By Brandon “B-Mac” McCarthy, Photos & “Raven Black” Paragraph by Matt “Rabit” Martinez Red Hare Images
I will admit, I never listened to the group Static-X back in the day. Like with Bad Religion, they were never on my radar. It was not that I did not like them; I just never got around to listening to them or seeing them live. Then, 5 years ago, the metal world got a shock to its system; Wayne Static, the enigmatic frontman and rhythm guitarist of Static-X, suddenly passed away. After that, the group was no more. In 2019, original bassist and metal legend Tony Campos decided to reunite with brothers of Static-X, lead guitarist Koichi Fukuda and drummer Ken Jay, to celebrate not only Wayne’s life, but also celebrate the 20th anniversary of their landmark debut album, Wisconsin Death Trip. Helping them commemorate Wayne’s legacy were Raven Black, Wednesday 13, Dope, and DevilDriver. One of the last stops on their first leg of America was at the Observatory on July 25th, so Rabit and I headed there to get Static shocked.
Opening this night of heavy metal frights was the dark metal carnival known as Raven Black. The most theatrical band on this bill, they were filling the stage with props ready and waiting for each song, while the members themselves dawn carnival-esque corpse paint. Lead singer Raven Black portrays the character of a childlike doll. Moving around the stage in quick robotic like twitches, she comes across as the killer doll Annabelle come to life. Filling in the chorus and playing guitar is The Doctor, whose makeup was a bit different this night by only painting half his face. He was giving off more of a Jekyll and Hyde persona as the two halves of his character fight for control. Bassist Stitches paints his face with stitches that covered his whole body, and wore a mask to cover his mouth, leaving you to wonder what could possibly have been done to this character’s mouth. Even though he is stuck behind the kit, the second most animated character on stage had to be drummer Muppet. As soon as you locked eyes with this maniacal madman, he would flash you the craziest tilted head smile you have ever seen, while never missing a cymbal crash or a bass stomp. Even though Raven Black was the opener, they are still one of the names billed on the whole tour. Yet, the Observatory severely hindered their performance by not providing them enough time to properly sound check, and unfortunately the audience did not get a proper sounding Raven Black show. None the less the band did give it their all playing through songs like “Spider,” “13,” “Twinkle Twinkle Little Scars,” “Dollhouse,” “Seven Sins,” and ending with their newest single “Carnival.” I do hope Raven Black will make their way back to California soon as the band deserves a better venue to display just how talented these musicians are and how great their songs are.
Full Raven Black gallery below:
Following Raven Black was the master horror/psycho metal, Wednesday 13. This man never ceases to amaze me with his sinister sense of humor and his twisted melodies of murder and mayhem, in a fantasy sense that is. Donning some glow-in-the-dark make-up, the former Murderdolls frontman and his bandmates got their set rolling with “Hail Ming.” As always, the freakish guitar shredding by the duo Roman Surman and Jack Tankersley was a thriller to a killer. The fans of Santa Ana were in for a terrifying awakening while hearing deadly tunes like “Get Your Grave On,” “Serpent Society,” “What the Night Brings,” “Prey for Me,” and “Keep Watching the Skies.” Wednesday 13 has a big year ahead of him because on September 27th, the masters of horror rock will drop their 8th studio release, Necrophaze, and they played one of the songs that will be featured on it, “Zodiac.” All of his followers, including yours truly, loved the new tune, and we are so looking forward to this new record. This is my 3rd time seeing Wednesday 13, and they have yet to disappoint me.
Full Wednesday 13 gallery below:
Up next was a group I have not seen in over a year, Dope. The boys of New York who bring together industrial metal, speed metal, and nu metal, were looking to make us stir up some mosh pits in Wayne-X’s memory. Dope leader Edsel Dope was longtime friends with the fallen Static-X frontman, and their bands used to tour together when they started to make it to the big time. So, it would make a lot of sense that these guys would be on this tour. Lead guitarist Virus gutted through our ears with his sick riffs and razor-sharp solos. Edsel himself knows how to pump up the crowd with his nu metal style of singing. Dope’s set was the shortest set of the night, but it did raise our blood pressures to boiling heights. They turned up the speed with their songs like “Blood Money,” “6-6-Sick,” “Bring It On,” “Die, Boom, Bang, Burn,” and the Dead or Alive cover “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record).” It is not every day that a metal group covers the 1980s new wave classic and make it sound better than the original. All in all, Dope came to the Observatory locked and loaded, fire their shot to fans’ ears, and they hit the bullseye.
