Rob Zombie – Buyer’s Guide

Born Robert Bartleh Cummings on the 12th January 1965 in Massachusetts, United States, Rob Zombie has made quite a name for himself during his 56 years. Film maker, actor, comic book writer/artist, music video director. But despite some success in all those areas, it is as a musician that Mr Zombie (he legally changed his surname to Zombie in 1996) is most well known. Firstly, for his band White Zombie, that he formed with bassist and then girlfriend Sean Yseult in 1985, ultimately releasing four albums and having a run of success throughout the 90s until the band split up in 1998. Then, up until now and still going strong, as a solo artist.

Apparently, Rob Zombie had been working on solo material even before White Zombie split up, and despite that band dissolution landing a killer blow for lots of metal fans around the world, they needn’t have worried as Zombie’s solo work starts where White Zombie ended.  White’s work providing a template for Rob’s love of mixing crunchy guitar riffs, industrial beats, horror-themed lyrics and B-movie samples to create music that’s all of his own. Here we look at the man’s solo work. The great, the good and the not quite as good…

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Essential Albums

Hellbilly Deluxe: 13 Tales of Cadaverous Cavorting Inside the Spookshow International

Released in August 1998, the same year that White Zombie split, leaving fans of that band no time to get over their loss, Hellbilly Deluxe appears to pick up right where White Zombie’s final album, 1995 classic Astro Creep 2000: Songs of Love, Destruction and other Synthetic Delusions of the Electric Head – yep, Rob Zombie has always had a thing for elaborate album titles – left off.

With its spooky, sample heavy intro ‘Call of the Zombie’ to the heavy riffing and infectious “Hell Yeah” refrain in first song ‘Superbeast,’ it’s clear that Zombie had gone all out with his influences, be they from horror movies, comics or music. With songs like the single ‘Dragula’ (a remix of which featured in The Matrix in 1999), ‘Living Dead Girl,’ ‘Demonoid Phenomenom,’ ‘Meet the Creeper’ and, well, the whole album really, Rob Zombie certainly got off to a flying start to his solo career.

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The Sinister Urge

For his second solo album, Zombie dispensed of the long album titles but still kept up the pace with the same influences and inspirations that dominated his first solo effort. The results came up trumps again with the likes of ‘Demon Speeding,’ ‘Never Gonna Stop (the red, red kroovy),’ and ‘Feel So Numb’ providing the big riffs, beats and horror influences/samples that fans have now come to expect. The Sinster Urge proved popular too, as fans have voted it their favourite album of his on Rob Zombie’s official website. And talking of horror influences, The Sinister Urge‘s final song, ‘House of 1000 Corpses,’ is actually the title of RZ’s first feature film. And like the bluesy-riff infected, creeping song itself, House of 1000 Corpses is a favourite among many Rob Zombie film fans.

The Sinister Urge boasts stellar guests, with Ozzy Osbourne, Slayer guitarist Kerry King, Nine Inch Nails guitarist Danny Lohner, and Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee among others contributing to the album. The only sad point about the album is that it was the last to feature drummer John Tempesta, who had worked with Rob Zombie since the mid-90s. Still, better to go out on a high note, and The Sinister Urge is definitely that.

Solid Albums

The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy

For his seventh album, Rob Zombie seemed to throw everything he had in terms of musical influence at this one, and fortunately it mostly works. Guitarist John 5 described it as “the best Zombie record he’s ever done” and initial sales could well have proved John 5 right as it was Zombie’s first album to reach number one in the US.

Released on respected metal label Nuclear Blast in March 2021, Lunar Injection… contains the big, crunchy riffs, industrial-inflected beats and shout-along choruses of before but throws in 70’s and 80’s rock influences as well as, at one point, a bit of country/bluegrass too! Songs such as first single ‘The Triumph of King Freak (A Crypt of Preservation and Superstition),’ ‘The Ballad of Sleazy Rider,’ ‘Shadow of the Cemetery Man,’ ‘The Eternal Struggles of The Howling Man’ and big, heavy closing track, ‘Crow Killer Blues’ showcase an artist very comfortable with where he is musically. Brave enough to try different things at this point in his career with a band of clearly talented and dedicated musicians behind him.

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Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor

Released on RZ’s own Zodiac Swan label in April 2013 after parting ways with Roadrunner Records, Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor is Zombie’s lowest selling album to date despite still hitting the US top ten.

Despite this, Venomous Rat... was probably Rob Zombie’s best and most consistent album since 2001’s The Sinister Urge with the heavy but catchy ‘Teenage Nosferatu Pussy’, the single ‘Dead City Radio and The New Gods of Supertown’ and the wonderfully titled ‘Ging Gang Gong De Do Gong De Laga Raga’ all getting the blood pumping and the body moving. And that was only in the album’s first half. As for the rest, ‘White Trash Freaks’,  ‘The Girl Who Loved The Monsters’ and ‘Trade in Your Guns For A Coffin’ all had there share of big riffs, catchy choruses, B-movie samples and horror-themed lyrics that fans had come to love. Add in an enjoyable cover of Grand Funk Railroad’s ‘We’re An American Band’ and you have a strong album that is everything you could want from a Rob Zombie record.

