Review Summary: Sonic Zombie! Butthole Zombies!
Fans of heavy metal/shock rock icon Rob Zombie and his former band White Zombie are likely very familiar with their distinct style of music. Heavy, repetitive riffs, mechanical drums, various industrial effects, and samples lifted from obscure b-movie slasher flicks have defined Zombie's music for the better part of three decades now; so it's interesting that White Zombie's debut, and first album of Rob's career, has almost none of those traits. No, "Soul Crusher" isn't an industrial rock album nor is it a groove metal album, its a cacophonous blend of droning fuzz-bass, angular guitars, and hysterical vocals. Simply put, "Soul Crusher" is a noise rock album.
No doubt taking heavy influence from fellow noise rock acts like Sonic Youth and Butthole Surfers, White Zombie deliver ten tracks of noisy, blistering, sleaze rock that couldn't be further from heavy metal if it tried to be. The riffs here are dissonant and chaotic, complimented by a spastic drum performance that wouldn't be out of place on a Birthday Party album. Indeed the album takes heavy influence from punk rock as well, with the horror aesthetic of The Misfits being a clear inspiration. Rob Zombie has, even at the young age of 21, already started to develop his famous horror movie inspired lyrical obsession, best observed on the song "Die Zombie Die." Elsewhere, he deals with themes of insanity, like on the song "Future Shock," which is contrasted by a demented Beefheart-esque blues bassline. The fake southern accent and hillbilly obsession he would become so known for is on display here too especially on the humorous opening monologue of the song "Crow III," which features some very nasty basslines and bizarre, almost southern rock sounding guitar riffs as well.
The production is, as you would expect from a young noise rock band, very rough, but unlike on its follow up "Make Them Die Slowly," the raw production on "Soul Crusher" only serves to compliment its sound and sleazy aesthetic. Its a derivative release, for sure, the influences of other local noise acts and horror punk is fairly blatant. It also doesn't feature the diversity that later White Zombie albums would have and it's songs do blend together at times. Rob's vocals aren't the best either, his distinct gruff singing not quite developed yet; instead utilizing a short of frenzied high yelling that becomes grating at times. That all being said, "Soul Crusher" is still a fascinating release from a band who would go on to change their sound drastically on forthcoming albums. One thats worth checking out for Rob Zombie fans and noise rock aficionados alike.