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Embrace the darkness
on 22 February 2003
Rob Zombie has certainly managed to forge his own special place in the hard-rocking halls of popular music. He went all out in the gimmick department, but it definitely works. Having little familiarity with White Zombie at the time this album was released, Living Dead Girl served as my mode of introduction to this "unusual" artist. I immediately found his music disturbing, unique, and definitely appealing, but I initially hesitated in buying Hellbilly Deluxe. Once I heard Dragula, though, I had to get the album. As a horror fan, I enjoy Zombie's close affiliation with the darker paths of life. He can be a little scary, I suppose, but the hint of whimsy that can be discerned in his music is made much clearer when you get a look at the little booklet that comes with the CD. The disturbing cartoon references bring to my mind images of wonderful old monster movies, Weird Tales magazine, and those vintage horror comics that eventually became victims of government citizenship. Rob Zombie knows how to have fun with extreme horror, and that makes him a great guy in my book.
Personally, I love the way words and small speeches are incorporated into his music (not to mention the joys of hearing random screams in the background); it helps make listening to Zombie a surreal experience. This does mean that you don't really have 13 songs on the album, though; a few of the tracks are short musical bridges connecting one great song with another. This is not a problem, though, because everything goes together to make this album an experience that transcends simple music. As for the music itself, I love its driving beat, horrorific overtones, and powerful vocals. The guy's not going to win any singing contests, but it doesn't matter because his presentation is excellent in all facets of the music-great lyrics with pulsing, rhythmic beats that worm their way into your brain and chest, letting you pretend for a while that your heart is black and nothing really matters beyond experiencing life in its most fundamental and necessarily unclean ways. I wouldn't want to go out in public in a Zombie-fied frame of mind, but this music is a great way to relieve the stress of mundane modern life.
Living Dead Girl and Dragula are the most familiar tracks on here, but there are plenty of songs of the same high caliber. Superbeast gets the show off to a great start; the relentlessly pulsing beat of Spookshow Baby is awesome; Meet the Creeper and The Ballad of Resurrection Joe more than hold their own, and Return of the Phantom Stranger has a mesmerizing quality in its monotone lyrics, sneaking up on you from side to side before unleashing its full torrent of force upon both ears simultaneously. There is a great cohesiveness to the album as a whole, making it almost impossible for you to simply pick and choose different tracks to listen to; Hellbilly Deluxe essentially requires you to listen to the whole thing in all its complete glory ever time you put the disc in your CD player.