Rob Zombie albums have always been Jock Jams records for the Rockstar Mayhem Festival crowd, and his latest, Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor, is no exception. It succeeds because it plays to all of Zombie’s strengths: twisted, slightly industrial shock-rock with a keen attention to the value of well-executed camp.
Somehow, despite releasing a new horror flick The Lords of Salem over the weekend, Mr. Zombie found ample time earlier this year to write and record new music – and it’s actually some of the most enjoyable stuff he’s done in a while.
Zombie’s records are usually pretty stylized, stuffed with b-horror movie sound bytes, samples of girls moaning in ecstasy and bone-crushing power rock riffs. Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor (again, that title!) is filled with all of these calling cards, with the theme this time around having something to do with, as you might expect, re-animated rats and everything that goes along with that.
Teenage Nosferatu Pussy sets the tone, ominous in both title and delivery, a sludgy industrial dirge accentuating the work of Zombie’s newest cohort, drummer Ginger Fish (a former member of Marilyn Manson’s backing band – along with current Zombie guitarist John 5).
The album’s lead single, Dead City Radio and the New Gods of Supertown, begins with Zombie’s oh-so-familiar “yeeahhhh” before growing into a jam tailor-made for Zombie’s energetic live show.
One of the things missing from Zombie’s last few albums was the sleazy swagger of his early records such as 1998’s Hellbilly Deluxe. Well, that’s all in the past now – Venomous Rat has plenty of those beloved obscure vocal samples (as in Revelation Revolution), surprisingly Middle Eastern-sounding interludes (Theme for the Rat Vendor) and ridiculous song titles (Ging Gang Dong De Do Gong De Laga Raga, which turns out to be one of the most enjoyable songs on the LP).
Part of what made Zombie’s directorial efforts such as House of 1000 Corpses and its sequel The Devil’s Rejects so worthwhile was the aforementioned camp factor. The Devil’s Rejects, particularly, was especially good at balancing the camp with effective horror. That aesthetic can be applied to Venomous Rat – the album’s title, song names and lyrics are all on board with that same level of tongue-in-cheek-ness – but the music itself is actually some of Zombie’s most developed in a while.
Rock and Roll (in a Black Hole) best exemplifies this. The song, led by a NiN-esque industrial beat and Zombie’s subdued vocals, creeps and sulks along for a while before exploding into a crowd-pleasing industrial slam-dance anthem.
White Trash Freaks is another highlight, its riff reminiscent of past hits like Feels So Numb– complete with crunchy riffs, catchy vocals and an accessible, radio-ready sound.
Then, out of nowhere, comes a revved-up cover of Grand Funk Railroad’s We’re An American Band (complete with piped-in audience noise as if it was a live recording). The “live” crowd cheers on Lucifer Rising, another vintage cut – this time channeling Rob’s early band, White Zombie.
The record closes out with The Girl Who Loved the Monster (cue the screaming lady samples) and the two-minute goth-punk finale Trade In Your Guns for a Coffin.
Overall, Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor should definitely please longtime fans. Of course, Zombie’s musical aesthetic isn’t for everyone, and this album will almost assuredly be ignored by those that aren’t already fans – but at this point, is his goal really to try to win new ones?
Rob Zombie’s become something of an icon – because of his accessibility as a hard-rock/industrial star and as a filmmaker capable of creating memorable (and old-fashioned) horror flicks. Whether he’s directing films about murderous sociopaths or putting old horror movie samples into songs about undead rats (or whatever), he’s always done so with a warm sense of respect for his influences.
With Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor, Rob definitely proves that he’s still able to deliver fun, familiar industrial goth/rock in a way only he could. You might enjoy it too, as long as you don’t expect much more.
Reviews published prior to February 23, 2015 used a 1-5 star rating system.