed for a remix or two its Static-X at their best. Switching things up a gear for a faster and vocally more aggressive tune “I Am” sees Static deliver an almost rap scream set of repeating lyrics broken by Tony Campos single growled words in a flurry of riffs. A song that perhaps saw the band lumped in with the Nu-Metal crowd for the line “put a gun in my mouth and threaten to shoot”  its actually a song that says I like screaming into the mic. After a more industrial introduction of programmed elements that are designed to sound like oscillation “Otsegolation” kicks into life with some more drawn out vocals than the fast paced “I Am”. It’s a fine example of how Static-X manage to keep things fresh with a big sound and repeating groove laiden guitar work. Intro rolled by a sample from the 1990 horror film Begotten, a gory re-imagined retelling of the book of Genesis, “Stem” is a synth heavy almost sleaze rock tune musically. If it wasn’t for Static’s rant vocals that are at odds with the music but in a way that works really well, you might not even realise this was a Static-X track. The big drum sound is there and the synths wash over the gaps in the guitar work like the sea over the sand on a beach but that’s all she wrote.

Stepping back into the album feel with “Sweat of the Bud”, a tune that features a sort of galloped programmed drum sound and the rant vocal style of the earlier material on the album. It also has a bass breakdown that’s accompanied by some black and white horror film crowd screaming to glorious effect. Light on the lyrics and high on the repeat giving it that sing-a-long quality “Fix” calls for just one more fix as an obvious drug reference. A couple of lengthy pick slides and a comedy sample add that sense of fun. Album title track “Wisconsin Death Trip” repeats the styling of the album as a whole summarising it neatly in a single tune. Repeating lyrics with a couple of words changed give the song a trance like vibe which is echoed by the warm industrial sounds in the background. Comparisons to Fear Factory that came around this album were very far fetched. It may well be the only song ever in history to feature the lyric “don’t you sing dong ding dong”. Taking us on a journey to hell with its slow dark and almost monolithic sound that gradually builds “The Trance Is the Motion” sees one of the better vocal performance of the album from Static once again backed by Campos darker screamed growls giving it a second layer of contrast and keeping a sustained level of quality. Dark and science fiction inspired synths bring “December” in from the cold, a longer song originally written for a different project. It’s hypnotic sound is broken by an almost tribal drum pattern before the almost whispered vocals and acoustic guitars of opening verse. Underneath the industrial white noise there is a fairly straightforward rock song but it’s been purposefully masked by other sounds to bring to this album. It’s a final note that in some ways seems out of place but is also a nod to the past work of Wayne Static [8/10]

Track listing

  1. Push It
  2. I’m with Stupid
  3. Bled for Days
  4. Love Dump
  5. I Am
  6. Otsegolation
  7. Stem
  8. Sweat of the Bud
  9. Fix
  10. Wisconsin Death Trip
  11. The Trance Is the Motion
  12. December

“Wisconsin Death Trip” by Static-X has been around for 20 years! Go check it out on a streaming platform near you!

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