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Hellbilly Deluxe 2 - Rob Zombie's Return to Form... Mostly

Okay, so Educated Horses sucked. Rob Zombie fans have had four years to come to terms with that. The stellar American Witch may go down next to Dragula as one of Zombie’s best moments, but it’s also the only memorable thing on the entire album.

Now Rob Zombie is back and he has the audacity to title his next work as a sequel to his most well-known album (if not his best, a title that belongs to The Sinister Urge). 

So is slapping a 2 on the end of Hellbilly Deluxe a blasphemous move or does it manage to channel the dreadlocked Zombie of old?

Fans of Rob Zombie love him for his musical base of chunky industrial and heavy metal churn, mixed with plenty of zany horror movie trappings for style, and topped off with angry, growling vocals to seal the deal.  

Educated Horses saw Zombie’s industrial influences and aggression tossed into a bonfire and the result was largely a boring mess of an album. 

We should get the obvious out of the way and say that there’s nothing new here. Rob Zombie likes his music the way it is, thank you very much, and this album doesn’t change that, save for a few moments of actual, and very welcome, inspiration.

Thankfully the album sees the long-awaited return of his industrial influences and, thanks mostly to this, Rob Zombie has gotten enough of his groove back to provide a satisfying album for fans.

Unfortunately, Hellbilly Deluxe 2 also sees the return of a couple of other Rob Zombie traditions, namely a number of weak filler tracks and high points that just don’t quite reach his prior accomplishments.

The album opens with Jesus Frankenstein, a somewhat bland but toe tappable tune that sees Zombie returning to familiar territory. Despite being repetitive, it does manage to build to something halfway interesting by song’s end, but it’s not one of the album’s more memorable moments.

Sick Bubblegum takes the industrial fun and kicks it up a notch, providing a catchy chorus and some slick guitar work in a track that makes Jesus Frankenstein look like a total bore by comparison. Well, as long as you ignore the stupid lyrics, which is admittedly difficult because Zombie felt it necessary to repeat the phrase, “Rock motherfucker” over and over again like an elementary schooler who had just discovered cussing. Still, it’s a lot of fun despite itself.

What? was released as a single way back in October, but it remains one of the album’s highest points. The garbled vocal style has Zombie sounding somewhat like a drunken carnival sideshow announcer and it lends the song a fun, unique air. This is the aggressive, industrial Rob Zombie song that his fans have been looking for and it will lodge itself in your head long after you’ve taken off your headphones.

Right as the album starts to pick up, it shoots itself in the foot. Mars Needs Women is as sluggish and repetitive as Jesus Frankenstein and as lyrically vapid as Sick Bubblegum - not an attractive combination. The chorus line of “Mars needs women, angry red women” is kind of amusing, but quickly wears out its welcome, which is a fitting metaphor for the song as a whole.

Werewolf, Baby is what might happen if Lynyrd Skynyrd were to invite Trent Reznor to produce a track for them as part of some weird Halloween special. Musically it’s one of the more unique points on the album, and it provides one of Zombie’s more memorable vocal performances to boot, even if it does sound a bit like he’s channeling Kid Rock’s cheesy impersonations of southern rock greats.

Virgin Witch sounds a bit like something Ozzy Osbourne might have put together on an off day, complete with menacing choirs and chugging riffs. It builds pretty nicely to a satisfying finish from what is a rather forgettably bland start. 

Dream Factory is an underdeveloped blip of a song. I guess Zombie was trying to be different with this one, but the end result just ends up grating on ears before ending so quickly that it would feel unfinished if you weren’t so glad it was over.

Things pick back up again with Burn, another feast for the ears of catchy riffs, guitar soloing, and amusing, distorted babble-speak from Zombie that you won’t be able to stop yourself from singing along to even though you don’t know what he’s saying. 

Cease to Exist is full of computerized vocals and an otherworldly sensation that’s distinctly un-Zombie. It feels kind of Pink Floyd, actually, which is certainly a name I never thought I’d drop in a Rob Zombie review. It’s one of the album’s few attempts at doing something different, and it ends up being a pretty neat experiment.

Werewolf Women of the SS sounds like the Beach Boys gone rogue, contrasting some  oddly addicting surf guitar work with its wonderfully campy lyrics and sampled wolf howls. It’s a fast-paced monster of a ridiculous song that’s sure to force you to crack a smile. 

The Man Who Laughs is wickedly fast and has some epic strings backing it up, which is a nice touch. Zombie wanted to go progressive with this one. He might have succeeded were it not for the four minute long drum solo which ends up feeling like filler. It’s still one of my favorites, even if you do have to sit through four minutes of lackluster drummer porn to get to the end. 

Hellbilly Deluxe 2 won’t have you stomping your feet to industrial goodness nearly as often as his first two albums, but the album as a whole is refreshingly enjoyable, despite a few decidedly low points, which is a relief after Educated Horses left us wondering whether our dear Zombie had lost it.

After all, what’s a Rob Zombie album without a little unevenness and disappointment? Skipping a bunch of filler tracks is pretty much par for the course for one of his albums and the fact that this one has a much better batting average than his previous effort is definitely something to cheer about.

It’s not quite the return to form that its title might suggest, but fans should be pleased more often than not with this return to campy Rob Zombie brand industrial fun.

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