I’ve been obsessing about music since about the year 2000. Over this time I’ve bought what must now be nearly 1,000 albums, and heard hundreds more through friends, relatives, streaming services and whatever else. I’ve also watched over a decade’s worth of music videos and heard countless individual songs on the radio, free covermounted CDs, websites and whatever else. All that, as well as read years and years worth of music magazines and websites.
I’m a nerd. Basically. Only, instead of Buck Rogers or collecting butterflies, its Music that I obsess about. Lots of people are nerds and don’t even realize it. Sometimes its obvious; trainspotting, stamp collecting etc. Sometimes its less obvious due to presentation. Some (make that many) football fans’ depth of knowledge about players and transfer costs and club histories would make many tram-enthusiasts seem normal by comparison. The amount of information that some people know about Reality-TV celebrities and their sex-lives would easily overpower my knowledge of bands, or the most dedicated Dr. Who fan’s knowledge of the Tardis.
But I don’t like Football or Reality TV or Trams or Dr. Who. I like Heavy Metal music. That’s what this Blog is all about.
Welcome to my First Impressions series of articles too, incidentally. In this series I (or sometimes my friends, or readers) pick an album for each entry that I will listen to for the first time. I then write in depth about what I know about that album or the artist that created it and the genre and subgenre to which they belong, before describing the experience of listening to it in real time, in a sort of semi-stream-of-consciousness way intended for entertainment purposes. I also enjoy writing reviews of albums, but when I write reviews my goal is to be helpful and provide you with information with which to aide your decision about whether to try out an album or not. When I write a First Impressions article however my goal is purely to entertain the reader, explore how much I know about music and be my own psychiatrist in the process.
I may go into some very specific detail and assume you have heard everything I’ve ever heard and perceived everything in the manner I’ve perceived it, and call out very specific sections of music and draw comparisons between things that the casual listener may find completely unrelated. Don’t worry, most of these songs are on Youtube and most of the terminology is on Wikipedia and Urban Dictionary anyway, so if there’s anything that goes over your head, you can always get clarification in a second web-browser-tab (or ask about it in the comments).
According to the aim of the series, the albums are considered by the public and music critics knowledgeable about the subject to be Classic albums within Rock and Metal, or at least within their own Subgenres. Classic albums that I’ve somehow missed out on, despite my nerdly need to hear and understand almost every piece of recorded Metal music ever.
If you have an album that you’d like to read a KingcrimsonBlog First Impressions article about, please suggest it in the comments, I’m game, I’ll give anything a try.
So that’s the preamble out of the way, on to the article:
So, what’s my history with White Zombie? Well, I’ve heard one or two singles on music-TV as a teenager. My teenage best friend had their albums (and that Rob Zombie Best-Of that had White Zombie songs on it for some reason). I remember I absolutely hated the hand-drawn images in the artwork, (not the actual album covers, but the cartoony stuff on the back, in the booklets or on the disc itself), it reminds me of a certain style of drawing that one of my primary school classmates used to draw, which also reminds me of a series of products for young kids called Planet Kraps, which was based around tame gross-out humour, such as the inclusion of stink bombs, or photographs of bugs like cockroaches.
[Side Note: I remember I lent him some videogames and he never returned them, and he lent me a videogame right towards the end of school and by the time I was done with it I never saw him again, and for a few years was guilty and annoyed at not returning the disc in time, as I didn’t want to be the sort of twat who would borrow things and not return them, then, about four years later after no PCs would ever play the game anymore on their new operating systems I either snapped the disc, binned the disc, or both. To be forgotten about for years until just now. Final Liberation I think it was called.]
I found it incredibly off-putting for some reason. Nowadays, as an open-minded adult who has learned not to judge books by their cover (and at least tries to uphold that) it doesn’t bother me anymore. I still don’t like it, I wouldn’t get a poster of it for my wall or anything, but disliking it doesn’t affect my view of the music.
I’ve had some experience with Rob Zombie on his own. I quite like Powerman 5000 (even if a lot of people in Venom t-shirts may boycott the Blog over that) and Rob provides guest vocals on their song ‘Blast Off To Nowhere’ which I’ve always really, really enjoyed. Apparently the two singers are related.
