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Rob Zombie – Zombie Live (Album Review)

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Rob Zombie – Zombie Live (Album Review)

Rob Zombie is one of those unique enigmas of the music industry that one can’t help but gravitate towards. His legacy and influence is legendary and while he still classes Alice Cooper amongst his idols, Zombie is without a doubt a force to be reckoned with and has arguably matched the success and influence of his idol, if not superseded it. As a serious Cooper fan, I’m glad to see the torch has been passed to the younger shock rocker, but one does have to wonder who will come after Zombie for they broke the mould when they made this monster of rock.

Personally, I’ve been a fan of Zombie’s work since I first heard White Zombie’s More Human Than Human on an episode of the television series Millennium. From that moment on, I was hooked and if Zombie released it, I tried desperately to purchase it if the budget allowed for the expense. Yes, like all good record collections, there are a couple of significant holes in my Zombie-based library, but if I had everything, then there’d be nothing left to look forward to. Trust me, the unfulfilled feeling in this regard is real. I have every AC/DC album in my collection and I feel ambivalent towards it. I want more, yet there is nothing more to get. Rule 1 of music collecting is to always ensure you pass on a release that you know you’ll regret not picking up at a later date. That way, you’ll forevermore search for a copy, or hope for a reissue, and that keeps you going as you explore and expand your collection. Perhaps my greatest regret was not picking up a copy of White Zombie’s Let Sleeping Corpses Lie. Well, I wasn’t going to make that mistake again, as the aforementioned album is now impossible to get on the Australian market for a reasonable price, so I subsequently picked up the incredible It Came From N.Y.C vinyl boxset upon release. Yes, I know Zombie himself had nothing to do with that release and similarly the former White Zombie band members had nothing to do with Let Sleeping Corpses Lie but for this Zombie fan, it was always going to be a value-added proposition that includes a beautifully presented hardcover book with a detailed look at the band from inception to Zombie’s ultimate decision to go solo. Regardless, I’m sure I’ll eventually pick up a copy of Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, but it is fun to pass on copies when they come up. It becomes a talking point and I absolutely love obtaining that hidden gem as much as I enjoy leaving it on the record store shelf for another fan to purchase and add to their own collection.

The same excitement also occurs when I decide if I should pick up the CD or Vinyl release. Generally, in Australia, CD prices are at an all-time low and are always more affordable than the vinyl counterpart. The only problem with that is that as much as I adore the CD format, the mastering is often hit and miss. Not in this case, however, as Zombie Live, while mastered a little on the hotter side, is full of dynamic range and provides a real sense of the concert experience one could expect from a Zombie performance. It is, quite frankly, one of the best recorded, mixed, and mastered live CD’s I’ve ever heard. Thank you Scott Humphrey!; a man as pivotal to Zombie’s success as Bob Ezrin is to Alice Cooper. Of course, Zombie Live would be the last album Humphrey would work on with Zombie and it’s such a shame because their collaboration was off-the-charts good. As usual, I digress, but Humphrey knew how to get the very best out of Zombie and while Zombie continues to amaze, his early-era solo releases still outperform his more recent output in my opinion.

So, we have established that the mastering is perfect on the CD release and quite frankly there isn’t a single element that I would change as it simply sounds right. However, in 2018, Zombie Live was reissued on vinyl, for the first time as the vinyl resurgence wasn’t even a blip on the radar at the time of release in 2007. We were still, inserting CDs into computers, ripping them to our iPods, and accessing bonus material via the connection between the CD and the associated artist website. We’ve certainly come a long way since then and purchasing the vinyl edition would at least remove that ungodly black box of text from the exquisite album artwork. My concern, however, is what if the pressing sucks? The CD sounds right, as I mentioned earlier, and vinyl certainly has it’s own unique sound signature that is neither better or worse than the digital edition, it’s just different. Now, I have plenty of Zombie’s albums on vinyl and his Spookshow International Live is a personal favourite, that while presented on a spectacular picture disc, sounds absolutely incredible; hence it shouldn’t really be an issue but vinyl pressings are as hit and miss as CD masterings. Logic says I should be happy with the CD release, and perhaps I am, but I will always wonder if I should have picked up the vinyl edition. Of course, if I did, I would gift the CD to my son as I no longer collect and hoard both a CD and vinyl copy. It’s excessive and I found that I wasn’t enjoying an album because I got into the bad habit of comparing the CD to the vinyl release upon each play – quite frankly a futile process! 

All that said, I am thoroughly happy with the CD release and while some vinyl releases come with extensive liner notes, many don’t and if there is one thing that I’ve always appreciated about Zombie’s CD releases, it is the attention to detail and providing the music lover with a full-featured booklet to go along with the purchase. Not bad considering Zombie openly acknowledges the end of the album and the fact that no one buys them anymore. Well, Rob, I still purchase them and I thank you for keeping the album format alive, even though it goes against your personal beliefs.

