Sunday, June 20, 2010

Heavy Band 010: WHITE ZOMBIE

Exploding onto the highway like a slug from a '45 fired by a post-apocalyptic Ed Roth Rat Fink character, White Zombie warped a whole generation who came of age in the '90s. White Zombie combined samples of horror, porn, and B movies with overdrive muted string guitar, funk bass, and heavy amounts of psychedelia. Rob Zombie's earthy grunting voice growled and howled atop the eclectic mix.
Like Gwar and the Talking Heads, White Zombie was started by art school students. In 1985 Rob Cummings founded White Zombie with his then girlfriend Shauna Reynolds. Previously they published a horror zine together. They soon took on the names Rob Zombie and Sean Yseult and created a dark blend of sounds.
White Zombie, when they were just starting out a sounded more like old Butthole Surfers than '90s White Zombies. Their Debut album was 1987's Soul-Crusher, which featured the hard noise rock tracks Ratmouth and Scum Kill. Shack of Hate sounds like it belongs on a Mudhoney album.
Lacking in sampling, Soul-Crusher's follow up in 1989 Make Them Die Slowly has a much more pure metal vibe than their first album. Tracks like Demonspeed and Disaster Blaster give the big four of thrash metal a run for their money. Murderworld is much more slowed down, creating an eerie sick sound that is more sludgy than any other song that they recorded. The album's closing song Godslayer begins as slow and sludgy as a Melvins track. The tempo speeds up towards the middle, but every time that you think they will achieve super speed the tempo switches again slowing down to a sludgy tempo. Godslayer ends in a cacophony of wretched guitar wailing.
Combining the sampling of their first album with the metal vibe of their second, White Zombie's third album La Sexorcisto: Devil Music, Vol. 1 came out in 1992. Mixing Manson Family psychedelia, porn movie samples, and a groovy bass line the intro to the album, Welcome to Planet Motherfucker/Psychoholic Slag contains all of the elements necessary for the awesomeness of a White Zombie song. It begins like a B scifi movie, then transitions into a driving dance metal with sex whines, eventually dying off in a swamp of slow overdriven sludge. Black Sunshine begins with a driving bass line and spoken word by Iggy Pop. It is the quintessential love song to a muscle car. It is one of the songs that make your feet move with its ferocity. Iggy Pop ends the song in a truly creepy tone, that continues into Soul-Crusher. The song has little to do with their initial album. The song begins as pure speed metal, but slowly evolves into something that it can finally be termed is the White Zombie sound. I Am Legend is a haunting, tragic, heavy metal ode to the Richard Matheson novel.
White Zombie's fourth and final album was 1995's Astro-Creep: 2000 - Songs of Love, Destruction and Other Synthetic Delusions of the Electric Head. Super-Charger Heaven is a devil tune strung together with samples from an eclectic mix of horror films. Alternating between ├╝ber mellow and savagely intense, Grease Paint and Monkey Brains has a very dub feel to it. More Human than Human is a dance hit devoted to the Ridley Scott film Blade Runner. It almost has a clubby Ministry vibe to it. El Phantasmo and the Chicken-Run Blast-O-Rama set a new speed record for White Zombie. It is very intense and has samples from a demonic horror movie that I can not recall the name. Blur the Technicolor begins a psychedelic vibe that concludes in Blood, Milk, and Sky which seems to me like a combination of the Beatles Within You Without You and a Faces of Death movie.
White Zombie only recorded four albums before splitting up, but in the last half of the '90s 6 EPs were recorded of different remixes. P.M Dawn's remix of Blood, Milk, and Sky on Supersexy Swingin' Sounds is extremely laid back as you would expect, and awesome. Rob Zombie has gone on to make horror movies, while still touring as a solo artist. Sean Yseult has played in numerous bands over the years, including Famous Monsters, who I was able to see in 1998 I think. I would like to see a reunion years down the road, with maybe an album coming out too. Until then I guess that we'll just have to wait.

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Heavy Metal Yogi by Nick Matthaes is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.