I’ve heard Rob Zombie’s ‘Dragula’ and ‘Scum Of The Earth’ a decent enough amount of times in my life and enjoy them a sort of medium amount. I also heard the lead single off of the three newest albums ‘Foxy Foxy,’ ‘Sick Bubblegum’ and ‘Dead City Radio And The New Gods Of Supertown’ which I found in turn to be not-for-me, good for twenty seconds but lacking in variety and lastly actually very good with neat Deep Purple-sounding keys.
I really like Rob’s voice, and I remember liking the type of riffs that they play sort of in general but I don’t like their sort of B-Movie vibe, (I don’t like it when Murderdolls or Wedensday 13 or Frankenstein Drag Queens do it either… its just not my thing and never has been, like Nightmare Before Christmas hats or nose piercings). I vaguely remember they had a sort of sonic similarity to Rammstein and Marilyn Manson, possibly due to the use of metallic rock riffs with a Nu Metal production and electronic drums. I don’t remember enough to know if that’s right or if it’s a vague distorted teenage impression. I also think they had a lot of samples, like Ministry and were influential to bands like American Headcharge.
Two further Zombie-related memories: 1. I remember back in my pre-internet days as a young teen, my first concert was Ozzfest Ireland, and back then my friends and I didn’t know exactly who would be playing. I remember a friend of a friend (who I disliked) telling me that Rob Zombie would be playing (and it turned out that he didn’t).
2. About two years ago I was in a band, and the guitarist’s girlfriend was a giant, giant Rob Zombie fan, it was like her one big super-fan thing. I remember thinking at the time, Rob Zombie doesn’t seem like he could be anyone’s favourite band. I can see loads of people liking his music, but it seems odd that anyone would love his music. He seems like a bit of a perpetual 6/10 that gets by on visually interesting concerts. He never seemed to me to have the depth of Marilyn Manson, or the consistency of Rammstein. He just seemed like a gateway band and a bit of throwaway fun. Of course looking back on it now, of course any band could be anyone’s favourite band, but at the time it seemed surprising.
I remember when I first noticed that Disturbed were an absolutely giant band, beloved by all and selling out massive arenas, it really surprised me because I remembered when I liked them on their Sickness cycle, everyone I knew thought they were stupid throwaway music with no depth and embarrassing to be seen to like. I suppose there’s a non-vocal majority issue going on there. How does everyone on the internet hate them, but every Rock and Metal fan in the city buy tickets to the show?
Interesting. Anyway, back to Zombie…
I’ve heard conflicting things as to what they actually sound like. I’ve heard that they play 90s Groove Metal like Pantera which I’ve never seen any proof of. I’ve heard that the sound like Ministry, but that might be for superficial reasons rather than the actual music. I’ve heard that they sound like Nu Metal, which would be easy to imagine, thinking about Powerman 5000. I also read that before these two albums their underground stuff was noise-rock influenced by Hardcore. I really can’t imagine that. But then Alice In Chains as a Glam band was probably hard to imagine too. It was. No probably about it.
So. What am I doing sat here with a White Zombie album that’s probably a throw-away 6/10 record? Well; Excluding expanding my knowledge, (the main reason I do this at all), the main reason I chose this album is because I remember my friend Magnum said that Astro Creep 2000 was awful, and I got curious. I wanted to hear what was so awful about it. Also because I saw them for 60p each. That’s worth a blog. £1.20 for a Blog wasn’t too bad, was it?
Lets find out…
The album opens up with ‘Welcome To Planet Motherfucker/Psychoholic Slag.’ It starts off with some sound effects taken from old movies, as you would expect really. When the music kicks in, its with a guitar part and tom build up that wouldn’t be out of place on a Monster Magnet song. Then the riff-propper and the beat comes in and it feels somewhere between Anthrax and Limp Bizkit. The production is weird and thin, the guitars are very quiet. Robs vocals come in, and his general voice is interesting sounding, but there isn’t much passion in his performance. The song goes through a few cool riffs. At one point it genuinely sounds like ‘Eye Of The Beholder’ or ‘Shortest Straw’ by Metallica for a brief verse.
