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White Zombie was one of the most talked about bands of the mid-to-late 1990s due to the massive success of their later, more evolved material. Unfortunately, they disbanded in 1998 before more evolutions could occur. What most are not aware of are their humble beginnings, before the psychedelia-drenched groove metal stylings of La Sexorcista and Astro-Creep 2000 came onto the scene. The only real claim to fame of debut Soul-Crusher is how artists such as Kurt Cobain and Iggy Pop revealed its influence on their early musical output. The follow-up Make Them Die Slowly showcased the band’s newfound thrash influences while maintaining their raw, noise rock sound from Soul-Crusher.
Make Them Die Slowly was doomed from the beginning. None of the band members ended up satisfied with the final product, which had to be re-recorded three separate times. Lack of sufficient finances resulted in half of the written songs not being included in the finished record. Musically, the album has elements of noise and punk while possessing galloping rhythms and heavy metal riffing more akin to thrash metal. The songwriting is derivative and unfocused, with most songs running much too long and never going much of anywhere. The mishmash of half written ideas and uninspired guitar riffs in tracks like “Murderworld” and “Acid Flesh” sound like they could come straight from an 80’s thrash metal album. Unfortunately, ...Die Slowly employs little of what made those albums interesting or focused in any real way. They contain double bass drum rhythms and palm muted guitar riffing, with a few shredding solos sprinkled throughout for variety. Most of the tracks closely follow this formula, together sounding like a bland, lo-fi version of Metallica’s Ride The Lightning, an album the band had specifically cited as inspiration. The 80's underground metal revolution and lo-fi noise rock ultimately blend awkwardly, making for tedious and meandering music that lacks any real punch the aforementioned genres call for.
While the songwriting is monotonous and unfocused, Rob Zombie’s nonsensical horror lyrics are far more fascinating than any of the music: “Leather skin move to the beat, beastman insulated heat, looking for a sleeping dream, hop-head body scream,” and “Fight to love a super bitch, drive her roots straight to hell, atomic ass 99, another cosmic monster spits his teeth in your eye, more dead than alive.” A preferable experience with ...Die Slowly might be to just read the lyrics in the CD booklet while listening to the far more energetic and superior Ride The Lighting the group unsuccessfully took inspiration from. White Zombie would go on to achieve success and improve their sound in every way possible, with Make Them Die Slowly giving a peek into the mind of the young frontman Rob Zombie, and remains an interesting listen in retrospect to what this band would ultimately become.
I'm only submitting this review because there are just some glaring points that need to be mentioned that nobody else has put into plain English.
This White Zombie album actually has some pretty good and interesting material on it. I would not call it mid-tempo Thrash. This isn't Thrash and I don't even think that is what was on their mind. I think Rob Zombie just wanted some rocking music he could sing his crazy lyrics over and the guitar player just happened to have some Thrash riffs floating around his brain here and there. The drummer is very solid and has a bit of double bass. But despite these "heavy" influences, it's plain as day that White Zombie had other influences less Heavy and more random, than I suppose some listeners give them credit for. This is a hard rock record with some heavier influences thrown in here and there. Taken in this way, it's a much better album than some would lead you to believe.
But the production is so bad it ruins it. Completely. The guitars are scratchy sounding, which does absolutely no justice to the riffs and licks (some of which are quite good). None of the balls that would appear later are even hinted at here. It's amazing what a guitar tone (or lack thereof) can do! The bass is low in the mix and weak sounding. Drums are actually rather solid, but again, kind of weak in tone. The only thing that really shines through here is Rob's distinctive voice, which is still developing at this point, but very much evolved into what we would hear on the next album. He already had his style down, it was just a matter of fine-tuning it. The thing is, it is so goddamned high in the mix it's almost annoying!
I feel bad for this band at this point, because this is an interesting album filled with interesting songs - but none of it translates due to the poor production and I really think it sells the songs quite short. Any band would sound strange with such production. I am convinced that in a live situation, with these same songs, and the right sound, this same material rocked really hard. But as it stand, this recording is merely a document of "what could have been."
White Zombie started out pretty groovy with Acid/Art Rock releases such as Gods on Voodoo Moon, Pig Heaven and their unreleased Demo Tape from 1986. But they went downhill with Punk/Horrorcore releases such as Psycho-Head Blowout and Soul Crusher, although Soul Crusher had a few good tunes ... and then Make Them Die Slowly ... the key step between the garbage releases of the mid-80s and the masterpiece that would become La Sexorcisto.
