Apr 2023 05

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Although this writer does not have a fond affinity for nü-metal, particularly during the genre’s initial impact in the mid-’90s to the early-’00s, it was a still a means for metal as a whole to being embracing new formulas and sounds – hip-hop rhythms, distorted electronics, samples, metallic percussion, noise, and more found their way into the style, with several bands even blurring the lines of alternative and industrialized metal to create something unique to themselves. One such band was Static-X with a brand of aggressive yet melodic machine-driven nü-metal that has come to be known as “evil disco.”
Following the death of founding member Wayne Static in late 2014, the surviving members – bassist Tony Campos, drummer Ken Jay, and guitarist Koichi Fukuda – took some time to mourn before deciding to carry on their late comrade’s creative legacy, recruiting the enigmatic figure known as Xer0 to take on lead vocals as they celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the band’s 1999 Wisconsin Death Trip debut with an extensive and highly successful tour. Although the pandemic would derail touring for quite some time, Static-X at last returned to the road in 2023 for the Rise of the Machines Tour in support of the 2020 Project Regeneration Vol. 1 album, as well as to celebrate their own electronic and industrial forms of metal with fellow practitioners of the style. ReGen Magazine was pleased to be in attendance of a sold-out show at Baltimore’s eminent Soundstage.

First to take the stage was Society 1, and given the band’s notorious reputation, there was a palpable curiosity at how this abrasive Hollywood shock rock act would fare at this all-ages event. Those with a more conservative mindset would likely find very little comfort in the fact that front man Matt Zane did not at any point reveal his genitalia or brandish his ass for the crowd to see, although his masturbatory hand motions with the microphone (including its well-endowed stand) and fiery tongue gyrations were still enough to warrant at the very least a modest blush from some of the parents at the show with their kids. However, looking past the lasciviousness of the band’s lyrics, Zane even going so far as to clarify the meaning behind the song title of “Fornicate,” behind the filth was a no-holds-barred rock band with a profound onstage energy. Zane could barely be bothered to hold still, jumping and flinging himself all up and down the stage with an almost acrobatic mania, flanked by the requisite mannequins, guitarist Erik Kluiber shredding fiery solos across straightforward riffs, Jimmy Minj appearing almost as monolithic as his bass lines, and drummer Dagon Destroyer blasting away on the drums with a precision to match the shrill if sparse electronic backing tracks. Dagon was even given a moment to unleash a high-octane drum solo that proved a major highlight of the performance. The same can be said for songs like the blasphemous crawl of “Slacker Jesus” or the battering ram belligerence of “Hate,” “God to You,” “Get Up Again,” and “Everyone Dies (Rock Stars Don’t Count).” Without descending too far into pornographic excess, and even being gracious enough to give ReGen a shoutout (thanks, Matt!), Society 1 was still positively vulgar as Zane and company absolutely embraced the opening slot, doing well to prime the audience for what was yet to come from the other bands.
Of course, even with the relative austerity of the stage visuals and setup, Society 1 is a tough act to follow, but longtime friends and industrial/nü-metal veterans DOPE put forth quite the effort. Tried and true, the band’s onstage presence and energy is as it ever was, with Edsel Dope’s personable yet still confrontational demeanor shining through in his banter with the audience; never one to shun his past, he certainly did well to play up his image as the consummate degenerate rock star, with Virus ever the wildcard on the guitar, often stealing the gaze of the audience with his riffs and his movements; the same could be said for drummer Racci Shay. There was a certain dubious delight in hearing Edsel refer to “Die MF Die” as “the most offensive song” of the evening, while other songs like “Debonaire,” “Bitch,” “Violence,” “Burn,” and “I’m Back” remain as lyrically inflammatory as ever.
Known as much if not more for elaborate masks and costumes as for the music, Mushroomhead took to the stage next, and it was clearly not lost on the band that it was St. Patrick’s Day. Contrary from the cuddly version of the Irish folk creature most are accustomed to, each of the band members were donning a somewhat demonic rendition of a Leprechaun, which certainly played into Mushroomhead’s renowned sense of brazen flippancy – oh, it was humorous enough, and the audience seemed receptive to it, the overall presentation complete with predominantly green lighting and water that splashed golden with each drumbeat. However, not being as familiar with the band’s oeuvre, and having a very particular aversion to Leprechauns, this writer can’t comment any further on Mushroomhead’s performance… well, other than the impress of one of the vocalists engaging in some crowd surfing.