At the 4.15 mark, it slows down into a new groovier part. This is more in the Pantera vein. Its really enjoyable. The really weak production and lifeless performance kind of kill it though. If they played the fuck out’ve this and had a beefy production it would sound really impressive. I guess they made their money on their image, vocal style and samples though, rather than an ‘umph’ in the way they played.
‘Knuckle Duster (Radio 1-A)’ is basically just an intro.
‘Thunder Kiss 65’ is next. Apparently it was a big hit. It reminds me of a slower ‘This Is Not’ or ‘I’m With Stupid’ by Static X. Its got a kind of stoner rock vibe on the chorus, and the lead guitar squealing gives it a bit of a my-brain credibility boost. It sits in an interesting place on the musical spectrum between Nu Metal, Stoner and that sort of Pantera groove. It doesn’t have that slow, bass and drums with guitar feedback thing that the Korn and Coal Chamber type of Nu Metal had, and there’s no hip hop influence that I can hear. There’s something in it that makes me associate it with Nu Metal though. Possibly the bouncy yet simplistic drumming.
‘Black Sunshine’ opens up with bass, then bass and drums. Then diving guitars. It reminds me a lot of ‘Misery Machine’ by Marilyn Manson, only the way that there’s like a television announcer style talking over the top reminds me a lot of Megadeth. Dave Mustaine likes to do that sort of thing. The main riff is very reminiscent of Anthrax. Rob puts a bit more effort into the vocals here, as well as a bit more variety. It feels more like the band give a shit in general. At the two minute mark it just turns to Thrash. Its got a nice guitars and cymbal chokes bit, then the riffs come back a bit more chuggy. There are nice quick little double kick blasts in the next section. Then it cuts to a nice slow groove on the ride cymbal like Pantera would do (or 90s Megadeth). It reminds me a bit of Blues For The Red Sun era Kyuss mixed with State Of Euphoria era Anthrax.
‘Soul-Crusher’ opens with a sort of very Metal opening. Its a very Overkill or Kreator style opening. It feels like either Trad, Power or Thrash Metal will follow. What it actually does is kick into a slow ride-based groove like Pantera or Chaos AD era Sepultura would do. The tails of the riffs remind me of ‘No Remorse.’ Its funny, all this time I’ve been looking for another Groove Metal band, and the closest one I find is the one that I expect to sound like a mixture of Rammstein and Coal Chamber. Just as it seems to start to drag on too long, it picks up speed and changes rhythm, bringing in a breath of fresh air. Then it cuts back to that Overkill bit and ends. Well done. If there was more of an exciting performance and a fuller production this would be a really cool song. I’d like someone like Five Finger Death Punch to cover this.
‘Cosmic Monsters Inc.’ follows. Was it the inspiration for the Disney film? No. It does open with a sample from Batman though. Then it cuts into a nice groovy riff that lives in that perfect ‘90s bubble I wanted. Then after another Kill ‘Em All influenced tail it cuts into an even better one. Its like a mixture between Anthrax and Pantera, with just the slightest Limp Bizkit style bounce in there. If it weren’t for all the cartoony stuff they marketed themselves with, this sort of thing would sit very comfortably beside Vulgar Display, Chaos AD and Burn My Eyes in my ‘90s Groove Genre that I want to exist, but that doesn’t really exist.
One thing’s for sure, this is closer in sound to Thrash than it is to Powerman 5000. Quite a surprise really. Well, if not Thrash per say, then definitely that whole Countdown To Extinction/Sound Of White Noise/Black Album period, only without the ballads. The deep tracks/cuts from those records. A mixture of the ‘Hy-Pro Glo’-s, the ‘Don’t Tread On Me’-s and the ‘Architecture Of Aggression’-s if you catch my drift.
