The Rickety Old Shack

Static-X — Shadow Zone

album cover

Released a little over 2 years after the band's sophomore effort, Machine (review), industrial metal outfit Static-X experienced some internal friction — which ultimately lead to roster changes — during the creation of that record. For the band's third effort, ex-Dope guitarist Tripp Eisen was enlisted to replace Koichi Fukuda. The abrupt departure of drummer Ken Jay — mere days before the band was due to begin recording the album — resulted in the last-minute hiring of Josh Freese (A Perfect Circle) as a session player. As if a new songwriter and a switch to purely live drums wasn't enough meddling with the band's formula, their record label also forced Static-X to use producer Josh Abraham instead of their long-time collaborator, Ulrich Wild, as they tried to guide the band in a more radio-friendly direction.

The resulting album, Shadow Zone, ended up retaining much of the Static-X identity but was noticeably more melodic and alt-rock than past efforts. The lead-off single, "The Only," is the most obvious example of trying to cram Static-X into the made-for-radio mould of its day. The tune is still heavy and competent, but lacks the aggression and hard-driving rhythm the band was known for. Vocally, Shadow Zone features a lot more clean — albeit heavily processed with reverb — singing and overall less abrasive vocal work from Wayne Static. It doesn't sound bad, but definitely files down the band's rougher edges and somewhat diminishes the band's unique qualities. At one point, on "So," Static sounds eerily like Layne Staley for brief moments, which was also unexpected.

I remember enjoying Shadow Zone quite a bit when it came out; I listened to it semi-regularly for years, along with the band's other 2 records. As time passed, I found myself going back to it less-and-less, opting instead for either Wisconsin Death Trip (review) or Machine, to get a bigger fix the type of sound I'm craving when I decide to blow the dust off a Static-X album. There's a lot to like here, but it pales in comparison to the band's earlier work, even Machine, which was written solely by Static without input from the rest of the band. Shadow Zone still came out too heavy and aggressive to be considered a "sellout" record, but it was the group's shortest — despite featuring more tracks — thus far and lacks any definitive hit songs amongst a collection of respectable efforts.

Overall, I'm still okay with this record; while Shadow Zone didn't age quite as well as a lot of the band's other work, it's still a serviceable release by any measure. If you're an old fan, I'd still recommend going back and giving it a listen. If you're completely new to Static-X, Shadow Zone is probably not the best place to dive in, as it's not the most representative of the band's best attributes — even if it's not totally alien either. Josh Freese's drums are superb and give the material a punch it lacked before, and the song-writing is still packed with quality, stompy riffs. While a lesser album than its predecessors, Shadow Zone still has a lot of merit.

Summary

The third full-length album from industrial metal, AKA "evil disco" purveyors Static-X changes things up quite a bit but still manages to stick a bit of a bumpy landing. Featuring more commercially oriented song writing, Shadow Zone still bangs pretty hard; I if anything the band failed to adequately water themselves down here, as much of the record is more abrasive than most of what you'd hear in the Top 40 rotations of the aughts. I guess there's something to be said for being physically incapable of selling out. Still a good album, just missing some of the character of Wisconsin Death Trip and Machine.

Album Information

Release date: October 7th, 2003
Record label: Warner Brothers Records

Wayne Static — lead vocals, guitar, keyboards, programming
Tripp Eisen — guitar
Tony Campos — bass, backing vocals
Josh Freese — drums
Ken Jay — additional keyboards

Track Listing

  1. Destroy All
  2. Control It
  3. New Pain
  4. Shadow Zone
  5. Dead World
  6. Monster
  7. The Only
  8. Kill Your Idols
  9. All In Wait
  10. Otsegolectric
  11. So
  12. Transmission
  13. Invincible

—by Derek

Published: April 24th, 2019.