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The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser

Although not quite as good as Venomous Rat…, The Electric Warlock… certainly continues the pace that Zombie and the band had set with their previous album. A pace Rob Zombie had lost somewhat during the mid-late 2000s.

Released in April 2016 and again entering the US top ten, on first listen The Electric Warlock… might not seem as solid as previous releases and nowhere near the brilliance of the likes of Hellbilly Deluxe. But further listens prove that the album is definitely a grower, with the usual Zombie traits all present and correct. Singles ‘The Hideous Exhibitions of a Dedicated Gore Whore’ and the brilliantly titled ‘Well, Everybody’s Fucking in a UFO’ show that RZ’s lyrical inspirations and general influences haven’t and probably never will change; good news for Rob Zombie lovers everywhere.

If you’re not banging your head to ‘In the Age of The Consecrated Vampire We All Get High,’ shouting along to ‘The Life and Times of a Teenage Rock God,’ or dancing your ass off to ‘Get Your Boots On! That’s the End of Rock and Roll,’ then you’d have to ask yourself if you’re an actual zombie listening to Rob Zombie?!

Approach With Caution!

Hellbilly Deluxe 2: Noble Jackals, Penny Dreadfuls and the Systemic Dehumanization of Cool

After the general disappointment of the stripped-back Educated Horses, Hellbilly Deluxe 2 attempted to claw back the sample-heavy, industrial-metal vibes of the first couple of albums. To be fair, a lot of it works, but mostly only in patches; a cool song here, a nice riff or bit of guitar work there but not so many standout individual songs as compared to most of  Rob Zombie’s other albums.

Initially released in February 2010 and then again in September as a special edition with three new songs, it was Zombie’s fourth US top ten record despite the mixed reception at the time. That said, Hellbilly Deluxe 2 does have some great stuff on it. ‘Jesus Frankenstein,’ the single ‘Sick Bubblegum,’ plus album highlights ‘Mars Needs Women’ and ‘Cease To Exist’ are all solid enough Rob Zombie songs and ‘Werewolf Women of the SS’ appears to be RZ’s soundtrack to the fake trailer he made for Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’ Grindhouse movie project in 2007.

So, despite not being as strong as the first Hellbilly Deluxe album nor quite up there with Rob Zombie’s best stuff, Hellbilly Deluxe 2 still warrants investigation.

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Educated Horses

Released in March 2006 to mixed reviews and described as “experimental” by RZ himself, Educated Horses saw a move towards more stripped-back songwriting. Apparently influenced by glam-rock acts such as T-Rex and Slade, this different style of approach to the songs surprised some fans and critics. But it still went into the US top ten and the band were nominated for a Grammy award for ‘Best Hard Rock Performance’ for their song ‘The Lords of Salem’ – the name of Rob Zombie’s 2013 occult horror film which he went on to release.

Educated Horses still has some very good stuff on it, with ‘American Witch’ and ‘Foxy Foxy’ being among Zombie’s best work, and ‘Let It All Bleed Out’ proving that the heaviness was still there. It just wasn’t laden with industrial-style beats and samples like fans were used to. But the album still has its moments and fans of the Firefly Family will surely enjoy penultimate song, ‘The Devil’s Rejects,’ concerning the infamous family of killers Rob created for his 2005 film of the same name, 2003’s cult horror hit House of 1000 Corpses before that and, later, in 2019 with 3 From Hell.

Although arguably Rob Zombie’s weakest album so far, Educated Horses is far from terrible. Just different. Sometimes, as we’ve learned with Rob Zombie and his releases, whether it’s film or music, different can definitely be great.

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Other Stuff

So far, Rob Zombie has four official compilation albums available: Icon, Greatest Hits, Essential Rob Zombie and Past Present & Future. That last one is the most interesting and a ‘must-buy’ for Zombie fans as it contains songs from White Zombie as well as solo work, collaborations and previously unreleased material. There’s also a second disc, a DVD containing the music videos for both White Zombie and Rob Zombie made up until that point. This was first released in September 2003.

Since the start of his solo career, RZ has released two remix albums of his work, American Made Music to Strip By in 1999 and Mondo Sex Head in 2012. These are notable for containing material from Rob Zombie’s first four albums as well as White Zombie material. It was also released by Geffen Records, a label Zombie had left by that point.

There are also currently three official live albums available: Zombie Live (2007), Spookshow International (2015) and 2018’s Astro Creep 2000 Live: Songs of Love, Destruction and Other Synthetic Delusions of the Electric Head (Live At Riot Fest), which, as you might have guessed, is the current band’s run through of the classic White Zombie album. Also available is a Blu-Ray of Rob Zombie’s live show entitled The Zombie Horror Picture Show which was released in 2014.

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So there you have it, a look at Rob Zombie’s solo musical career so far for new fans to hopefully read and discover and old fans to read and debate or argue over. Either way, no one can argue that Rob Zombie is a very busy and talented man with many projects on the go, all seemingly at once. But also, you can’t deny that he has become something of a heavy metal and horror icon. The above buyer’s guide is only slight proof of that.

All of the Rob Zombie albums mentioned above are available in all the usual formats.

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