‘Spiderbaby (Yeah-Yeah-Yeah)’ follows that. Was it the inspiration for the Father Ted episode? No. It sounds a bit like ‘We Who Are Not As Others’ for a few seconds then a bit like ‘No Good (Attack The Radical)’ for a few seconds. Then it spoils it a bit by going into one of those Korn/Coal Chamber guitar feedback verse for a brief second, although to be fair they handle it in more of a Kyuss/Monster Magnet way than a Korn way. Then they throw in a nice Thrash riff for a second then cut back to their slow groove. Then a nice bit where they mix the groove and the ‘We Who Are Not As Others’ bit. Then a nice big fat sort of Doom riff. Its Sabbathy, but through a Black Album filter. Then what sounds like a Slayer intro mixed with one of the slower tracks on Far Beyond Driven (My Soul For A Goat) with a lot of samples and a very quiet guitar solo hidden underneath. I guess it kind of works like one of those Machine Head outros where it gets really slow. Only without their hardcore influence.
‘I Am Legend’ starts next. Was it the inspiration for the Will Smith remake of Omega Man? YES! YES IT ABSOLUTELY WAS! It sounds a bit like a ‘Good Mourning’ or an ‘In My Darkerst Hour’ with its intro, then it just kicks into a nice, nodding waves sort of stoner groove. Its in the same ballpark as Black Label Society’s debut, but with a more 80s Bay Area guitar tone. It sounds like what might’ve happened if Testament wanted to make a biker song. At around the 4.17 mark its really, really up my street with a Thrashy tail, a nodding stoner tide body and an actually melodic lead guitar. Then it ends like the end in a concert.
‘Knuckle Duster (Radio 2-B)’ is another intro. At least they separate these moments into separate tracks. Queens Of The Stone Age did this same sort of thing on Songs For The Deaf but didn’t separate out the intros and outros from the songs.
‘Thrust!’ Starts like a Kreator song so much its really shocking. Then it kicks into the funnest thing on the album so far, a weird bouncy Rage Against The Machine bit, and then into a calmer verse version of that. It comes back as a sort of Chorus. This is one of the most satisfying things on the album so far, “larger than life”-wise. This should’ve been a single if it wasn’t already. There’s some fun drums. This is even closer to Nu Metal in sound really, but the extra life and energy in the performance makes it a lot more exciting than most of the album. I like the guitar solo that’s actually loud enough and soloy enough for a change. I like how its followed by more of those Kill ‘Em All tails to transition it back into its RATM bounce section. If every song had this level of energy, this album would be very good.
‘One Big Crunch’ is another intro. It works along the same lines as the intro to Slipknot’s debut. I’ll bet this influenced it.
‘Grindhouse (A Go-Go)’ comes next. It opens up with the same drums intro as Green Day’s ‘Armitage Shanks’ for some reason. Then it goes into another on/off bouncy bit that’s part way between Nu Metal and Pantera. This one has the decency again to be energetic. There’s a nice balance between bouncy riffs, and adding Thrash-era segues and bridges in there. There’s a cool bit around 2.12 that’s halfway between Pantera and Megadeth. It actually takes a slightly Slayer turn at one point, although they offset it by chanting ‘Go, Go, Go!’ over the top. Then they add some characterful lead guitar stuff that really adds a flavor to the song and brings a smile to my face. This is one of the better songs for sure.
‘Starface’ starts off with a drum-beat that could’ve been in the last two songs. It luckily has a very different feel on the opening guitar part. Then they throw in some very Mustainey riffing, then add a sort of funky tinge to things. The vocals are a bit more Nu Metal with their speedy, burbly delivery. It’s a good and enjoyable song in this style. It sounds like it could be in the soundtrack to a ps1 or 2 videogame about cars or skateboards. Its sort of like a Fu Manchu song being played by Powerman 5000. Its actually the closest that the two have sounded alike so far. It not a glaring similarity though. Its still probably closer to ‘90s Megadeth than it is to Powerman. It just the bounciness and the tambourines on the hi-hat, although that equally gives it a bit of a Stoner tinge.
‘Warp Asylum’ closes the album out. It opens with a slower, more Sabbathy intro. It then warps into a Dozery/Soundgardeny hypnotic nod. At one point there’s actually one of those Layne/Cantrell harmonies in there too. This is an interesting ending to an interesting album. It’s almost like Black Album era Metallica playing their version of that ending to that Stone Temple Pilots album I talked about. At about 3.20 though, they throw out a riff that should be on South Of Heaven but use it to transition into a nice crunchy Clutch/Magnet part. The best lead guitar part on the album follows. After more of that slow Stoner/Grunge mix, they kick into a heavy Pantera part for about ten seconds then just end abruptly and play a load of samples.
