CD REVIEW: Rob Zombie – Hellbilly Deluxe 2

Aaah, Rob Zombie. There’s hasn’t been a more prolific musician/filmmaker since… well, since the 80s when David Lee Roth claimed Van Halen were getting up to all sorts of adults-only hi-jinx on video. Interestingly, like Roth and his reunion with Van Halen, Zombie has also looked to the past to define his present. Nope, he’s not reforming White Zombie, at least not any time soon: rather, this album is a sequel to 1997′s ‘Hellbilly Deluxe.’

‘Jesus Frankenstein’ opens with a riff that my ears hear as a nod to Black Sabbath, followed by ANOTHER nod-to-Sabbath riff, before John 5 unleashes an epic, mournful note of doom from the deep (check it out, between 1:28-1:29 – something about that one note is just so friggin’ cool!). Finally – almost2 minutes into the song – the slightly bluesy, totally rocking’ main riff kicks in. The syncopated riffage in the verse actually sounds a little like Dream Theater. There’s a bit of a Sabbath vibe in ‘Sick Bubblegum’ as well, or maybe ‘No More Tears’-era Ozzy. Cool! Yet at the same time, for all the ‘sounds like this’ and ‘sounds like that’ comparisons flung about by this reviewer, the results are unmistakably Zombie.

‘Mars Needs Women’ includes more bluesy playing from John 5 (this time on acoustic) before morphing into another stomping, Ozzy-esque rocker. Oh and ‘Virgin Witch’ also sounds like something by Sabbath, especially with the clanging church bells at the start. And yet again it still sounds like Zombie. Seriously dude, every track on this album has at least some element which makes me think “Well… I love Ozzy but his best work sure hasn’t been included on his last three albums… maybe Rob Zombie’s the heir apparent to that sound now…’ If we ever see Zombie hurling himself off quad bikes, biting the heads off stuff and living in a house overrun by a litter of pomeranians, we’ll know I’m right.

Of course, being a Rob Zombie recording there are all sorts of samples, sound effects and ear candy. It all adds to the colour and spectacle, and makes it kinda hard to treat Hellbilly Deluxe 2 as background music. It demands either your complete attention or maybe to share your attention with the highway as you blast along in your converted dune buggy.

Ok, back to the songs. I dig the tom-tom assault on ‘Werewolf, Baby’ and the slinky, slidey flair added by John 5. In fact, Mr 5 is really kicking ass with the rhythm guitars on this album. He’s known as such a phenomenal soloist that it’s kinda easy to forget the intensity of the muscular riffage he unleashes throughout his work with Zombie and with Marilyn Manson.

‘Death And Destiny Inside The Dream Factory’ reaches back to early 70s glam of the Bowie/Bolan variety – I don’t know if you could picture RobZombie in skintight, spangly lycra with a red rooster mullet, but you don’t really need to picture it because you can hear it here. Or at least, a Star Wars cantina bar version of it.

‘Burn’ has a killer downtuned riff that kinda sounds like Tool if they get drunk on the wine Maynard makes these days and started grooving on the dancefloor. There’s also a great 70s-style pentatonic riff section which must be loads of fun to play, followed by more John 5 slide work. I haven’t heard this much slide guitar on a metal album since… wait, I’ve never heard this much slide on a metal album. The song itself probably isn’t one of the standouts but the idea was worth exploring.

‘Cease To Exist’ has another sample-heavy intro followed by an almost shuffling groove – truly this album is space blues for the year 3000, and this track is like Pink Floyd got gothed up for Halloween and forgot to dress back down to civvies again on November 1.

‘Werewolf Women Of The SS’ – Now there’s a song that writes itself. I dig this one for its energy and overall outrageousness, even if it kinda leans on a similar chord progression to ‘Death And Destiny.’ Cool guitar solo with lots of true melody and composition.

Finally we come to ‘The Man Who Laughs’. Pretty fast, rockin’ song to end on, and it’d make a great gig opener. It’s hard to pinpoint what I dig so much about this one – I think I’m just a sucker for those symphonic strings over the top of such a straightforward metal riff. In all honesty I think a better vocal melody could have been found for the chorus – it’s kinda a letdown compared to the rest of the song – but meh, I forgive them this time because the rest of the song is so cool. Did I mention there’s a drum solo? Cos there’s a drum solo.

This is a tricky time for Rob Zombie. With his increasingly successful film career, he can’t afford to take too much time out from that in order to tend to his music career, so he has to really make each musical moment count. There are some great standout moments on this CD, and while some of the songwriting is a bit derivative and some of the tracks are verging on filler, it’s still a pretty strong effort that will hopefully keep Zombie at his current level of success so he will continue staging those huge stage shows full of robots and monsters and stuff.

Hellbilly Deluxe 2 is out now on Roadrunner.