The decision for bands to carry on, hang it up or split into various factions after their singer has passed on to the afterlife is a fragile one unique to each artist. Whatever the verdict, it’s often met with scorn, hesitation and critics volunteering their opinions to the nth degree.
There are the bands whose frontmen were so iconic that carrying on would have been sacrilegious. Think Nirvana and Motorhead. There are those who took several years to mourn, decide and eventually return as respectfully as possible such as Alice In Chains. Others enlisted guests vocalists to honor and memorialize their fallen leader such as Dio Disciples singers Tim “Ripper” Owens and Oni Logan, occasionally aided by Mark Boals and Toby Jepson, ensuring that the music of Ronnie James Dio lives on.
The most famous gamble of all also became the most historic, as AC/DC’s replacement of Brian Johnson for the late Bon Scott carried the band into another stratosphere of success it already enjoyed with Scott.
Then there’s the unprecedented method employed by Static-X. Honoring the legacy that ended in 2014 with the death of singer/guitarist Wayne Static, original members Tony Campos (bass), Koichi Fukuda (guitars) and Ken Jay (drums) resurrected the band this year to honor Static and celebrate 20 years of first album Wisconsin Death Trip. The catch is that not only has the touring vocalist remained unidentified, he is wearing a mask of Static’s facial likeness and patented spiked hair.
Static-X’s choice of how to proceed beyond Static has been much-maligned within the metal industry. But not on Sunday, June 23, at the Aztec Theatre. A nearly sold-out theatre jumped, pumped and rocked to the album’s complete performance plus songs from second effort Machine in welcoming the new masked vocalist/guitarist with open arms and loud crowd participation (see 107-photo slideshow and ATM video footage below). As Campos introduced the band, he labeled masked wonder Xer0 as hailing “from parts unknown.” What’s mainly a mystery, however, is whether the persistent rumors that Xer0 is Dope singer Edsel Dope are accurate.
It would make sense. Taking care to cover his likely tattooed arms with full-length sleeves, Xer0 could very well be Edsel Dope for a pair of reasons: both singers have similar tall, lanky frames. And Dope is already one of the four support acts on the bill, carefully placed in the middle of the program perhaps to allow DevilDriver’s 50-minute set after Dope and prior to Static-X ample time for Dope’s namesake to rest between double duty each night. And if those two reasons aren’t convincing enough, Edsel Dope cited multiple tours his band went on with Static-X, and how he considered Wayne Static a close friend, as Dope’s band celebrated 20 years too.
So while Xer0 and the rest of the original Static-X lineup partied like it was 1999 and 2001 to the Aztec’s content, Devildriver also hit hard as only frontman Dez Fafara can. Defending Static-X’s decision, Fafara shared that Back in Black is his favorite album front to back of all-time and that it wouldn’t have been possible if AC/DC had quit after Scott’s death. Fafara, whose band also includes one-time Static-X bassist Diego Ibarra, delivered hard-hitting tracks “I Could Care Less,” “Ruthless,” “Cry for Me Sky,” “Sail” and “Before the Hangman’s Noose” (ATM footage of the latter two below). The frontman then broke out a pair of tracks from his Coal Chamber days with “Loco” and “Fiend” (videos below).
Opening acts Wednesday 13 and Raven Black brought the theatrics to the Aztec in their own way. Wednesday 13 in particular had a variety of costume changes during a 30-minute set that featured “What the Night Brings” and closer “Keep Watching the Skies” (footage below). Watch ATM’s 2017 interview with frontman Joseph Poole and his San Antonio bandmates Roman Surman and Troy Doebbler here.
Static-X announced prior to the tour they’d have a new album this year called Project Regeneration that features the final recordings of Wayne Static. Fans can pre-order the album and get their name in the liner notes here. What’s unclear is whether Xer0 will carry on the legacy, whether he was merely a memorial touring replacement, or whether Static-X will enlist a completely new singer — masked with hair spiked from here to the gone or to be his own persona — to evil disco the group into a new era.
Either way, the band’s decision is sure to create a wave of controversy, bringing its share of critics, supporters and rockers. Which is to say Campos, Fukuda and Jay likely wouldn’t have it any other way.