This band really do sit on an interesting musical crossroads. Traces of Thrash used in unconventional ways, hints of Stoner and Grunge sparingly used. Influencing factors of parts of Nu Metal’s sound (but not the famous bits) and a whole heap of that should-exist Pantera-based Groove Genre. Excluding samples though; I didn’t hear anything that sounded the slightest bit industrial.
Maybe its on the next album.
Best find out then….
‘Electric Head Pt. 1 (The Agony)’ opens the record. More of that repeated sample intro business. The whole thing I think is sick. Then some dark circus/horror movie keys. Then some industrial sounding clanking mechanical percussion.
Then a riff that sounds like Rammstein. Oh hey. A chunkier production and more energy, just what the doctor ordered!
This one has more of that sort of disco-metal thing you hear people talk about to it. I can also hear the slightest hint of Pray For Villains era Devil Driver to it. I remember hearing Beez on the Metal Hammer Podcast draw that comparison before and I didn’t understand it until now. Its whole, “repetitive but simple chunky riff and vaguely industrial tinges in the background” thing is handled a lot better than Prong did on Rude Awakening.
‘Super-Charger Heaven’ is next. Apparently its one of the more famous ones. I found out through google that it was featured in the soundtracks to the Stalone Judge Dredd film as well as the second Ace Ventura. More samples. Then a fun slightly punky feel, and a bouncy Californian feeling bass and drums following that. The production and energy have vastly improved. The vocals are a bit cartoony, and the samples are a bit too cartoony too like Portrait Of An American Family and Smells Like Children, but the riff is fairly fun, the double kicks make my brain smile, and the ‘devil man, devil man’ bit in the chorus is catchy. Then throw in the occasional surfery lead guitar sections and it works well for me. I can see how this won fans back in the day.
‘Real Solution #9’ opens up with a part that reminds me of ‘South Texas Deathride’ by The Union Underground. This one is very Nu Metally. Its such a far cry from that Thrash sounding stuff on the previous album, and yet, an obvious next step in some ways. This track sounds like the background menu music in a videogame. Like when you select your fighter and level and rules in a fighting game. The do that Limp Bizkit thing of sounding heavy because of the guitar tone and the amp sound, without actually playing heavily. Its really satisfying at a gut level, but also makes me feel slightly guilty and embarrassed to listen to, like laughing at a joke at a comedy gig that you would frown at in the workplace.
When you look at this song, it barely exists. Nothing really happens. Its just a general rhythm and a nice guitar sound. But, sort of… it barely exists… if that makes any sense.
‘Creature Of The Wheel’ opens with a part that sounds a bit Korn, or like Mudvayne’s Kill I Oughta Material. Maybe a bit like ‘Coal.’ Then it goes a bit Black Label Society. Parts of it have a nice heavy groove. But it’s a tad repetitive and too cartoony. There’s a part where they take the guitar out and just have the bass and drums loud that sounds like that Coal Chamber/Korn style of Nu Metal that was absent on the previous record. There is a fair amount of heaviness to the riffs, it is actually pretty intense in a way. Its not really varied or exciting enough to really catch my attention though.
‘Electric Head Pt. 2 (The Ecstasy)’ sounds much more like what I expected the band to sound like. I think I’ve heard this one on music TV and maybe youtube at parts. Its got a bit of that common link between Static X, Rammstein and Ministry to it. The bit where Nu Metal bands sound a bit Industrial or Industrial bands do a Nu Metal sounding single. I can really envision a lot of people enjoying this in an alcohol-fueled nostalgia at rock clubs. The kind of people who would call all Nu Metal shite on facebook, but sing every Papa Roach and Korn single word for word once they’ve had a drink.
‘Grease Paint And Monkey Brains’ opens up with more of that evil-circus music for a few second. Then it has a nice intro that sounds like a good moment in a Korn song. Then it goes into that bass and drums slowness that I always disliked from Nu Metal. When the chorus riff comes in, it’s a big fat biker/stoner thing that really makes me smile. It’s a shame they tease you for so long with the bass and drums only verse. The guitar solo reminds me a bit of Monster Magnet. The song keeps altering between those three or four similar loud/post-loud/quiet/quiet with samples bits for the rest. It simple and repetitive and half-satisfying. It fades out on an awesome riff that they’re crazy to have wasted (but which I guess might’ve been too close to ‘Walk’ to use).
