STATIC-X / SOIL / WEDNESDAY 13 / DOPE - O2 Institute, Birmingham 04.10.19

PAUL MORGAN

PHOTO CREDITS: KS PHOTOGRAPHY 

It’s 6.45 pm by my watch as the first band hit the stage and the venue is already packed. Alternative metal band DOPE from New York City open the proceedings this evening.

The band’s logo shines prominently from the screen at the back of the stage, the lights dim and the band go straight into their first track, vocalist Edsel Dope pausing to announce “you know we’re all going to hell tonight” as he stands on the front monitor confidently before breaking into the second song of their set ‘6 6 Sick’ which picks up the pace considerably and the crowd are already going wild. The front-man shouts “Fuck tomorrow” as they launch into ‘Spine For You’ where the crowd are encouraged to sing along the refrain and then urging everyone to “start some shit” for the highlight of the set ‘Die Mother Fucker, Die’ which is clearly a fan favourite.

The whole thing is very true to form for the late '90s and the band are unabashedly a product of that time. Announcing the last number as “The stupidest song ever” we get an entertaining cover of ‘You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)’ which the band makes their own. A good opening performance from a band that’s not used to being first on the bill and they have definitely done their job of warming up the room.

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‘Hells Bells’ by AC/DC is playing out as our eye is cast towards the stage at the big luminous green logo of the next band that’s illuminating the room. Creepy musician Joseph Michael Poole or WEDNESDAY 13 as he’s better known and his band are about to get their “grave on”. The former frontman of the Murderdolls, the punky element of the sound from that band has been removed planting this somewhere firmly between Alice Cooper and Rob Zombie. 

The band open with ‘Necrophaze’, the title track of their new album, including its campy tales from the crypt style intro featuring narration by Alice Cooper himself and boasting John Carpenter-style synths. WEDNESDAY is kitted out in luminous headgear which is sculpted like a human head which he swings about as he creeps around the stage. He strips down a layer to reveal black body paint with UV stripes and is brandishing an axe for the second song ‘Zodiac’. He has a fascinating stage presence and a ton of personality. 3rd song, 3rd outfit. He appears in a cowl with a hook in his hand, kind of like a spooky shepherd for the fist-pumping song ‘Hail Ming’, any Flash Gordon fans in the house? The band themselves are tight and well-rehearsed.

Clearly, Zombie’s music is a big influence on the bands new sound, it’s bouncy and spooky and with the added theatrics of the live show, it’s highly enjoyable. The perfect band for October with Halloween just around the corner. WEDNESDAY takes out an umbrella featuring a design of a middle finger that he opens up for final song ‘I Love To Say Fuck’. Doesn’t he know it’s bad luck to open an umbrella indoors?!

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The logo for SOIL appears next on the screen, hailing from Chicago, they have a signature American hard rock sound dipped in some nu-metal angst. They arrive on stage to thunderous applause and their first song ‘Dragging Me Down’ is a popular choice from their breakthrough album ‘Scars’. Vocalist Ryan McCombs has a strong, powerful voice with a grunginess to it which still holds up after all these years. It’s all hair and sweat from the rest of the band putting in a worthy performance with a big stadium rock sound. They soak up the applause of an adoring crowd with glee and huge grins on their faces. Ryan geeing the crowd up whenever he can “This is a rock show, get your fucking fists in the air…” 

A superb performance of ‘Unreal’ brings the memories flooding back as the crowd clap along. Then briefly teasing that they’re leaving as the lights are turned down on the stage before returning and launching into floor filler ‘Halo’ and then a bit of ‘Black Betty’, the tried and tested Ram Jam classic to finish off the set with a southern flavour. As they leave the stage, Ryan respectfully highlighting to the crowd “the music starts with you…”

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Time for what everyone has been waiting for. STATIC-X originally formed in 1994 by the sadly departed Wayne Static. The band offered up something different amidst all the down-tuned nu-metal that was dominating the scene at the time, playing an industrial, machine-like groove with big catchy choruses and lyrics that any misfit of society could relate too.

As the lights dim, a pulsating droning sound plays out while the band logo slowly appears through the fog on the screen. Old images of the bands' faces are flashed up before us and there is a big rousing cheer when the light shines on Wayne’s face for the first time. The drone descends into white noise and the silhouettes of the band become visible through the bright blue backlight, the shape of the man only known as Xer0, could shockingly be Wayne himself as all we see is the cut out shape of the big spiky hair, as the lights come on we can see the vocalist/ guitarist slightly controversially wearing a skin-like mask that’s stitched together to look like Wayne’s face - think Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the band assure this is all done in good humour and the former frontman would have loved it).

Opening tonight with ‘Bled For Days’ off debut album ‘Wisconsin Death Trip’, the album that this tour marks the 20th anniversary of, (man, I feel old) and we get quite a few tracks from this including some lesser-known ones, ‘Wisconsin Death Trip’, ‘Fix’, ‘Sweat Of The Bud’, ‘Love Dump’, ‘I Am’ and ‘Otsegolation’ all follow consecutively. The screens show lawnmower-man-esque computer-generated images while the band play through their catchy industrial-tinged nu-metal. Xer0, although not replicating Wayne’s on-stage charisma, does a good job of bringing the music to life, both in way of guitar and vocals. 

Seasoned musician Tony Campus relentlessly lays down one thumping bassline after another, guitarist Koichi Fukuda is clearly glad to be performing this material again as he gleefully jumps around and gestures at the crowd while drummer Ken Jay consistently and efficiently hammers out mechanical beats. It’s worth noting that the all-important samples are always prominent enough to not get lost in the mix as well. As the band begin the song ‘Trance Is In Motion’ memorial pictures of Wayne are thrust upon us as a reminder of his death in 2014 followed by the message “make some noise” which everyone duly obliges. Xer0 being respectful to his role and paying his dues to this anniversary and showing much love for Wayne’s memory while encouraging the crowd to give it up for their hero. 

We get some tracks off the ‘Machine’ album, ’Get To The Gone’ and ‘Black and White’ where the crowds singing becomes louder than the band on stage and this is soon followed by ‘This Is Not’, before they blast through some of the later material in their back catalogue - ‘Destroy All’, ‘Start A War’ and ‘Behemoth’ all chug along nicely but sadly there was no ‘Cannibal’, one of my favourites.

Breaking into club favourite ‘Cold’ and we have another montage of Wayne as the crowd sings along “Cold you’re so cold… “. We also get treated to the classic ‘I'm With Stupid’ as a whole room of people shouts “he’s a loser” at each other before bass player Tony Campos takes a moment to thank the crowd and introduce the band members before surging into final track ‘Push It’. The crowd, of course, laps it up!

It might not be quite the same without the main guy but it’s all performed with great energy and positivity and we walk away glad that Wayne graced us with his musical excellence and charisma before he sadly shuffled off this mortal coil. I’m happy to say he won’t be forgotten any time soon, his music is just as vital as it was 20 years ago.

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