Review Summary: Like Hellbilly Deluxe, just worse... a lot worse.
I really believe the worst thing any artist can do – unless it is intentionally planned in the larger scheme of things – is name a project after the same album everyone recognizes you for. There are so many reasons why you shouldn’t do it, the most obvious is that it looks like a cash-grab record; trying to draw people in who might not have enjoyed the albums that proceed the one
album you’re known for. A way of laying down a cheeky wink and saying “Look guys, we’re bringing you more of what made me big in the first place.”
The truth is, when – or if – a band/artist gets to this unfortunate stage of their career, it reflects as if they’re consciously aware of themselves: going back to the drawing board, intentionally attempting to get back to basics because they know something is amiss. Maybe they feel they’ve gone off the tracks a little and need to rein it in; maybe they just want to get fuzzy nostalgia feelings from a place they were at 10-20 years ago; or maybe – the way I tend to look at it – they’ve become an artist running dangerously low on fresh ideas. If it is the last theory, you can only hope it’s a transitional period where they – hopefully – get the fatigue out of the system and move on with their mojo intact for the next album cycle.
For Rob Zombie, it’s quite rare you see him dropping the ball. But with 2006’s Educated Horses
, fans were starting to see a stagnation festering beneath the music he was making. Although I myself found it to be a valiant effort: it was the first record to showcase John 5’s intimidating chops, with a real emphasis on experimentation; a no fear attitude attached to what he was creating with the album. However, many didn’t share my sentiment, and by 2010 Rob was down a drummer, hiring Slipknot’s – at the time – Joey Jordison to lay down the grooves for what would inevitably be titled: Hellbilly Deluxe 2
, along with Piggy D on the bass (who joined shortly after Educated Horses
release). This – minus my skepticism for the album name at the time – sounded like a really interesting line-up of musicians, and with the rulebook being thrown out on his third record, meant the sequel to his debut could well have had some compelling results. The final product, nevertheless, was far from what I had envisioned.
If we’re comparing this to its first installment then Hellbilly Deluxe 2
fails on almost every conceivable level, but even if we assess this on its own merits it still falls as Rob’s weakest offering to date. Over cumbersome with unimaginative music, lyrics that defy even Rob’s usual dumb-factor themes, and a run-time that’ll make you think it was twice its length. The most disappointing aspect of this album comes from the wasted opportunity Joey’s drumming could have had, lacking real character and grit; sure you have to take into account he has to respect the confines of a blueprint Zombie has built for himself, but they’re so rudimentary it gets to a point where they merely function to hold a song together. John’s guitar work feels surprisingly empty and vacant of anything substantial to help pick up the slack: the repetition found on “Jesus Frankenstein” holds as a novelty for a whole minute before you realize this is all it has to offer, while “What?” tries to bring the sleazy swagger previous successes of “Foxy, Foxy” and “Never Gonna Stop” brought to the table; the problem is it all feels completely tired and one-note to see any appreciation in it. Further disappointments come from the instrumental “Theme for an Angry Red Planet”, for staying flat-lined throughout its entire duration, and “Werewolf, Baby!” where we hear a half-assed vocal performance from Zombie himself.
It’s not a total bust though, songs like “Sick Bubblegum” and “Mars Needs Women” bring a boat load of fun and energy to them: from “Mars Needs Women” creeping, progressive guitar licks in the verse, which culminates to a feet stomping and explosive chorus, to “Sick Bubblegum” for being insanely catchy all round. While the likes of “Everything is Boring” and “Virgin Witch” deliver a much needed injection of his heavier, doomier sound and “Burn” for managing to bring the heavier and tuneful sides together. This brings me to the point that no matter how badly Hellbilly Deluxe 2
misses the mark, it’s counterbalanced by just as many decent moments; they may not be heard as the band at its best, but in the context of the album, they save this LP from being a total waste of time.
So, is Hellbilly Deluxe 2
coined as a cash cow? By the overall quality pertained here, it certainly suggests as such. There isn’t a single moment here where I felt I was hearing the band at their best, and age hasn’t managed to sway my opinion on the matter either. It has some fun moments, but nothing worth shouting home about. Even compared to the inconsistent and near structure less nature of The Electric Warlock…
, at least that offers fans more than this will ever do. Moments on “Death and Destiny Inside the Dream Factory” where Rob sounds like he’s commentating for Wacky Races do the damage here, and if it isn’t odd segments like that, you’ll just be hearing redundant riffs or a half-baked vocal take. The bottom line: if you’re looking for a trip down memory lane, do yourself a favor and pick the Hellbilly Deluxe that doesn’t have 2 at the end of it.
EDITIONS: CD DELUXE//D̶I̶G̶I̶T̶A̶L̶//C̶D̶
SPECIAL EDITION: The second disc contains a rather vague insight into the tour they did for the album.