Machine - STATIC-X

With Wayne Static's stand-up hair and exaggerated, one-dimensional vocal growl, STATIC-X has been in danger of becoming a cartoon metal band for some time — this despite the fact that the band's 1998 debut, Wisconsin Death Trip, was a propulsive, heavy affair in the vein of classic WHITE ZOMBIE. On the band's long-awaited second effort, Machine, they've jettisoned some of the loop-happy style of that first record for a greater emphasis on real-sounding drums and a more live-in-the-studio feel. But despite an assortment of brutal riffs and relentless grooves, Machine still sounds like a market research version of an industrial-tinged metal band — not a living, breathing group of musicians.

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Wayne's bark, which alternates with disembodied whispers out of a Vincent Price movie, delivers everything on one level, offering nothing in the way of range or real emotion. Only "Cold" manages to break ever so slightly out of the formula, giving just a hint of diversity with its slower tempo and stabs at melody. To be sure, songs like "Permanence" and "Ostego Undead" (which first appeared on the Dracula 2000 soundtrack) rock hard in a direct, simplistic, and effective fashion. But once you get past the admittedly powerful thump and grind of the music, STATIC-X ends up sounding like a mechanized version of a real band — wind 'em up and watch 'em play. Machine lives up to its title in ways that the band probably didn't expect.

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