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Comic book music - 77%

gasmask_colostomy, October 23rd, 2015

The first thing I've got to do here is kind of agree with the previous reviewers and say that this is a cool album. Without a doubt, there's something badass about Rob Zombie and the rest of his bunch of misfits, and there's something even cooler about the way that they approached this album - with absolutely no regard for normal people. This was a popular album and one of the big crossover moves in 90s metal, which was littered with the fuckers, so that's saying something big. White Zombie really never fitted in anywhere, what with the weird lyrics and artwork, plus their (clothing) style hung somewhere between grunge and metal without really borrowing directly from either genre. Their description on Metal Archives is woefully inadequate, since there's no way that you can boil down this sound to industrial/groove metal, since my mind jumps to Fear Factory's early 00s output, which lacks all the detail, atmosphere, and creativity that this has.

The second thing I've got to say is that this should have no real appeal for fans of traditional heavy metal, because there are very few elements in this that spring from anyone as sacred as Judas Priest, Metallica, or Death. Looking at Black Sabbath, however, one must take a different view, as that band's titular introduction to metal is exactly the sort of atmospheric slug through horror and psychedelia that this achieves, though the comic book exuberance and boldness of colour and action is direct from the Zombie. The words comic book should be a good indicator that this isn't the most serious of albums, nor was it designed to be anything more than a cult, but that's exactly why it's cool and shirks the classic restrictions. Rob Zombie, even if he isn't quite the greatest performer in metal, certainly has had one of the greatest ideas in making such distinctive and fun music, artwork, and stage shows.

'Astro Creep' works much better than its predecessor because (fucking enormous title aside) it has a focus that 'Devil Music' just didn't achieve. The songs aren't much more succinct, though that one minute that has been trimmed off makes all the difference to lean, energetic songs like 'Super-Charger Heaven' and 'Electric Head pt.2', which race through their boisterous, swinging grooves with glee and sweep the listener along for the ride. There are also many quieter, slower parts that aim more for atmosphere and creepiness, which work in most instances, though lose some of their effect due to the constant return to this tactic. As such, we end up somewhere between a horror movie and a superhero comic and - even if that's not exactly your thing - is guaranteed to produce excitement with regularity. The riffs are not too complex, but are main features in most songs and more satisfying than that industrial/groove description gave you hope to think. The previously mentioned songs both have great main riffs, particularly the confrontational opening of 'Electric Head pt.2', while the ludicrously named 'El Phantasmo and the Chicken-Run Blast-o-Rama' also has a great mover as its centrepiece. Industrial elements are present in some of the rhythms and plenty of additional effects, but they exceed the tepidity of much industrial embellishment and give the songs a purpose that the lazy, drawled vocals and psychedelic guitars often avoid. 'Real Solution #9' and 'More Human Than Human' are the most industrial songs here and both are fairly satisfying, especially the latter, with its circling, building main motif.

If there's any single problem with 'Astro Creep', it's that it sometimes doesn't go far enough. Although largely without precedent, this style of music is only interesting because it's so different from most other metal; thus, when 'Creature of the Wheel' or 'Electric Head pt.1' develop into fairly average grooving rockers with a steady beat and industrial elements, you do feel that there was something more to be done with this formula. The up-tempo tracks triumph because of their energy and the creative instrumental work, meaning that those three already mentioned work best, while 'I, Zombie' and 'Blur the Technicolor' get by on speed and shock value alone. For some listeners, the frequent samples could be problematic as they are mildly distracting from the music, but I feel that they add to the patchwork effect of the album and increase its oddball charm.

Not really comparable to much else either at the time or now, 'Astro Creep' is a reminder that one needn't pander to the crowd to achieve success, nor does one ever need to dilute one's inner wackiness. A victory for the weird.