‘I, Zombie’ is a bit more exciting. Its faster. Its got one of those stop/start mechanics like those ones towards the end of the last album, only sort of faster, with the new chunkier production. Style-wise it’s a good example of what I want from this album. It may be a bit shallow content wise though. It gets nice and energetic towards the end. They should’ve used that as the base-level of energy for both albums. Then they’d be brilliant.
‘More Human Than Human’ has a fun electronic wobbly intro that reminds me of videogames. Then it kicks into a part that reminds me of Arctic Monekys’ ‘Chun Li’s Flying Bird Kick’ in a way. Then Rob comes in with sort of rapped vocals. The chugs that come in are enjoyable in that dumb-guilt way. I like the bit where he keeps repeating the song’s title, even though I wouldn’t like to admit it sitting beside somebody in a Nile T-Shirt. Shame the rest of it is so sort of hollow sounding. I guess, this is a literal case of style over substance then, is it?
‘El Phantasmo And The Chicken-Run Blast-O-Rama’ is a step up. Its still a bit shallow, still a bit videogame menu music. But its trying. I’d happily have this on in the background if I worked in a shop that sold Metal T-Shirts or a Bar in a Rock Club. Its totally palatable and pleasant, though not especially amazing.
‘Blur The Technicolor’ has an interesting paradiddly percussion intro that reminds me a bit of Clown-penned Slipknot tracks. Then it gets a bit of a Sepultura vibe when the instruments kick in. Then it goes into a groove that’s more like the style of the last album than this one. Its got a nice chorus. This one has potential. It goes through that cycle one more time, as is logical for a song to do, then into a bridge that lasts about six seconds, then it goes through the cycle one more time. Make or break time, explode, solo or end to stay good…
Ok. They end. The least good option, but still, its better than carrying on for too long with no new ideas.
‘Blood, Milk And Sky’ has a jangly faux-psychedelic intro then kicks into a very Rammstein sounding bit, only with a Soundgarden style noise over the top. The a cool part that sounds like when Sepultura covered ‘Procreation Of The Wicked.’ This again, is an appropriate album-ender for this sort of album. At the two-minute mark they add some clean eastern-prayer sounding stuff that elevates the song above just a mid-paced Nu Metal track with a vaguely Industrial connection. It goes on for a while and then ends without doing anything special or impressive but it was absolutely fine for what it was.
There’s a bonus track called ‘Where The Sidewalk Ends, The Bug Parade Begins.’ Initially, it reminds me a bit of the Deftones’ earlier material. It just sort of goes on without achieving anything really. They’dve been safer just having this as an outro or a mid-section to a song that needed variety…like most of them do.
So. Those were the albums.
As I suspected, the Ministry connection was superficial only. The Rammstein thing was applicable to the 2nd one and not the 1st, the Pantera groove thing was applicable to the 1st and not the 2nd. At least that explains how it could be both.
I would’ve loved the energy levels of the most energetic songs the whole way through. I would’ve loved the production quality and guitar tone of the 2nd one on both records. I would’ve loved the 2nd one to keep all those little Kill ‘Em All, Countdown To Extinction and State Of Euphoria flavours in there. I would’ve liked more, louder, and longer lasting guitar solos on both records, with less samples and silly song titles on both records. I liked the first one more musically, and the second one better sonically. Neither were particularly spell binding, but at least Astro Creep wasn’t as irremediably awful as Magnum made me expect it to be. To be fair, it was better than that Kittie album he made me listen to.
Overall, there were some fun moments, and some nice riffs (especially on the thrashier first one) but a lack of variety, ideas and an over-reliance on their gimmicks rather than their skills as musicians, performers or songwriters leaves them a bit hit-and miss and a bit forgettable for my own tastes.
I think I’ll go listen to a few Rob Zombie tracks on Spotify and see if they’re any more exciting. (Hey at least Dragula is damn catchy).