The Rickety Old Shack

Static-X — Machine

album cover

Since I first heard their debut album, Wisconsin Death Trip (review), Static-X have been a band I always find myself going back to. As time passes — and my music collection continues to grow at an alarming rate — I do this less often, although not due to any issues with the band's work. Where Wisconsin Death Trip is most memorable to me due to the first impression the band left on me with the catchy, hard-driving main riff of lead single "Push It," their sophomore album is even more prominent in my memory. Even 18 years later, my initial thoughts on Machine are as vivid and powerful as ever.

Back in mid-2001, I got my hands on a copy of this album in advance of its release date. This was back in a time when albums were sold almost exclusively as physical copies, which meant retail product was stored in warehouses for weeks before their release. This meant that records leaked with extreme regularity; until I bought my legit copy, I was listening to a CD-R copy of Machine in my Sony Discman for weeks at a time. If I close my eyes and think hard about it, I can almost transport myself back to that summer. The reasons Static-X and their sophomore album are so interwined with those memories are twofold. For one, the record is excellent, the second reason is that Machine ended up being the soundtrack to my first hangover.

Near the end of my grade 12 year of school, I was slowly shedding my straight edge leanings. This culminated in a night where a friend — who I still keep in touch with — and I got ruinously drunk. This was my first time drinking and I had not learned important lessons like: if you can't lift the drinking glass anymore, you don't need a straw — you needed to stop a half-hour ago. The night culminated in a combination of awkward conversations about a girl we both liked, my vomitting all over a play structure in a public park and making the ingenious decision to start smoking cigarettes. I managed to make my way home in the wee hours of the morning and get an insufficient amount of sleep. I awoke in the morning because the birds outside my closed windows were too loud. I had to work in a couple of hours and felt like I'd been pulled face-first through a keyhole.

After summoning enough energy to tolerate the fact that everything was too bright or too loud, I made my way to work. I grabbed the aforementioned Discman and began my walk. I don't know if I knew what CD I had in the player, but it was obvious right away as the intro track of Machine, "Bien Venidos," lead into the the thunderous and pummeling opening bars of "Get To The Gone." I already felt like I'd been hit in the face with a sledgehammer, so this was like a 1-2 punch. I was rattled, but I kept listening anyway. I didn't last long at work, shockingly, and was mercifully sent home as I was functionally useless. Eating canteloupe hurt, to give you an idea as to how functional I was that day. I listened to Machine again on the walk back home. I felt like utter crap but couldn't get enough of the album, even in such a terrible state.

That memory will likely never leave me, and neither will my enjoyment of this album. As a follow-up to a commercially successful release, it missed the mark somewhat — Machine is by far the band's heaviest offering with the most screamed vocals by far. Still, the album features moments of reprieve and everything grooves hard like one would expect from Static-X. Everything's heavier and more aggressive, but it's obviously still the same band as before — minus founding guitarist Koichi Fukuda, however. The production value is increased, with Ken Jay's drums sounding a lot harder and more organic than the triggered sample replacements used on Wisconsin Death Trip. Wayne's trademarked rhythm style is present as always, and his voice handles the screaming fury of tracks like "This Is Not" and the subdued "Cold" perfectly.

While most immediately think of Wisconsin Death Trip, when Static-X is mentioned, this record is severely underrated. At a time when literally every single band interview included the statement "this next album is our heaviest to date," Static-X actually delivered on this promise. Machine retains the essence that made Static-X unique without rehashing everything from their previous album. The whole album is excellent, from cover-to-cover, without a single bad track to be found. The band's industrial metal sound remains fresh and compelling, even 18 years after the fact. Infectious, rhythm-driven material layered with keyboards and synths, while still retaining a sense of humanity, this is Static-X on point.

Summary

A very strong sophomore effort and an often overlooked entry in the Static-X discography. Machine is the band's heaviest album, packed full of engaging, hard-hitting material that still sounds very much like Static-X. "This Is Not," "Cold," and "Black And White" were all well-received singles from the album but the whole record is well worth your time. Industrial metal at its finest, Machine drops some of the commercial accessibility in favour of sonic violence to great effect.

Album Information

Release date: May 22nd, 2001
Record label: Warner Brothers Records

Wayne Static — lead vocals, guitars, keyboards, programming
Tony Campos — bass, backing vocals
Ken Jay — drums
Koichi Fukuda — additional keyboards (track 6)
Ulrich Wild — production, keyboards, programming

Track Listing

  1. Bien Venidos
  2. Get To The Gone
  3. Permanence
  4. Black And White
  5. This Is Not
  6. Otsego Undead
  7. Cold
  8. Structural Defect
  9. Shit In A Bag
  10. Burn To Burn
  11. Machine
  12. A Dos Alma Perdida

—by Derek

Published: April 11th, 2019.