Review Summary: In 1999 Static-X crafted a fantastic debut, one they haven't matched in quality since.
The late 90s were an interesting time. Korn and Limp Bizkit were fighting “boy bands” like NSYNC and Backstreet Boys for the top of the charts, 90s alternative was starting to trail off, and Carson Daly was relevant. Nu-metal was reaching an apex, and with its popularity came a shift in the radio landscape. Stations were forced to play songs that they normally wouldn’t due to the demand for these heavier songs and one of the bands that benefited most from this change was Static-X. While being more industrial than nu, they were able to use the push for nu-metal to get their music to a wider audience. Wisconsin Death Trip
came out in March ’99, perfect timing for an album full of hard-driving guitars and industrial samples and programming, complete with a distinct lack of singing.
Wisconsin Death Trip
is an album that succeeds on the sheer catchiness of its songs. “Push It,” which became the biggest hit for the band, showcases those strengths perfectly, keeping a high intensity throughout its two and a half minutes. Static-X definitely is more at home when going full-blast, showcased in songs like “Love Dump,” “I Am,” and the title track. Wayne Static’s vocals are unique and show a fair amount of range, hitting some fantastic highs and a surprisingly ripe lower register. What Static does is more akin to screams than anything else, however he is very easy to understand and never gets to the point where he is purely growling. The electronics add to each song, creating an interesting sense of atmosphere throughout the album. The drumming is never anything fantastic, however Ken Jay keeps a steady groove throughout the songs. Campo’s bass is always audible and at times highlighted in the production. One of the songs where Campos is most prevalent is in “Trance Is The Motion,” possibly the best song on the album, as it starts off slowly and builds to a heavy middle and end that doesn’t let up.
Where the album starts to falter is in the middle and with the final track, where things slow down a bit. As earlier mentioned, Static-X thrives when going all out, so when they slow things down is where they become a little unsure of where to go. “Otsegolation” and “Stem” kill the momentum that is achieved through the first half of the album, and the closing track “December” is six minutes that go absolutely nowhere, creating a very anticlimactic end to an otherwise strong album. Another thing that is a bit of a negative is the fact that the guitars never go beyond simple power chords, simply keeping a groove in the song and never going above and beyond at any point.
Static-X’s debut was a case of right sound at the right time in terms of its popularity. Wisconsin Death Trip
ended up going platinum, becoming the only Static-X album to do so. This album also saw guitarist Koichi Fukuda leave, not fully returning as songwriter until 2007’s Cannibal
. The loss of Fukuda really effected the quality of Static-X’s output, with the next three albums not coming close to Wisconsin Death Trip
in terms of critical or commercial reception. The commerciality was bound to fail as nu-metal was disappearing from airwaves, being replaced by the radio rock of bands such as Nickelback and Three Days Grace. Static-X would never regain the popularity that met Wisconsin Death Trip
, which is just as well because it is the best thing they ever released.