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Static-x

Start a War

(Warner Bros.; US: 14 Jun 2005; UK: Available as import)

Sometimes, you just need to sit and absorb a CD in order to appreciate it to its fullest extent. Put on some headphones, listen at a medium volume, try and pick apart the many layers just waiting to be opened. Let it seep into you, gently digging in its claws as you lose yourself in its world.


Other times, you need to turn the stereo to 11 and run around in circles hurling yourself at random inanimate objects, implicitly daring your unsuspecting neighbors to call the cops.


I’ll give you one guess as to which category the new Static-X CD falls into. Hint: You won’t be surprised.


Static-X has been around for six years now, making a surprisingly mainstream splash on the usually well-hidden industrial-metal scene with Wisconsin Death Trip. Some called it death-disco, some called it techno-thrash, but whatever it was, it was oddly catchy and it had a satisfying streak of black humor to go with it. Best of all, Static-X sang some songs about girls, which as we all know, may not be necessary for a shot at success, but it sure doesn’t hurt. In two albums since then, Static-X have tried to recapture the magic of Wisconsin Death Trip, and have succeeded in expanding their horizons, if marginally—what they haven’t managed to do is maintain the buzz that propelled their debut to near-platinum heights.


Start a War is quite obviously a play to regain the momentum of six years ago. Returning to the Static-X fold are Koichi Fukuda on guitars and Ulrich Wild behind the boards, serving as major players in the effort to go back to the glory days, and for the most part, they get it right. Start a War is a raging, rollicking good time that hardly ever pauses to catch a breath. Much as Fukuda and Wild are integral parts of the band’s success, however, it’s dynamic frontman Wayne Static (he of the approximately four-foot beard-to-hair-spike span) that steals the show with his acrobatic vocal turns.


Static has a few different vocal styles, any and all of which could appear in any song, in no particular order. There’s the low growl, the more intense medium growl, and the high-pitched screech, all of which could go into full-fledged rhythmic rant mode at any given time. It may not sound like the three vary all that much, but Static has a knack of knowing when to use one of his three growly voices to best effect. Most notably, however, the use of Static’s singing voice is becoming steadily more prevalent. Even better, his singing voice won’t make you cringe! It’s a relatively thin, reedy sound, but in the endearing way that, say, Gary Numan’s voice is reedy and thin, rather than Simple Plan reedy and thin. Since a comparison to Gary Numan couldn’t possibly be a bad thing, Static’s singing actually works in favor of the album.


Even more effective than Static’s singing voice is the band’s sense of humor. The niftiest song on the album might well be “I Want to Fucking Break It”, which starts with a sample of polka music that shows up intermittently to alternate with the thrash of the rest of the song. Hearing Static scream the title in perfect rhythmic synchronization with that little polka motif is truly one of life’s simpler pleasures. Of course, there is a fourth installment of the “Otsego” series that has graced all of the Static-X album (whose only reason for existence seems to be that “Otsego” is the name of the town Static grew up in), this one called “Otsego Amigo”. This title, admittedly, makes me chuckle. Then, there are the bits of unintentional comedy that come with an album such as this, as when Static offers “I’ll be your piece of ass” in the otherwise decent “Just Incase”. All in all, it’s easy to find yourself laughing while listening to Start a War far more than you likely ever thought you would.


Mostly, though, Start a War is about thrashing and breaking shit.


The first four tracks, which include first single “I’m the One”, are all under three minutes, and all fall into the breakneck Ministry-style industrial-metal category. As the album progresses, the songs slow down, but only for the sake of being loud in different ways that don’t happen to move at speeds faster than the speed limit. “Skinnyman” evokes images of Filter outtakes (which, granted, isn’t necessarily a good thing), and the excellent “Night Terrors” turns up the electronics so that the goth kids have something to dance to on Saturday night. Bottom line, you probably know what you want out of a Static-X disc—with Start a War, that’s exactly what you get, no more, no less.

Rating:

Mike Schiller is a software engineer in Buffalo, NY who enjoys filling the free time he finds with media of any sort -- music, movies, and lately, video games. Stepping into the role of PopMatters Multimedia editor in 2006 after having written music and game reviews for two years previous, he has renewed his passion for gaming to levels not seen since his fondly-remembered college days of ethernet-enabled dorm rooms and all-night Goldeneye marathons. His three children unconditionally approve of their father's most recent set of obsessions.


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