Whether you got into Rob Zombie through his movies or his music, one thing’s for certain: man knows a tune. Since forming White Zombie in 1985, the creature born as Robert Bartleh Cummings has rattled through ten albums of gore-soaked ditties, leaving in his wake a trail of cobwebs, ectoplasm and whatever leaks from a person when they die.
It’s a chunky catalogue, and given his new record, The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy, comes out next March, now’s as good a time as any to get acquainted with Rob’s aural abominations. Here they are, ranked worst to beast - step into the spookshow, baby.
10. Soul-Crusher (1987)
Rob Zombie may have become one of metal’s most recognisable figures, but White Zombie crawled out of the New York underground noise scene. Their debut album really is the sound of art school students finding their feet. The riffs just don’t stick, the beats don’t move you, and Rob’s signature drawl sounds like it’s been numbed after extensive dental surgery - you’ll occasionally gobble up an earworm like Die Zombie Die, but this is a curio more than anything else
9. Educated Horses (2006)
Rob’s third solo album and his first since playing dress-up as a Hollywood director, Educated Horses’ fatal flaw is its sandpapered edges. The bite, the pizzaz, the razor-sharp repulsion across much of his solo work is what often makes it so appealing - he can flit between industrial metal and rock’n’roll wooziness like the flick of a switch/stick of a witch. This record unfortunately leans too much on that glammy excess and comes off rather bloated as a result, Foxy Foxy’s T. Rex-ish swagger being the main casualty. But when he gets it right, as with Lords of Salem’s spooky spaghetti Western storytelling, it’s testament to Rob’s willingness to experiment.
8. Make Them Die Slowly (1989)
If you’re tracing the roots of Rob Zombie, this is where his signature sound truly begins. White Zombie’s second attempt goes hard on that groove metal stomp, and while Bill Laswell’s paper-thin production firmly locks the record in the late eighties, you can’t deny the strength of these songs. Those southern-fried riffs dancing through the thrash on Demonspeed, simultaneously evoking Ministry and Metallica; the double-kick fury spurring Godslayer on, abating for some triumphant guitar wankery from John Ricci - lovely stuff. It’s excessive, eccentric and electrifying. Just not the finished article yet.
7. Hellbilly Deluxe 2: Noble Jackals, Penny Dreadfuls and the Systematic Dehumanization of Cool (2010)
Rob’s flair for the dramatic dominates solo album number four, Jesus Frankenstein kicking things off like the opening credits to a Ridley Scott epic but, well, with zombies. It’s a welcome return to the rotten after Educated Horse’s detour, the likes of Sick Bubblegum and Mars Needs Women pumping out metal-tinged choruses that make no sense and don’t need to, such is their stickiness. Rob ends the record on an even more dramatic note than it started, The Man Who Laughs’ nerve-wracking strings pulled straight from the closing scenes of a slasher flick - if only for the tension to be sliced in half by Tommy Clufetos’, um, four minute drum solo. No need for that, mate.
6. La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Volume One (1992)
White Zombie’s third full-length saw Rob and the gang stuff Make Them Die Slowly’s grooves through a mince-grinder of bluesy guitar licks and exploitation film samples, tightening their offering and ensuring every song dug into your brain and set up camp there. There’s the obvious stuff like Thunder Kiss ‘65 and Black Sunshine, but this record is nearly an hour long - even tracks like Grindhouse (A Go-Go), tucked right at the arse-end of the disc, will be stuck in your head for weeks. The sampling’s reminiscent of the day’s hip-hop; the psychedelic, drugged-up vibe fit right in with the likes of Soundgarden and Alice In Chains’ dark take on alternative rock. Le Sexorcisto inadvertently straddled the zeitgeist and ended up going two-times platinum in the US.
5. The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser (2016)
Despite a title that reads like a Rob Zombie parody, Electric Warlock is surprisingly succinct. Clocking in at thirty-one minutes across twelve songs, his sixth solo outing is essentially the Zombie version of punk rock. It’s all vibrant, dayglo, sharktooth-sharp riffs backed by the hammiest of keys and John 5’s Tom Morello-isms on stuff like Medication for the Melancholy. And there’s still room for left-hand-path turns: Well, Everybody’s Fucking in a U.F.O. has Rob go full-on Les Claypool with one of his catchiest vocal lines ever, while album finale Wurdalak climaxes with some properly gorgeous piano. Electric Warlock is horny, heavy and, in its final two minutes, genuinely heartfelt.
4. Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor (2013)
Basically a more boneheaded, muscular cousin to Electric Warlock, Rob’s fifth record is industrial metal through a keyboard-laden kaleidoscope reflecting, dunno, bench-pressing werewolves or something. It’s so fun - Rock And Roll (In a Black Hole) drives a dirty Rammstein riff through equally Germanic techno beats, with White Trash Freaks not trailing far behind. Of all his 2010s output, Venomous Rat is undoubtedly the most enthusiastically bug-eyed - the hippy-dippy energy’s so infectious, it doesn’t even matter that Teenage Nosferatu Pussy’s chorus wholesale rips off Demonoid Phenomenon.
3. The Sinister Urge (2001)
The Difficult Second Solo Album? Nah. Rob Zombie jettisons that concept into space like the Xenomorph at the end of Alien, with pretty much every song on The Sinister Urge justifying him as a star in his own right. Slightly more ‘metal’ than what came directly came before, the album doesn’t skimp on the accoutrements that make Rob one of heavy music’s most idiosyncratic songwriters: spooky-dooky movie samples, 4/4 drum beats to cave in the dankest of dancefloors, and ludicrously over-the-top industrial anthems about death, dying and the dead. Whether it’s the table-flipping primal energy of Scum of the Earth or Feel so Numb’s irresistible refrain, it’s all just so… immediate. Urgent. Not very sinister, mind.
2. Astro Creep: 2000 (1995)
It’s everything La Sexorcisto was but leveled-up. Astro Creep served as White Zombie’s fourth and final album, and yeah, they really did save the best till last. Produced by Terry Date, the record pulls no punches, just flesh from haunches - you don’t need us to remind you how perfect More Human than Human’s slithering slide guitar is. You’ve already remembered. There it is. Across 11 songs and 52 minutes, White Zombie rattled through enough grooves, gabbering and gut-twisting heaviness to rival any metal band in the 90s.
1. Hellbilly Deluxe: 13 Tales of Cadaverous Cavorting Inside the Spookshow International (1998)
This is it. The hit factory. The goldmine. Every song on Hellbilly Deluxe could be a single, all packing chant-along choruses to bury a body to. You’ve got Dragula, Living Dead Girl, Superbeast - but what about deeper cuts like Demonoid Phenomenon and Spookshow Baby? All just as valid, just as vital.
Rob’s debut solo album and White Zombie’s break-up both happened mere months apart, and Hellbilly Deluxe is truly Rob’s: he took the White Zombie sound and futurised it, all industrial metal choppiness, bastard-heavy beats and timeless horror movie keys. Even the interludes are warranted - it all plays out like a creature feature, a demonic drive-in through which you’re blindfolded and subject to some of the most instantaneous, pulse-piercing metal anthems of the nineties… with a man screaming ‘Yeah!’ every other line. To say it’s a body of work mainly concerning the undead, it does a cracking job at making you feel alive. Absolutely essential listening.