On the heels of his Twins Of Evil co-headlining tour with Marilyn Manson, horror rocker Rob Zombie has returned with his fifth solo outing, and anybody eager to see what bold new direction he’s taken now has lost the plot several chapters ago. Over his 25-year career, the undisputed overlord of monster metal has sold upwards of 15 million albums based on the same tried-and-true formula: punishing industrial rhythms, shout-out choruses and Zombie’s one-of-a-kind wretched lyrical landscape of madmen, aliens, sexpots and of course, the undead — often all tucked within the same couplet.
While other acts endure scathing abuse at the slightest hint of rehashing an old recipe, Zombie’s defiant adherence to his original blueprint has only galvanised his fanbase and inspired something of a grudging respect from critics. Certainly he’s not the first artist to earn a decent living from mining the same vein; the sprawling wealth of the AC/DC empire eclipses the economies of entire nations as a direct result of the Young brothers’ fanatical avoidance of tinkering with a proven formula.
Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor kicks off with Teenage Nosferatu Pussy – an ominous mid-tempo grinder replete with Zombie’s trademark horror movie audio samples, crunchy guitars and repeated howls of ‘Awwwlriiiight!’ punctuating the refrain. As with previous records, the extremity of the lyrical themes is tempered by a cool flirtation with mainstream sensibilities.
It’s on the second cut, Dead City Radio And The New Gods Of Supertown, where the album shifts into high gear, conjuring the ghost of the classic Doors cut, The WASP (Texas Radio And The Big Beat). Yet while both songs feature prominent organ parts and singers talking over a snappy 4⁄4 cadence, only Zombie’s version boasts a verse about rhinestone tigers in leisure suits and a snippet of a 1972 speech by civil rights activist Jesse Jackson.
The album maintains stratospheric energy through most of the tracks, with gleefully sleazy anthems like Revelation Revolution and Behold! The Pretty Filthy Creatures delivering supernova-sized choruses on top of 18-wheel riffage, courtesy of Zombie’s prodigious guitarist, John 5. While there are decidedly more hits than misses, the electronica-saturated Rock And Roll (In A Black Hole) meanders too long for too small of a payoff. Likewise, a fairly straightforward cover of Grand Funk Railroad’s We’re An American Band might play well live but it feels like filler next to the storming Lucifer Rising.
With Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor, Rob Zombie aspires to bridge his White Zombie past with his future as a solo artist, and while this claim implies that such a middle ground even exists, surprisingly, such a trip requires but the shortest of steps. The new record sees Zombie unleash his hardest-hitting and most infectious grooves yet, delivering a bracing clutch of arena-friendly anthems that represent his most polished and accessible work to date.