Calling Static-X the Terminator of contemporary rock music may seem like an obvious comparison: The band’s blunt-force-trauma melding of industrial rock, thrash metal and futuristic disco is nothing if not cybernetic. But when you look back at Static-X’s 13-year legacy, the comparison goes well beyond the musical: Since the 1999 release of their platinum-certified Warner Bros. debut, Wisconsin Death Trip, the Los Angeles quartet have weathered musical trends, survived lineup shifts, and even severed longtime creative partnerships to emerge as the streamlined metallic machine they are today; and with their fifth studio album, Cannibal, they sound positively indestructible.
Comprising 12 of the harshest, most stripped-down tracks Static-X have ever recorded, Cannibal also finds frontman Wayne Static & Co. sounding leaner and meaner than they have in years—a change the vertical-haired guitarist, vocalist and chief songwriter attributes to the back-to-basics approach they took to recording the album. “From the recording process to the way it turned out, this record feels old-school for us,” Static explains. “I think it’s the most metal record we’ve ever made, and it’s arguably the heaviest record we’ve ever made. The last few records found us going in a slightly different direction; this one makes no compromises, and when people hear it, I think they’re going to go, “Whoa, cool! Static-X is back.”
Static X Of course, Static-X never really took a break: In fact, from 2005’s Start a War onward, the quartet have grown tighter, busier and more road-ready than ever, with original lead guitarist Koichi Fukuda (who last appeared on Wisconsin Death Trip) returning to the fold after a four-year split and former touring drummer Nick Oshiro (ex-Seether) committing to the band full-time. Rounded out by original bassist Tony Campos, who pulls double-duty in the industrial/death-metal all-star project Asesino, this lineup saw a successful 2005-2006 not only on tour, where they headlined U.S. and Pacific Rim stages alongside Ill Niño and Opiate for the Masses, but also in stores. Start a War had two singles hit the Billboard Top 30 and two more land on the soundtracks to the video games Need for Speed: Most Wanted and WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2006, and Cannibal’s face-ripping “No Submission” landed, fittingly, on the Saw III soundtrack and gave fans an early taste of the album to come. Still, Wayne remarks, “We’ve never had the same lineup for two albums in a row, so despite the success we’ve had, keeping everyone together is a huge win in itself. Actually having Koichi around has allowed us to have real guitar solos on the new songs.” He laughs. “Even though we’ve got three-quarters of the original lineup today, we’ve been through a lot of changes to get back to this point.”
While it may seem strange that such positive energy could lead to an album as furious-sounding as Cannibal, as Static explains it, the newfound stability allowed him to go back to the process of writing music for fun—although, granted, his idea of a good time may be a bit harsher and louder than most people’s. “When I was getting into more melodic stuff, like I did on the last two records [Start a War and 2003’s Shadow Zone], I enjoyed it; it was challenging for me,” he says. “But with this record, I had a good time just getting back to balls-out screaming and challenging myself vocally, as well as in the songwriting. I felt like I was back working on Wisconsin Death Trip, where I focused on stripping away the excess as much as possible to write short, simple, catchy songs.”
Static XGetting those songs to tape would require another change in the band: breaking with longtime producer Ulrich Wild—who, in addition to mixing Shadow Zone, had produced every Static-X studio album to date, including the band’s platinum-certified debut and gold-certified follow-up, Machine. “Ulrich and I have worked together so much that we know what we’re going to do before we even step into a room together,” Static says. “Building a new relationship with someone opened up new doors that may not have been opened otherwise.” So for Cannibal, Static teamed with producer/engineer John Travis (Kid Rock, Buckcherry). “I had a vision for this record, which is why I wanted to produce it myself,” Static says. “I wanted it to be really dry and in-your-face, but still really huge; in terms of inspiration, I was thinking AC/DC’s Back in Black: how it’s just, boom! Right there, live-sounding—not a bunch of reverb; not a bunch of room sound—and John helped me realize that goal.”
From the throat-shredding title track/lead single to the asymmetric industrial thrash of “Reptile,” the results are some of the most energized, stripped-down and, as expected, in-your-face music in Static-X’s arsenal. The band’s classic “evil disco” sound pulsates through the throat-punching grooves of “Destroyer,” “Goat” and “Electric Pulse,” imagining a packed dancefloor in hell’s sub-basement; while the punch-press drumming and serrated riffs of bruisers such as “Chemical Logic” and “Forty Ways” make even the heaviest tracks on Wisconsin Death Trip sound like pop singles in comparison.
“I think this is our most simple and direct record, as well as our rawest, and it was definitely intentional to keep every song that way,” Static explains, adding that his stripping away the excess extended all the way down to Cannibal’s lyrics. “This time, instead of writing about personal or emotional subjects, I’d just take a simple idea and work with it,” he begins. “Like, take ‘Reptile’: I like the word ‘reptile,’ and in that song, I’m literally imagining being eaten alive by some giant reptile.” Similarly, the title track finds Static, a longtime vegetarian, turning the tables on carnivores. “With ‘Cannibal,’ I was thinking of how, when I see people eating these big pieces of meat, it’s really disgusting to me,” he says. “It’s like they could be cannibals; that you could give somebody a piece of a human and they’d eat it and not know the difference. So, with that basic idea in mind, I was able to write the song around it.”
Besides looking ahead to spending the next year on the road in support of Cannibal, the terminally creative Static says he’s already begun writing the band’s next album (one of the benefits of having your own studio); but perhaps more importantly, he’s looking forward to hanging onto the pure, uninhibited energy that brought these current songs into focus. “The simple fact is that I love what I do,” he says. “I love writing; I love touring—I can’t imagine doing anything else.” And as he looks forward to the next stage of Static-X, it’s hard not to return to that old Terminator analogy—or at least to imagine some post-apocalyptic version of the Energizer Bunny: “Look at bands like Slayer, Metallica, Megadeth, Iron Maiden,” Static says “Not to put us in that league, but when I think about our band, that’s how I see us. Our touring just gets stronger every year, and our fans know we’re always going to deliver.” He laughs. “Theoretically, I suppose we could keep going forever.”