The lights dim, the air grows as cold as the mechanical heartbeats heard in the familiar rhythm of Brad Fiedel’s theme for The Terminator, and the masters of cybermetal triumphantly take to the stage. It has been some time since we’ve seen Fear Factory onstage, and from the chatter among the crowd, anticipation was high not only to see and hear the band again, but most especially how new vocalist Milo Silvestro would fare. Admittedly, he has some big shoes to fill… and boy, does he fill them. From the onset of the opening “Shock” and “Edgecrusher,” he demonstrates the vocal prowess of a seasoned veteran, so masterfully vacillating between guttural roars and soaring clean melodies that only the most ardent skeptic would insist that the band was simply utilizing the original recording. However, for as much as his appearance and his performance pays homage to his predecessor, right down to whipping the mic to the audience for the “SNAP” in “Edgecrusher,” he infuses just enough of his own affectations to prove that we are seeing and hearing the genuine article. Only very occasionally wavering, but never missing the notes, he simply nails it!
This is not to discount the rest of the band by any stretch, for the machine-gun rapidity and automaton-like precision of Dino Cazares’ riffing remains as impressive now as when the band first emerged three decades ago. With Mike Heller unable to make the tour, Pete Webber’s service in thrash metal act Havok serves Fear Factory well, providing the heart-pounding pulse along with Tony Campos’ subsonic bass assaults. We only get “Disruptor” from the most recent album, Aggression Continuum, the remainder of the set opting primarily for tried and true entries in the band’s discography like “Powershifter,” “What Will Become?,” “Dielectric,” and a trio of hits from Demanufacture. Cazares expressed on social media his pleasure with that album’s lasting impact, the audience still going moshpit mad for “Demanufacture,” “Zero Signal,” and “Replica.” But it was the presence of “Archetype” that proved a welcome surprise, the title track from one of the two albums created during Cazares’ absence from Fear Factory – a point of some contention for both him and fans. Oh, it fits well enough in the set list, but with lyrics like “The infection has been removed / the soul of this machine has improved” originally written in the wake of Cazares’ departure, one can detect a snarky bit of irony there. Regardless, Fear Factory simply hit right on target, leaving one last machine to rise.
For a moment, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the venue’s sound engineer had accidentally raised the channel from his personal playlist as “Time Warp” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show blasted through the speakers. It doesn’t take long for the audience to join in singing along, but as the tape winds down and the pulsations of robotic ambience fill the air, spectrally augmented by the large multi-tiered projections evoking a cybernetic backdrop, a figure clad in a lab coat and with a giant metallic X for a head appears on the stage and begins to rile the crowd. The band arrives to the throbbing electronics of “Permanence,” with Koichi Fukuda’s scratches and stabs of guitar joined by Ken Jay’s drumming and Tony Campos’ bass… and then Xer0 appears. Those who recall his appearance on the Wisconsin Death Trip anniversary tour will notice something’s different: no longer does the mask resembling Wayne Static look like it was grafted onto his skull from recycled flesh… he is now a fully-fledged cyborg, eyes red and ablaze like laser sights, his hair now made of wires, and his stance and his voice sounding even closer to the late front man. Speculations and supposedly definitive claims as to who Xer0 is under the mask are irrelevant – as he has explained, the purpose was to remove himself from the equation, donning the visage of Wayne Static to honor him and his legacy without calling attention to his own identity. So now, we see the transition from a zombie-like image to that of an automaton, serving the theme of the tour… it’s a rather simple device that was quite striking to behold.
The venue was filled to capacity, with virtually everyone in attendance absorbing the onslaught of evil disco beats and riffs launched with the precision and focus of a machine hellbent on destroying their synapses with a veritable hits set that appropriately begins with a block from the sophomore album, 2001’s Machine. Only “Terminator Oscillator” offered from the Project Regeneration Vol. 1 album, the set included such gems as “Structural Defect,” “Black and White,” “Love Dump,” “Fix,” “Bled For Days,” “Destroy All,” “Get to the Gone,” and more. Things quiet down for a moment as Tony Campos and Xer0 address the audience with a tribute to Wayne Static, leading to the final triptych of “Cold,” “I’m with Stupid,” and concluding with the song that started it all. As stated earlier, this was an all-ages show, so while the crowd joined in the guttural refrains, one could only smile at the sight of a nine- or 10-year-old child decked out in Static-X hat and hoodie, screaming along to each iteration of “Push It!”
As throngs of fans began to close out their bar tabs and retreat to the merch booths at the back of the venue to make their purchases and hopefully grab a selfie with any of the night’s performers, there was a very palpable air of satisfaction… a good time was surely had by all. Put simply, the machines rose to the occasion, and dystopia has rarely looked or sounded so good.


Article by Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
Photography by Tabetha Patton (MizTabby)






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Fear Factory
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Society 1
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