1000 Albums Project

ALBUM 124

Wisconsin Death Trip, by Static X
Suggested by Andy Scott-Morrissey

Wayne Static, the flamboyant frontman of Static X, died in 2014 at the age of 48, due to complications and toxicity issues arising from alcohol and prescriptions drugs. At the time of his death, he’d been clean of illegal narcotics for five years.

It’s sad, when someone dies before their time. It’s particularly sad when the death is down to demons that the sufferer thought long vanquished. Defeating a vice (illegal drugs) only to replace it with another (prescription medication) is such a demoralizing way to go, as it’s so perfectly and perilously human. One left instead of right, one shake instead of shimmy, and we’re down in the dark too.

Happily, Static X brought us a slew of albums while Wayne was still with us. Wisconsin Death Trip, their debut from 1999, is my first foray into their world of screaming Industrial Metal.

Industrial Metal is an energetic niche of metallurgy for which I have a particular fondness. Its driving beats and clanging guitar bring the passion and venom of metal, and its no-nonsense aesthetic stops it descending into twiddle-dee-dee guitar-fap or moribund maudlin rock ballad salad. I enjoyed KMFDM earlier in the project, and I’ve a penchant for Rammstein, Nine Inch Nails, and Rob Zombie, so I guess the same will be said for Static X?

Cutting to the chase… Yes. I liked this album a lot.

From the opening snare-into-siren-guitar of Push It to the haunting refrain of the closing track December, Wisconsin Death Trip delivers up some fondant fancies of exciting Industrial sweetness that would melt on the most cynical tongues. The drumming is forceful and thumping, with a dance-style kick driving the songs to the edge and the listeners to the dancefloor. The guitar is a distorted rusty dagger, slashing and stabbing at the speakers, looking to lacerate the silence and leave you scarred and bleeding. The synth electronica brings the industrial beef to the table, merely complementing some tracks yet grandly framing others.

Wayne Static’s vocals are both typical of the genre and blisteringly angry. He maintains a level of intensity throughout, but manages to vary the tone and timbre of both the songs and the singing as to avoid revisiting the archive of stock material and clichés. The Trance is the Motion, for example, is the most straightforward dance-style track on the album, while my favourite is I Am, a choppier affair backed with gunshot drums and excellent rant-rap. No matter how you like your heavy music, there’s a song here for you.

Wisconsin Death Trip gets a grand 8/10 from me. It’s workhouse wild, a pounding anvil, a fiery forge. With six more original era albums in the Static X back catalogue, it’s safe to say that while Wayne Static may be gone, he certainly won’t be forgotten.

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