The Rickety Old Shack

Static-X — Wisconsin Death Trip

album cover

In the 5 years since the death of Wayne Static, I had not thought about Static-X much. The last thing I recall listening to was Wayne's debut solo effort, Pighammer (review) which came out in 2011. It was only when the remaining members of the band announced a forthcoming posthumous album and tour in celebration of Wisconsin Death Trip's 20th anniversary that I was prompted to revist their work. In my formative years, Static-X was actually a very prominent band in my regular music rotation for about half-a-decade.

While a fair amount of the music I grew up listening to has either aged well or is at least still tolerable, I'm always a little hesitant to walk down memory lane. Even in the cases of music not being outright unlistenable, there is often a lot of cringing as I reflect on how sophomoric and immature a lot of the nu metal and alt-rock of that era was. Much to my pleasant surprise, Static-X's debut album has fared rather well. Despite coming up in the era of nu metal, Static-X didn't indulge in rap-rock and were much less commercially motivated in their pursuit of a hybrid sound of their own — blending industrial and metal music. At the time I considered them a futuristic reincarnation of White Zombie and I still stand by that.

Static-X never blew up nearly as big as their contemporaries in Korn, Limp Bizkit or even System Of A Down, but they all exploded into the mainstream around the same time. I can't remember which of those bands' album it was, but I discovered Static-X via the "shout outs" section of the liner notes that came with a CD I bought in 2000. I downloaded "Push It" and was instantly hooked on the band's shtick and that was that. The band's sound is still remarkably current, and Wisconsin Death Trip's production is still holds up — it's clean and slick without taking the life out of the performances. The guitars are razor-sharp and crunchy, laying down really catchy grooves that drive each track forward. The inclusion of synths and samples helps flesh out the rhythm-heavy material — which lacks guitar solos and features minimal leads — and give things some sonic depth.

Aside from very thin drum machines that are almost constantly overpowered in the mix, Wisconsin Death Trip doesn't sound dated or inferior by today's standards. Wayne Static's unique vocal tone and the band's knack for writing catchy, aggressive guitar grooves established a really strong formula which was developed over the course of the their existence. Static-X would stray a bit from what you hear on Wisconsin Death Trip, but they never wandered too far off the path they set out on. This record runs just under 44 minutes, and is virtually devoid of any wasted time. "Stem" is a bit a meandering slog, featuring a droning background instrumental and screamed vocals that get tiresome in short order. I'd cut that track — all 2:55 of it — but otherwise the rest of the album is effectively perfect.

Static-X crafted a brand of industrial metal that perfectly straddled the line between aggressive and catchy. Wisconsin Death Trip was one of many albums that shaped my enjoyment and understanding of music, and I am happy to report that I can still enjoy it two decades later. This is a fun, high-energy record that hasn't lost any of its shine.

Summary

Of all the music to come out of the late-90s, Static-X enjoyed modest success with their brand of "evil disco," a marriage of synths and keyboards with crunchy, infectious riffs. Wisconsin Death Trip was a tremendous debut record in its day, and the material still holds up decades later. Heavy music that operated just outside the radio-friendly sphere of its day, this record hasn't gotten any softer with age. If you liked this back in the day, I suspect that will still be the case. If you've never heard this album, I'd highly recommend it if you're curious about late-90s / early-millennium music.

Album Information

Release date: March 23rd, 1999
Record label: Warner Brothers Records

Wayne Static — lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Koichi Fukuda — lead guitar, keyboards, programming
Tony Campos — bass, backing vocals
Ken Jay — drums, percussion

Track Listing

  1. Push It
  2. I'm With Stupid
  3. Bled For Days
  4. Love Dump
  5. I Am
  6. Ostegolation
  7. Stem
  8. Sweat Of The Bud
  9. Fix
  10. Wisconsin Death Trip
  11. The Trance Is The Motion
  12. December

—by Derek

Published: March 26th, 2019.