Recently I set out to re-rip my music collection in order to re-listen to the mountain of albums that have fallen by the wayside over the last few years. One of the highest peaks belongs to Finland's Sonata Arctica whose pre-Unia material was in desperate need of revisiting but another substantial peak belongs to Static-X. My interest in Static-X actually began with my opposition to their material. A few years ago when employed at a local electroplating plant my supervisor would play their music all day long and, being the semi-lovable jerk he was, would not allow anyone else to have access to the stereo. As you'd expect I became pretty well versed in most of the band's greater known pieces but one day this came to abrupt end. Due to some personal issues my supervisor would resign and take his iron-fisted rule over the radio with him. As you would expect it was nice to have some (shared) control over the radio after that point and not have to listen to the same thing all day but slowly but surely I started to miss those Static-X songs I had heard a million times. Thus it was my turn to explore the music for myself.
Knowing what I know now, I can safely say that I'm glad I took the time to do just that because while my former boss played a decent sized portion of the band's music his selections only gave me part of picture as he mainly stuck to the tracks that were popular and were used as singles. Hearing all the songs I missed out on due to his selective taste was akin to unearthing a gold mine; there was a lot of material that was really good but not good enough to make it onto his mixed CD's. However, as much as I was enjoying the band's music the upcoming release of Cult of Static presented a unique situation: being able to hear new material at the time of it's release and without any kind of previous exposure.
When Cult of Static dropped in 2009 I think I was really presented with my first Static-X based disappointment. That said, I don't think it all had to do with the album. With past albums I had an idea of what to expect because of other people playing the music. Granted that didn't mean I was going to like the tracks I hadn't heard but it definitely eased the transition. With Cult I was flying much more solo in my interpretation and in the end that probably made my final impression a lot more honest and thorough. I enjoyed quite a few tracks but had to admit some of what was presented didn't really suit me. The same situation applies with Pighammer but this time it's much easier to pinpoint where the experience unravels and why. For the lack of a better description Wayne's effort here can be split into to halves or acts. Ironically, those acts play out in order on the album itself - act one being the first six tracks and part two being everything that follows. The difference between the two is as stark as night and day.
Part one starts off with the obligatory intro that pretty much confirms we're going to hear Wayne's ex-porn star wife on every Static-X/Static-X themed album from here on out. I'm not really annoyed by that but it is pretty unimaginative. Anyway, the first two cuts "Around the Turn" and "Assassins of Youth" are solid (even though I kind of wish the former was a little longer and fleshed out) and the intro of "Assassins" always puts a smile on my face. Not as good but perhaps more important is "Thunder Invader" which has my vote for being a great example of what "Evil Disco" has to offer. It's here where you can really start to detect the comeback of the electronic airs that previous albums put on the backburner and I for one couldn't be more pleased with their return. Rounding out this section is "She" which only reinforces that fact and offers up a fresh (well, fresher) vocal presentation that really adds something to the album.
Unfortunately, as high as the album climbs with the above the remaining tracks only serve to diminish their effect. The main problem - which was actually present above but was brilliantly detracted from - is the lack of speed. Most tracks on Pighammer are mid-tempo or slower and the only real burst of pure adrenaline is "Chrome Nation." The placement of this track really suggests that Wayne was aware of this but the track fails to act in the necessary manner with its odd structure which is unlike any previous material. I wish I could say the last part of the previous sentence was more of a complement but it's not; "Chrome Nation" has noble goals but spins it's conceptual wheels in an effort to give act two some much needed traction which prevents the album from growing some real legs.
Because of this Pighammer more-or-less ends up on equal footing with Cult of Static in that it seems full of promise but only delivers on half the deal. The difference is Cult's problems aren't lumped together and even then it's really hard to describe what's awry. Here the issue(s) are front and center and are easy to detect and results in what could be the most lopsided album in the band... err... act's? history. As negative as that may sound the first half of the album is worth the price of admission and is a great companion piece to any fan's Static-X catalog. Still, it is a shame that this album is only half full as it stands.