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Rob Zombie: Hellbilly Deluxe 2 Special Edition CD/DVD Review

Longing for the past seems to be a common pastime among Rob Zombie fans. There’s a great deal of debate as to whether his recent work is actually any good. Regardless of which side of the fence you fall on, you’ll find something to like in this reissue of Hellbilly Deluxe 2. With the addition of a few new tracks, the tweaking of one that was a bit self-indulgent, and even a little video content, Rob Zombie has moved this a solid step closer to being deserving of its title as a sequel to his most fondly remembered solo album.

“Devil’s Hole Girls and the Big Revolution” begins the festivities, becoming the album’s new opener. It has been a long time indeed since Zombie has sounded more like his old self than on this stunningly aggressive track. It almost sounds out of place on the album as a whole, lacking almost any of the catchy pop influences that have been so prominent in his work of late, but its two newcomer brethren make the fit more comfy. Longtime fans are sure to have a smile on their face with this one.

“Everything is Boring” is sandwiched in the middle of the disc. It sounds right at home next to former Hellbilly Deluxe 2 singles such as “What?” and “Burn”, but has a more abrasive edge that its predecessors lack. The quiet verses make a nice contrast to the relentless energy of the chorus and give the song a comfortable pace. The song brings a pleasing blend of old and new Zombie influences which should hopefully give each camp something to enjoy.

“Michael” is the next to last track and pays homage to the sinister star of the Halloween series. An appropriately evil organ begins the proceedings and leads into a slow-paced verse that chugs along in wonderfully foot-stomping fashion. Zombie’s performance is stunning here, brining a low-pitched drawl to the verses that sounds positively insidious. There’s even a bluesy guitar solo near the end, lending a down-home flavor to the song, something Zombie seems to do quite well. Other tracks “Michael” is stylistically similar to, such as “The Devil’s Rejects”, seem to share these twangy, back country thematics.

Small tweaks have been made to the existing content of the album. The superb acoustic intro to “Mars Needs Women”, which I originally thought was slightly awkward for not really leading anywhere and being attached to a song it didn’t flow into well, has been chopped off, given its own track, and named “Theme for an Angry Red Planet”. This is a great move that makes this short bit of acoustical interlude far more palatable. It also means jumping into the meat of “Mars Needs Women” is easier, though I still think this track is eclipsed by others of its ilk such as “Lords of Salem” and the newly added “Michael”. 

Finally, “The Man Who Laughs” has been redone, and rightfully so. The original was a deliciously catchy track with a pointless drum solo taking up space in the middle and ruining the flow. Zombie has seen fit to excise that misplaced element and replace it with another wonderfully atmospheric acoustical bit. It still doesn’t flow very well, but it’s a big improvement over the original. The fact that two minutes has been chopped from the lengthy running time certainly doesn’t hurt either.

Those that shell out $20 for the disc-based retail release of this updated album will probably be pinning their hopes on the included DVD to justify the high cost of the package. While it’s safe to say only hardcore Zombie nuts need worry about the video content, those that do spring for it will find an entertaining but brief DVD.

The tour documentary is the real draw. The 30 minute collection of random footage from his 2010 tour stitches together the mundane with the bizarre resulting in a feature that could only come from Rob Zombie. The creative use of sound and song clips and slick editing of the usually low-quality, handheld footage makes for a video that looks in places like it could have been pulled from one of Zombie’s horror flicks. It’s certainly not your typical documentary and I have a feeling not everyone will enjoy it, but I appreciated getting something different than the norm. 

Those looking for meaningful footage of Zombie’s formidable live show should be warned that there’s little of that here. I want a Rob Zombie concert DVD as much as the next fan, but this isn’t it.

Also included are a music video for “Mars Needs Women” and a live video of Zombie and Alice Cooper performing “School’s Out” together. The music video isn’t particularly inspired, consisting of randomly spliced-together live performance footage just like his “American Witch” and “Demonoid Phenomenon” videos. It is fun, however, and gives you more of a look at his actual stage antics than the tour documentary, albeit in frantic, random fashion. The “School’s Out” video didn’t impress me, but I’m not a huge Alice Cooper fan. Your mileage may vary.

What was once a decent Rob Zombie album with some welcome new ideas and a few missteps is now surely one of the most solid works Zombie has ever produced. This is thanks to the energy injected by the stellar new tracks that join the many existing standout tracks, such as “What?”, “Burn”, and “Werewolf Women of the SS”. There will still be a few tracks you skip, but there’s now enough A-grade material and musical variety here to make a full album’s worth of great stuff. 

Only the slightly obsessed need worry with the CD/DVD package. The DVD is entertaining, but not enough to justify the large price premium when you can get all the new songs for a few bucks. For what it’s worth, the included booklet is filled with mostly new, or at least redone, layouts and art, all of which is stylish as always, but this is also a detail of concern only to the dedicated fan.

Every Zombie fan, however, should immediately seek out the new tunes on offer, as they all stand among the best tracks on this album and perhaps even his best work period. The aggressive, industrial Zombie of times past has poked his head out from the darkness, however briefly, and given longtime fans of the horror metal king a little treat.


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