March 17, 2009

Album review: Static-X - Cult Of Static

Cult of Static, Static-X’s sixth studio release, marks a decade since the band released their debut, Wisconsin Death Trip. One thing is for sure of late, I don’t have to wait long for releases – the band has released three albums in three years, the sandwiched album being Cannibal Killers Live, a box set featuring footage from the tour in support of 2007’s Cannibal. So when Wayne Static, front man and founder, announced in 2008 that a new album was nearing completion and would be released soon, it came as a backhand to the face. I asked myself, do these guys ever stop to smell the roses?

Cult of Static is a reference of thanks to the devoted followers and fans that have supported the band’s efforts to get them where they are today. The first track, “Lunatic,” was released on the Punisher: War Zone soundtrack, and then re-recorded for this album to feature a guitar solo from Megadeth icon Dave Mustaine. The solo seems just slightly thrown in just because they had Mustaine’s partnership (and it sort of was judging how Wayne Static described it in a Headbanger’s Blog interview), but it’s cool nonetheless.

Cult of Static is also somewhat of a symbolic pennant of Wayne Static’s new flame, Tera Wray, former adult film star. Not only is her name in song titles, but she appears to be featured on the artwork front cover – both Wray and Static pose as a crowd of clones of themselves. The first single, “Stingwray,” is really the only song that’s classic Static-X, so it’s no surprise this was the first choice.

That said, the rest of the album is where the direction changes. Not only are the songs darker than before (the band had their blinkers on in Cannibal, but just didn’t make the turn), but they run longer with an epic atmosphere. “Tera-Fied” at over five minutes is the epitome of this including solemn, mysterious synthesizers. With mystifying loops and sounds, intense piston-pumping riffs, “meedley meedley” guitar solos, and powerful, gritty vocals, the “evil disco” sound we strive for is here but with a darker tinge. Static-X have certainly had different sounds over the course of a decade, and Cult of Static remains to differ from anything they’ve done, but it’s all gravy.

March 8, 2009

Album review: Hot Leg - Red Light Fever

The wait, although really not as long as it could have been, for a new album from Justin Hawkins is over. His British Whale synth pop alias was essentially a tease with just two singles released, so the anxiety over more available material has since heightened. Enter Hot Leg, Justin's new band consisting of himself and three friends. They label themselves "man rock," which is amusing but fitting (silly outfits are out, sweatbands and leggings are in). This is Hawkins' baby as he wrote, recorded, and produced everything. And what a beautiful baby it is!

Red Light Fever is arguably deserving of comparison to The Darkness' debut, Permission To Land. The guitar licks, fun, and flamboyancy are all there. The flavor of The Darkness goes wherever Justin Hawkins goes, and further proof exists in what his former band mates have done in Stone Gods - they just aren't the same or as popular without their departed mastermind. Hawkins is carrying Hot Leg on his back now and the band is looking to make their mark in the man rock charts.

Some songs which sound Darkness-esque, "Cocktails" and "Gay In The 80s" as two examples, are actually both co-written by Chas Bayfield, an unknown friend/writer of sorts. Was he around in The Darkness days? "Cocktails" is a very catchy song, but don't allow yourself to be caught singing the chorus aloud... `Cock [cock]/ Cock, cock, cock, cocktails/ Cock [cock]/ Cock, cock, cock, cocktails.' And then you have uncharacteristic songs like "Ashamed" featuring Beverlei Brown harmonizing with Hawkins, "Trojan Guitar," described as a medieval five-minute-plus epic, and "Kissing In The Wind," a relatively mellow album closer.

There are actually several outtake songs which would be fantastic as a part of Red Light Fever, but a few are offered as freebies from the band's website. Check those out, let Hot Leg give you a dose of man rock, and prepare to be swooned with this album.