The first time I ever heard (of) White Zombie was back in the early 90’s when Headbanger’s Ball aired the video for ”Thunderkiss ’65” – and I effing hated it. Even though I dug their tune ”More Human Than Human” a little later on, I gave them very little attention – they just didn’t interest me the least. That’s why I just shrugged my shoulders when a friend of mine handed me a copy of singer Rob Zombie’s debut solo album Hellbilly DeLuxe (1998) and it took me a few days to bother with it. But when I did – BOOM!!! The album completely floored me and to this day I find it a brilliant record, a record that have stood the test of time very, very well and I still spin it ever so often.
The follow-up The Sinister Urge (2001) was also a damn fine effort albeit not exactly as strong as the debut but since then, Rob Zombie’s (real name: Robert Cummings) albums – this album is his seventh one – has been very much ups and downs where no album has been bad but more or less all of them quite uneven. The band Zombie uses today is guitarist John 5 (ex- David Lee Roth, Marilyn Manson, Meat Loaf, 2wo), bassist Piggy D and drummer Ginger Fish (ex- Marilyn Manson, Powerman 5000), a band that has been with Rob since 2011 when Fish joined. Being a busy man making movies as well as touring (Zombie & co are a killer live-act), I can’t help but to wonder where Rob finds the time to write and record and if that might be the reason why his releases sound a bit rushed at times. Let’s see if the new album is anything to write home about then, shall we?
No Rob Zombie album is complete without various intros, interludes and intermissions, often of the spooky sounding kind, and this record is no exception. It opens up with a 54 second intro called ”Expanding Head Of Zed” which chants its way into the real opener and first single ”The Triumph Of King Freak (A Crypt Of Preservation And Superstition)”, an upbeat Metal stomper full of industrial sounds, a chunky beat that brings ”Dragula” to mind and some distinct melodies. In the midst of this industrial metal-swing, John 5 throws in some 70’s based, Classic Rock riffage with a chunky Led Zep feel to them. It’s a live-friendly number with a chorus that hits right off the bat – a real killer and one of the best tracks he’s written in ages.
Continuing on a more straight-forward and in-your face way, ”The Ballad Of Sleazy Rider” is heavy, aggressive and very direct with some sporadic blues-licks thrown in for good measure. There’s electronica in there, of course, and it marries just fine with the bluesier touches and some thin country-twists. The chorus is strong and stays put and again, the live-feel here is very prominent. Good one. ”Hovering Over Dull Earth” is an intermission of techno-meets-metal sounds which leads us into ”Shadow Of The Cemetery Man”, a kicking Classic Rock stomper done the Rob Zombie way. It’s punchy and rough with some dance-beats thrown in here and there. A slice of Techno here, some folky moments there, some gothic twists hiding in the shadows and on top a striking refrain. Yeah, I dig.
”A Brief Static Hum And Then The Radio Blared” is another interlude that fades fast as it takes us into another 10 mile long titled song, ”18th Century Cannibals, Excitable Morlocks And A One-Way Ticket On The Ghost Train”, a country-rock, redneck flirtatious swinger with both a Southern Rock twist and danceable beats. Mixed up with heavy and aggressive Metal passages, the song brings on a slight schizophrenic twist, like he doesn’t really know where to take the song and just goes on with it. I know Rob loves to go out on his weird runs and a part of me really likes this song but it’s also too unstructured for comfort which makes it hard to stick properly.
Second single ”The Eternal Struggles Of The Howling Man” takes us back to the Metal and the track rolls on fast-tracked, heavy, hard-hitting and straight for the jaw on a kicking rhythm. The tune interrupts itself twice, first with an industrial groove and later with a 30 second or so passage of funky yet laid-back rhythms before it goes back to its driving beats and chunky riffs. A pretty cool tune. Another intermission comes in, this time in the shape of ”The Much Talked Of Metamorphosis”, a mellow and sombre acoustic guitar piece where John 5 shows just what a diverse – and in my opinion underrated – player he is. I think a breather like this is a good thing and besides, the melody is gorgeous.
”The Satanic Rites Of Blacula” brings on a dark, eerie vibe and comes on strong as a hard and heavy rocker, both riff-happy and rhythmic with an instant rawness yet still melodic and hook-laden. It’s a headbanger that will create a mosh-pit even if it was played at the mall or at the grocery store. The main-riff is catchy and the chorus kicks ass and takes names. I dig. ”Shower Of Stones” is another interlude. This one feel pretty much pointless as it doesn’t really bring anything worthwhile to the table. It’s only noisy and if it’s there to create some kind of atmosphere, it fails badly.
RZ & co goes for a punchy party-mood when the tongue-in-cheek titled ”Shake Your Ass – Smoke Your Grass” comes along and brings with it a big, 70’s Classic Rock groove with a classic Rob Zombie sound – a song like ”Feels So Numb” comes to mind. This one’s a party-rocker with a heavy groove, distinct hooks and a sing-along refrain that will go down live like a charm. Great. ”Boom-Boom-Boom” takes on a slower pace and brings in some darkness and an ominous atmosphere – and a groovy yet laid-back drum beat. It’s an intense and menacing blues-influenced tune where Zombie’s voice goes almost robotic. I do enjoy this and the sinister vibes are all over this one.
”What You Gonna Do With That Gun Mama?” is yet another intermission that really does nothing except taking us into ”Get Loose”, a classic RZ-stomper – upbeat, kicking and rowdy with a direct rhythm and a striking main-melody. It holds an Eastern influence as well, something RZ has been fond of since the early days. It’s a concise and bang-on-target number and I think it’s a killer. Closing track and the latest single ”Crow Killer Blues” starts out with a 60’s psychedelic sounding intro but continues with a dark and heavy riff and a hard, solid beat. John 5 throws some meaty Led Zep-like riffs our way albeit in a edgier Metal way. It’s a heavy yet rhythmic number with a good enough chorus that at times reminds a bit of Ghost gone Zombiefied. Pretty cool.
With Rob Zombie we kinda know what we’re getting so I can’t say we’re up for any surprises here – except maybe for when he explores his inner Classic Rock – but in the quality department, this album is a step up from his last album The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser (2016) but still not close to Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor (2013), his best album since The Sinister Urge (2001). Just like on many of his later albums, Zombie & co. leaves the impression of rushing things which gives the album a too high filler-rate. I’m not sure but I get the feeling that Rob Zombie now has music as a side-project to making movies instead of vice versa. To sum this up – a good album that really could have been better.