Geffen Records, 1998
REVIEW BY: Alfredo Narvaez
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/01/2000
No one -- not even Marilyn Manson -- can be considered heir to the throne of Alice Cooper more than the leader of the now-defunct White Zombie. While Manson gained -- and continues to gain -- notoriety and the ire of parents, he tends to create music that is meant to shock people. On the other foot, Zombie's music is more in tune with Cooper's -- shocking, but with a sense of theatrics and fun. Now that he's on his own, one can only guess how deeper Zombie will delve into B-movies, horror lore and circus freak shows to come up for the lyrics to his metal/industrial mix.
That said, Hellbilly Deluxe (subtitled Thirteen Tales of Cadaverous Cavorting Inside the Spookshow International) is not going to win him many new fans. Now, don't think that's a jab at the album. Hellbilly Deluxe is well-made and produced. I will explain later what I mean by that.
The record kicks off and ends with two instrumentals -- "Call Of The Zombie" and "The Beginning Of The End," respectively. For the most part, they are weird noises and kiddie chants that serve Zombie and company by setting the mood on which the album works. They do take their time getting started.
From there, the album's best three songs follow one-two-three. First is "Superbeast," a loud, fast and fun theme that is meant for arenas around the world. Next is the hit "Dragula," which is just as fun to stomp to. I checked with a friend of mine -- who is a Lieutenant in the U.S. Army's Armor Division -- and he agreed that this is the best song to drive a tank to. If he thinks so, who am I to disagree? (I definitely don't want to wake to the sound of an M-1 Abrams knocking down my door!)
Then, there's the mid-tempo "Living Dead Girl," which I'm guessing is the closest Zombie has come to a ballad. It's a slower track that uses more of the electronic keyboards than the previous two songs. Every now and again, Zombie actually slows the tempo and sets to telling a story. A good example is "The Ballad Of Resurrection Joe And Rosa Whore." Here, Zombie seems to peel a curtain back and recite the tale of two lovers who do all sorts of nasty things to each other -- for love.
Still, there are a few tracks that seem to be lacking punch or that don't grab your ear like the other tracks did. "Perversion" is an instrumental that is just average. "Demonoid Phenomenom" actually has a cool chorus, but in between there's nothing we haven't heard before. "How To Make A Monster" is weird and short. "What Lurks On Channel X?" is more industrial, while "Return Of The Phantom Stranger" is more laid-back. However, neither one is as catchy as "Dragula" or "Living Dead Girl."
Now, what did I mean by saying that Hellbilly Deluxe wasn't going to win Zombie a lot of new fans? It's this: This is an album that is meant more for longtime White Zombie fans and industrial/metal fans. It is not as focused as it perhaps should be. And some of the writing seems to lack a bit - maybe Zombie is stretching himself too thin with music, movies and comic books. Whatever it may have been, Mr. Zombie should take the proper time to fully flesh out his music -- it's what keeps us coming back.
Still, there are some good nuggets here. "Spookshow Baby" has a very cool, Middle Eastern-styled, guitar riff and is very fun. "Meet The Creeper" is a much more focused and straightforward rock song. Both show that Zombie can create some great Halloween music. This is the sort of stuff that kids eat up alongside their candy treats.
Hellbilly Deluxe is not bad by any stretch. It fulfills its purpose by providing people some escapist fun tracks. Though a couple of the bullets in this gun tend to misfire, the record manages to hit the targets it aims for. You might like it, if you give it a chance -- but don't expect it to be all like "Dragula" from beginning to end.