Let’s cut straight to the chase: this is the best Rob Zombie record since his career-defining debut Hellbilly Deluxe. This album slams just as hard as that 1998 shock-rock classic. In recent years, as his interests have swayed from making music to horror movies (House of 1,000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects and his reboot of Halloween), Zombie has released a series of disappointing, lacklustre records which appear to have been aimed at merely paying the candle bills for his haunted mansion and petrol costs for his dragula. With this release, however, Rob Zombie devoted the most time he has hitherto given to a record and the result is his best release of the 21st century.
Continuing the topos of fantastically long and ridiculous record titles, Zombie’s sixth studio album title is his longest and most ridiculous yet. Far from catchy, and incredibly annoying to write out in a review (even writing it in initials – TEWAWSOCD – is awkward), the title sums up the tongue-in-cheek wackiness of the music that follows. The song names are equally absurd: ‘Satanic Cyanide! The Killer Rocks On!’, ‘In The Age Of The Consecrated Vampire We All Get High’ and ‘The Hideous Exhibitions Of A Dedicated Gore Whore’ to name but three. It’s this kind of inherently bizarre approach, at odds with what the music industry would regard as a sensible business plan, that distinguishes Zombie from his peers and brings a smile to those who relish his weirdness.
Short, Catchy, Killer songs that grab you by the throat with their mummified hands
Despite its unnecessarily long title, at 31 minutes in length, with only the final song, ‘Wurdalak’, tracking in at over three minutes, this is an incredibly compact record which is over in no time. The short length of songs means that there is no messing about: instead of dancing around before delivering the knockout strike the band jump straight into the ring and punch you square in the temple. It’s certainly more Ramones than Tool, which is exactly what one wants from Rob Zombie: short, catchy, killer songs that grab you by the throat with their mummified hands and refuse to let go.
The record opens with ‘The Last of the Demon Defeated’, in which Zombie repeatedly bellows the album’s title. His voice sounds enormous, so enormous in fact that if you were walking along you’d fear that the Electric Warlock himself was about to burst from the ground beneath you, and its his remarkably distinctive vocal performance which propels this whole album along.
Although Rob Zombie (his legal name since 1996) is unquestionably the ringmaster of this satanic circus, the band behind him are of the highest calibre: Ginger Fish’s military snare drums stomp along like a herd of manic wildebeest and Piggy D’s baselines pummel the listener. Oh and there’s John 5, that former Marilyn Manson guitarist who’s an average musician… Wait! Change ‘average’ to ‘incredible’. As one of modern metal’s guitar heroes and the album’s co-writer alongside Zombie, John 5 delivers crushing, groove-laden riffs and squawking solos throughout the record. His standout moment, however, is his wailing guitar playing on “Medication for the Melancholy”, which sounds like a Tom Morello guitar solo mixed with an air-raid siren.
Despite its short length, the record is anything but cohesive, unsurprising considering that it was recorded over three years between tours. Its schizophrenic nature may confuse the average music listener, as it shifts from psychedelic classic rock to doom metal riffing, but its multidimensional musical landscape is the record’s most compelling facet. Moreover, this is Rob Zombie’s heaviest recording since the 1990s, comprising an industrial heft reminiscent of his days in White Zombie; such bluntness makes the rare slower moments more pronounced and effective, particularly the two instrumental tracks. In the past the obligatory instrumental interludes included in Zombie’s records have seemed like pointless filler, interfering with the work’s pacing; conversely, this album boasts the best instrumentals in Zombie’s discography: ‘A Hearse That Overturns with the Coffin Bursting Open’s’ finger-plucked acoustic guitar against the background of nihilistic black noise sounds like the soundtrack to young Danny Torrance riding his tricycle around the Overlook Hotel in The Shining, whilst the atmospheric ‘Super-Doom-Hex-Gloom Part One’, which is peppered with crackling B-Horror movie samples, could accompany a black and white cinema screening of Nosferatu in the 1920s.
aware of how ridiculous the concept is … [He] makes the whole thing hilariously entertaining
Zombie’s music has always been defined by its cinematic quality, drawing inspiration from mid-twentieth century horror, the gory exploits of more recent slasher and splatter films and Sci-Fi. If you were expecting Zombie to revolutionise his approach in this respect, you couldn’t be more wrong, as this record’s lyrical content continues to draw heavily upon the glorious world of horror. Lines like ‘I swear I saw a dead girl late last night, jumping from her grave with a carving knife. She got a rat’s eyes and a bucket of lead, two can keep a secret if one is dead’ and ‘Now some say that one-eyed wolf owned a midget who was almost ten feet tall; He spray-painted “UFO’s are REAL” in the rubble of the Berlin wall’ will have listeners high-fiving their fellow horror movie loving friends (shout out Rob Ford).
Since the Misfits, Alice Cooper and Marilyn Manson, numerous bands have tried the whole horror-music shtick, but none so successfully as Rob Zombie, mainly because he is aware of how ridiculous the concept is and thus makes the whole thing hilariously entertaining. Even if you hated the music and lyrics, you’d be lying if you called the record boring. In 2016 when it
feels like larger-than-life rock stars died with Nu-Metal in the year 2000, thank god, or perhaps more accurately the Devil, we still have Rob Zombie. This is not meant to be serious, life-changing, intellectually-stimulating music; it’s meant to be badass rock and roll. That said, there are some poignant moments on the record (a fact more shocking than the horror-infused lyrics), best illustrated by the beautiful piano piece on the album’s closing track which sounds like the music that accompanies the credits at the end of a movie: the perfect conclusion to a cinematically-inspired record.
So, it is with much surprise that one concludes by saying that eighteen years into his solo career Rob Zombie has released one of his finest records with The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser. In the stress of the exam period it may have passed you by, but for all the Zombie fans out there this is a total crowd pleaser. It is sure to crush live when he goes on tour with Korn this autumn in America on the best named tour in music history, The Night of the Living Dreads; we can only pray to Satan that the tour travels over the Atlantic soon so we can enjoy the monstrous music of music’s best-loved freak, Mr. Rob Zombie.