Of course, I know how easy it is to simply listen to music via streaming services, but you should seriously consider picking up, at least, the CD release of Zombie Live as it offers enough additional content to appease any Zombie fan. Okay, so much of the booklet is photographs from various live performances, but they are killer shots that you likely wouldn’t find elsewhere. Unfortunately, while this live recording is Mastered for iTunes, no digital booklet is included with the iTunes purchase. As disappointing as that is, we’re here for the music, so let’s take a look at the 18 thunderous songs that make up Zombie Live.

Sawdust In The Blood, from Educated Horses, offers the perfect backdrop to launch this live performance. A killer instrumental!

American Witch flows seamlessly from Sawdust In The Blood and remains my favourite song from the Educated Horses era. It’s a little heavier than some of Zombie’s other groove-based metal songs, but I love it! Interestingly, given this was the live album that came after Educated Horses, it is somewhat surprising that Foxy Foxy didn’t make an appearance. Nevertheless, American Witch is perfectly suited to the live lineup and the attitude of the performance.

Demon Speeding has a near-symphonic sound signature that reminds me of Metallica’s astonishingly good S&M recording with the San Francisco Symphony. Subsequently, I love it, but I have always loved this song and I may have, in my younger and wilder years, used this song as the soundtrack for a little street racing.

Living Dead Girl is a song I have mixed emotions about. I’m not a fan of the studio recording, nor did I like the music video, but I absolutely love this live rendition as it adds the attitude that I feel the original recording was missing.

More Human Than Human is one of the greatest songs ever written and recorded and this live version is nothing short of pure perfection. Zombie doesn’t get much better than this!

Dead Girl Superstar has never been a favourite of mine, and I consider it to be one of the weakest songs on The Sinister Urge, but I can’t deny just how well it works live. I actually enjoy it within this context.

House Of 1000 Corpses is a personal favourite. The film is already a cult classic and this song has such an addictive mellow groove that it’s hypnotic, drawing you into the crazy psychotic mind of Rob Zombie. What’s not to like?

Let It All Bleed Out is thrash metal meets groove metal with a touch of blues rock and roll. What can I say, it works! Although, I have to admit that it took me a number of listens to fully appreciate the song when I first heard it. Actually, Educated Horses, the album from which Let It All Bleed Out comes from, was so different to Zombie’s previous works that at first, I detested the album. Thankfully it grew on me and it is now one of my favourite Zombie releases. I guess that just goes to prove that one should never be too quick to judge as music can be an acquired taste that needs to develop over time.

Creature Of The Wheel is a killer White Zombie track and is performed flawlessly.

Demonoid Phenomenon is full of energy and attitude and is a sensational live rendition of the Hellbilly Deluxe classic.

Super-Charger Heaven is another song that is sensational live. Some songs just suit live performances; it certainly seems as though Zombie has more than his fair share of songs that fall into that category.

Never Gonna Stop (The Red, Red Kroovy) is an absolute favourite of mine. That said, The Sinister Urge has always been, and likely always will be, my favourite Rob Zombie album as it was a revolutionary shift in his style that linked him to his White Zombie origins but also put him on a new path of exploration as an artist.

Black Sunshine flows seamlessly from Never Gonna Stop (The Red, Red Kroovy), further validating my previous statement about being similar, but revolutionary. It’s a great song and is incredible when played live.

Superbeast is a killer rock and roll tune. I’ll never forget first hearing it while watching the film, End Of Days. If memory serves me well, the music video was also an added DVD special feature. It blew my mind then and still does to this day. This live version is yet another flawless performance on a live album that goes above and beyond all expectations.

The Devil’s Rejects has an incredible twang and is an awesome song that gets about as close to a ballad as Zombie is ever going to get. It’s also surprisingly well-suited for this live performance and doesn’t feel at all out-of-place.

Lords Of Salem isn’t bad, but it isn’t one of my favourite Zombie songs and I’m not entirely sure it is suited to a live performance, despite the obvious approval from the crowd. Hopefully, the cheering wasn’t added in post-production.

Thunder Kiss ‘65 has one of the most recognisable riffs in the history of rock and roll, but I have a love/hate relationship with the song. The rhythm is fantastic and the verses work well, with plenty of groove, but the chorus drives me absolutely mental. Thankfully John 5 gives a masterful solo at the end of the song. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I love John 5’s solo work as well. He’s a master musician if there ever was one and while he receives significant recognition, he is under-appreciated outside the Zombie camp.

Dragula is the perfect song to close the live performance on. It’s one of Zombie’s greatest and I never tire of turning the volume up when this song comes on. Without a doubt, it encourages me to listen to Zombie Live again and stay within Zombie’s extensive catalogue of music.

Overall, Zombie Live is a masterpiece and as polished as Zombie’s studio recordings are, this live recording maintains and amplifies his overall addictive groove and attitude, thereby taking some of Zombie’s greatest hits to another level. Honestly, it isn’t often that live performances can match or exceed their studio counterparts, but this one does.

Without a doubt, this is one album you must own. Call it a Greatest Hits, if you will, it is simply that good and is available to own on Vinyl, CD, and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

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