I hate the word “fun”; the way it’s so haphazardly applied to just about any form of media is disgusting. “Fun” is something that can arguably be loosely – and more often than not, dishonestly – attached to the latest straight-to-video Disney sequel. Applied anywhere else, however, and the thing to which it’s attached is cheapened, weakened, and neutered to a most trivial and revolting state.
But, with any stereotype, there are exceptions, with some of them so contradictory to their binding burdens that it’s difficult to even understand how one can even succumb to such a discriminatory delusion. In fact, I can find no better way to even describe Rob Zombie’s debut solo album, Hellbilly Deluxe, without even thinking
the word fun. This isn’t fun in the sense that it’s going to dumbfound its listeners with its amazing musicianship and awesome craftsmanship. No, Hellbilly Deluxe derives its fun in the same style administered by a cheesy horror film is, which is very likely its intent. To listen to this album, scavenging mercilessly to find any intellectual merit, is to bring a knife to a gunfight. You’re not going to get very far at all. Simplicity is the key here.
Played from beginning to end, Hellbilly Deluxe does, indeed contain all the aesthetics and clichés favored by aged, B-horror movies, starting with “Call of the Zombie”, a short bit of dialogue spoken by the familiar sounding voice of a disturbed little girl, consummated twelve tracks later on the same key with the much less structured, “The Beginning of the End”. And with these, the exposition and conclusion of the play are ever so chillingly set into place, paving way for the actual bulk of the album.
There’s a very interesting trend throughout Hellbilly Deluxe. Aside from the several ambient tracks, each song is set into a strict dichotomy, leaning either toward a straightforward, hard rock groove, such as in “Superbeast”, “Dragula”, “Living Dead Girl”, and “Demonoid Phenomenon”, or rather fixated on a more aesthetic approach, as presented in “How to Make a Monster”, “The Ballad of Resurrection Joe and Rosa Whore”, “What Lurks on Channel X"”, and “Return of the Phantom Stranger”. To even more strictly dissect the album, the songs dwelling on the aforementioned hard rock groove a presented earlier on in the album, with the more aesthetically inclined songs collectively filling up primarily the latter half of the album. Interestingly, though, this segregation of styles works fairly well, building more on the cinematic appeal that the album holds: the straightforward rigidity of the beginning half sets up a general tone, and the latter half of the album consummates it with the more horrifically intense style.
It’s a misnomer, however, to label this album as truly “horrific”. At some points the attempts at the horror aesthetic are a bit lame, and uninspired. Whether or not it’s intentional, it drags a bit. Most of the tracks have, in some form or another, an underlying dance groove about them that take away from the overall theme of the album. The synthetic arrangements and sound effects occasionally also impose rather harshly upon the music.
Even with this said, however, these subtle distractions from the “horror” aesthetic are what conclusively give Hellbilly Deluxe its “fun” appeal. All the different aspects of this album come together well, yet sloppily, ultimately ending in a decent and dysfunctional sonic adventure. Yes, adventure. Hellbilly Deluxe, as noted several times, plays much like a horror movie, taking its listener on a trip from one song to the next, taking the occasional quirk here or there. Hellbilly Deluxe is a great album that doesn’t require much thought or deep concentration to enjoy. It is, quite simply, raw fun.
I give this album a 3.5 out of 5 rating.