Rob Zombie - Hellbilly Deluxe 2

by Robert VerBruggen

Since departing the inimitable White Zombie, Rob Zombie has had a spotty music career. His first record, Hellbilly Deluxe, featured simplistic musicianship and a lot of filler, but it had a few tracks—"Dragula," "Superbeast," and especially "Living Dead Girl"—that were so infectious they more than made up for the album's flaws. Over the course of his next two releases, The Sinister Urge and Educated Horses, Zombie became more consistent and ambitious, but his best songs never again quite equaled the megahits on Hellbilly Deluxe.

Which brings us to Hellbilly Deluxe 2. Contrary to what the title would suggest, this is not a return to Zombie's older days. The industrial touches of the first Hellbilly are still dead and gone, and he's still exploring some new musical territory once in a while. This isn't an album-of-the-year contender by any means—too many of the songs are just paint-by-numbers Zombie tracks, with throbbing power chords, audio clips from old horror movies, and growled vocals—but for those who've been along for the ride so far, it's not a bad buy at all.

The record starts out with "Jesus Frankenstein," a slow, catchy metal track with some killer guitar riffs. Then comes "Sick Bubblegum," which is equally catchy but feels too much like a rehash of countless other songs. "What?" has a creepy circus feel, and it could almost fit on Marilyn Manson's Portrait of an American Family.

Then the real standouts start. "Werewolf, Baby" is a pleasant surprise with its slide-guitar riffs and almost classic-rock feel. The vocal effects on "Cease to Exist" are a bit much, but the song adds a psychedelic feel to the record. "Werewolf Women of the SS" is a lot of fun in that classic Rob Zombie kind of way. "The Man Who Laughs" is ten minutes of synthesized strings, guitar, and even a lengthy drum solo, but it works surprisingly well.

Zombie still hasn't completely shaken his tendency toward filler, however. The acoustic intro to "Mars Needs Women" is promising, but the mind-numbingly stupid chorus sinks the whole track. And while there's nothing wrong with "Virgin Witch" or "Dream Factory," per se, they're not great songs and bring absolutely nothing to the table stylistically. "Burn" features guttural nu-metal vocals that went out of style years ago.

If you haven't been in the Zombie camp since the first Hellbilly, Hellbilly 2 probably won't draw you in. But anyone who doesn't mind losing a few IQ points to the man's pointless-but-catchy music will feel right at home in the grisly grooves on offer here.

-- Robert VerBruggen is an associate editor at National Review. You can follow his writing at http://www.google.com/profiles/robertv4311.

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