I would never really call White Zombie a metal band, Mainstream American society might label them a Heavy Metal band but they are not in my opinion, never have been and never will be, Astro Creep 2000 might be passable as metal to some people but I dont see how any of their previous releases could be mistaken for metal.
This is also the first album in which Rob started to "growl", every recording before hand his voice has been *very* nasal.
Make Them Die Slowly does indeed sound like half-paced thrash rock that never gets out of second gear, and on the first listen I was thinking "what the hell was that ?", but I went back and listened to it a few times and despite the terrible recording (especially the bass, its there but at about -25dB) I actually find this album fairly groovy.
The lyrics are fairly simple but less psychadelic than previous releases and use the standard "Rob Zombie Vocabulary" which most words and phrases re-feature at least twice if you go through the whole discography.
Demon Speed is a fairly average track, nothing stands out and nothing really catches your attention.
Disaster Blaster is a bit more groovy and has some funky guitar riffs, although the version on the 1989 EP God of Thunder (Disaster Blaster II) is indeed better.
Murderworld is one of the better tracks on the CD, being probably the most brutal, some of the riffs are fairly similar to Disaster Blaster and Revenge.
in Revenge, Rob actually seems to be getting some volume variation out of his voice, fairly catchy tune but not as good as Murderworld.
Acid Flesh is has the most upbeat tempo out of all of the songs, probably the best one on the CD.
Power Hungry is a very unstructured song that features rap-like lyrics, you either like it or absolutely hate it and skip to the last track
Godslayer, which is a slow "doomy" sort of track, has some of the best riffs on the CD.
Unfortunately for us (and perhaps WZ), there were quite a few tracks that had to be scrapped (Dead Ringer, Punishment Park, Star Slammer, Scum Kill II) because in the first studio they went to do the recording at they ran out of tracks and in the second studio they ran out of money, so Bill Laswell of Caroline records offered them a 7-track recording which was better than nothing I guess.
If you expect this album to be close to La Sexorcisto or Astro Creep 2000 you will hate it, if you were a fan of WZ from their early stages you probably dont mind or enjoy this recording. I went backwards with my discovery of WZ but still manage to appreciate this recording
It is surprising how many of Rob Zombie's and White Zombie's fans do not know this album exists. If they did manage to pick it up however, most would find it too hot to handle. This is far removed from the radio–friendly(–ish) comic book/splatter movie rock Zombie has made his name with. The common first reaction when hearing 'Make Them Die Slowly' is "what the fuck was that?". So what the fuck do we get?
Probably the best way to describe the album is half–paced Thrash. OK, so Thrash is identified with it's speed and aggression. This has aggression by the bucketload. It just lacks the speed. Play it at 78rpm and you'd get something like a dark and gloomy, almost Gothic, Nuclear Assault. The riffing is fairly standard Thrash fare, nothing flashy, but catchy enough. Strangely, the riffs should be memorable, but they slip through your mind quicker than shit through a goose. The solos and drumming are both solid, but unimpressive because of the inability of the band to change out of second gear.
The guitar tone is, well, odd. Imagine Bob Dylan's singing voice as an electric guitar– twangy and nasal, with a hint of a whine. An unusual effect, but as memorable as the riffs are forgettable.
Anyway, enough of the instrumental sideshows, what about the main event? What about Rob Zombie's voice? Luciano Pavarotti he isn't, but like any good singer with limited ability, Zombie knows his limits. He has written the songs to fit his voice, rather than embarrassing himself trying to stretch himself too far. The subject matter of the songs is just what you'd expect from Rob Zombie– B–movie schlock horror. Zombie drawls, moans and snarls his way through such lyrical niceties as "This is murderworld sister/A deep throating little baby–face" and "Justice claws/A death horizon/ Freak–zone flesh/Maggot man rising".
Conspicuous by their absence are the movie samples overused in later White Zombie releases, and a good thing too. The samples were often more interesting than the songs. On this album, the minimalist, stripped back metal is allowed to shine through, uncluttered by obscure cinematic outtakes.
This is definitely not to everyone's taste. The guitar sound and Zombie's voice can be hard to stomach. Get past those obstacles though, and it's a fun time romp through Rocky Horror land. Spookier than The Misfits and more horrific than The Cramps, this would appeal to fans of both those bands.