Full Dope gallery below:
After a stellar introduction by the Metal Ambassador Jose Mangin, Santa Barbara groove metal masters DevilDriver had returned to Santa Ana. This is my unprecedented 5th time in the past 2 years seeing these guys, and they never let me down. Frontman Dez Fafara is still a ferocious beast as soon as he grabs the microphone. This is probably the first time seeing him without his massive beard, but his righteous chin tattoo made up the difference. I am always a sucker for any guitar licks thrown my way by Neal Tiemann and my boy Mike Spreitzer. Drummer Austin D’Amond and bassist Diego Ibarra still blast the hell out of the death metal beats really well together. DevilDriver had the 2nd longest set of the evening, playing close to an hour. From songs like “Ruthless,” “Grinfucked,” “Cry for Me Sky (Eulogy of the Scorned),” “Hold Back the Day,” “I Could Care Less,” “Not All Who Wander Are Lost,” “My Night Sky,” the AWOLNATION cover “Sail,” and “Before the Hangman’s Noose,” the Observatory was a banging. They even played a couple of tunes from Dez’s former group, Coal Chamber, which included “Loco” and “Fiend.” During my favorite song “Clouds Over California,” Dez’s son Simon joined him onstage, and the father-son duo beat our eardrums into a bloody pulp before the band ended their night with “End of the Line.” DevilDriver has a new double-album that is supposed to drop later this year, so I am ready to be driven into a further metal fury by them.
Full DevilDriver gallery below:
After so many years away, Static-X triumphantly returned to the stage and went into overdrive, starting with “Bled for Days.” Fronting the group was the mysterious Xer0, who looked like Wayne with a Wayne Static mask. He cranked it up with his bombastic voice and rhythmic shredding on his Dean Flying “V” guitar. Whoever this wonder boy is, the spirit of Wayne Static himself went into this man’s soul and gave the people of Santa Ana a great set. Campos was a raging machine on the bass, thrusting industrial blast beats to crowd that went together nicely with Jay’s hammering on the drums. Fukuda is an excellent guitarist, fusing industrial with alternative and nu metal masterfully. Like I said, I never saw this group before, so I did not know any of the songs. However, once the choruses of each tune went noticed, I was singing along with all the other metal freaks. As mentioned in the beginning, this year marks the 20th anniversary of their debut album, Wisconsin Death Trip. They played all 10 songs from the record, including “Fix,” “I Am,” “I’m With Stupid,” “Love Dump,” “Otsegolation,” “Push It,” “Sweat of the Bud,” “The Trance is the Motion,” and the title track. They also played 4 songs from 2001’s Machine (“Black and White,” “Cold,” “Get to the Gone,” and “This is Not”), and slew of other tunes like “Behemoth,” “Destroy All,” and “Start a War.”
Full Static-X gallery below:
I believe Wayne Static was all smiles that night while looking down at the Observatory. All the bands came together to celebrate a man who, like a lot of our metal heroes, did not compromise his style for anybody to bring metalheads something exciting at the time. While the show itself was amazing, the downside of the night was the venue and its staff and security. They were not on their game and they kind of treated us like shit, especially to the artists from what I heard. I do not get that. I also heard that security was even worse at The Catch One in L.A. the next night, so Rabit and I lucked out there. Still, it was a great evening for heavy metal, and it was announced a 2nd leg in the U.S. will be happening soon. To Static-X, DevilDriver, Dope, Wednesday 13, and Raven Black, I salute you. Horns up to Wayne Static!!!