The traveling hard rock, heavy metal, haunted mansion mash has returned to the stage with another dose of unabashedly catchy, arena-style, horror tinged music to infect your ear holes. Yes, I am aware of how much that sounds like a like a line out of a press release, but believe me it came straight out of my head. A publicist would have made it sound a lot better. In any case, new music is here, with the man's movie and television (will it stop with his CSI: Miami episode) schedule, you never now what to expect from him or when to expect it. When does he have time to record? I do not know, but I am glad he does.
I still remember first hearing White Zombie so many years ago. The first song I heard was "Black Sunshine" and I cannot say I cared much for it. I got the album but I did not really connect with it until the next one arrived, Astro Creep 2000. It was "More Human than Human" that won me over. Then came the solo career and I was further hooked. If I have any complaints, it is the wait in between albums. Although, I have to admit that so long as he keeps making movies, I will be all right with the wait between releases. So long as he continues to make music, that is.
Rob Zombie's brand of horror infected hard rock and metal is unlike anything else that is out there. Still, he may not be the most creative and envelope pushing artist there is, but he is one who still manages to march to the beat of his own drum. Through all of his film and music releases, he has never caved in to pressure. The man simply makes what he wants, regardless of what others seem to think.
Hellbilly Deluxe 2: Noble Jackals, Penny Dreadfuls, and the Systematic Dehumanization of Cool is a throwback of sorts to the end of the White Zombie era and the start of his solo career. The first clue of this return to the past while looking to the future aesthetic is the album's subtitle. As you can see, the album is not simply Hellbilly Deluxe 2, it gives you a bit more of an insight into what it's about. Now, the title is a simple visual, what really gives you the idea is the opening of "Jesus Frankenstein," with its ominous plucking of wavering notes backed by the sound of a dark wind before the full on arrival of the heavy shortly thereafter. Yes, the heavy. There is a distinct weight to the music that hearkens back to the original Hellbilly Deluxe days while not losing the flavors developed on Educated Horses.
Earlier in the week, before I had gotten my hands on a copy of the album, a friend of mine approached and asked what I thought of it. Of course, I replied I did not have it yet. He proceeded to tell me of how great it was and that it was one of the best hard rock albums of recent years. This got me even more amped. Then I heard it. Is it good? Definitely. Is it the apparent new classic my friend implied it was? No, well not yet anyway. It is up to time to determine what hangs round.
This album is vintage Zombie. It has that borderline hard rock/metal sound that owes as much to the classic rock and roll of the 1970s as it does modern day electronics and studio technology. Having witnessed his explosive energy first hand on a couple of time, he may use a lot of samples and electronic sounds in the studio, he still shreds live.
Joining Zombie on this excursion is former Marilyn Manson guitarist John 5 (still using the same moniker) who returns after working on Educated Horses along with drummer Tommy Clufetos, and Piggy D. (ex-Wednesday 13) has replaced Blasko on bass. Together they create a big booming sound that seems ready to fill an arena.
Catchy riffs, hummable melodies, and lyrics that beg to be sung along to are the order of the day. They have been a staple of Zombies work for as long as I can remember and they are just as prominent here. Just try not to hum along with "Jesus Frankenstein," "Sick Bubblegum," and "Mars Needs Women."
While I would not say this is a great album, it shows a lot of potential to grow on me. As a matter of fact, I can feel it working its magic on me as I write this. It's so damn infectious. Zombie knows how to turn a song from a mere song into a creation of ultimate catchiness. They just get stuck in your head and refuse to let go. It doesn't hurt that John 5 is a rather good guitar player.
Bottomline. This is not a record you will want to miss. Hellbilly Deluxe 2 is a joy to listen to. Rob Zombie is a singular voice who never fails to be a fascinating character and artist. This is not a work to be written off or ignored. Listen to it, enjoy it, repeat. Catch the horror flavored groove.