It’s fair to say that if you are someone as deeply in love with the worlds of punk rock and heavy metal, and their relationship with the worlds of the horrific and the arcane, then September 18, 2016, was a pretty special date for you. It was on this day, at Douglas Park, in Chicago, Illinois, that, after finally burying the hatchet, original Misfits Jerry Only and Glenn Danzig, alongside Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein and former Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo, took the stage at Riot Fest to play the songs that have long since passed into folklore. What could possibly top that, then? Oh, maybe just Rob Zombie also sitting on the bill, performing White Zombie’s Astro-Creep: 2000 live in its entirety.
Also on the line-up that day was SoCal punk veterans Bad Religion, Sacramento post-metal legends Deftones and a reformed Sleater-Kinney, the hugely influential all-girl indie trio, complementing the mouth-watering prospect of seeing the returning icons of horror-punk. Filling the spot directly before Misfits took to the stage, however, was the man that had taken the 80s schlock-punk of the headliners and ramped it up, both aesthetically and sonically, over the decades in their absence.
Having Rob Zombie open for Misfits just makes sense. The teacher and the pupil together in one gloriously Technicolor, orgasmic, sensory overload. A celebration in excess of excess. But, for such a remarkable set of circumstances, Rob Zombie needed to do something out of the ordinary to mark the occasion. Naturally, he made life difficult for the headliners by running through the 1995 album that really put him on the map.
We could go into great salivating detail about just why Astro-Creep: 2000 is the great White Zombie (and possibly Rob Zombie) moment, but we’re sure you’re all familiar with the grindhouse, sleaze, industrialized throbs, and chainsaw riffing on “Grease Paint And Monkey Brains,” “More Human Than Human” or “Super-Charger Heaven.” Basically, it’s a classic, and if seeing Misfits live wasn’t enough, seeing one of the best albums of the 90s played to completion turned the essential into the unmissable.
Of course, as much as millions of us would have loved to have been there, we couldn’t all find our way into that field in Chicago on that particular day. But Zombie’s performance was captured as a historical document and released, just under two years later, under the guise of Astro-Creep: 2000 Live.
It’s a record that proves two things: firstly, that classic albums really are timeless. The songs still pop and fizz and grind in all the places that they did when originally released in ’95. The way Zombie and his band career out of the traps on the opening of “El Phantasmo And The Chicken-Run Blast-O-Rama” would give any of the modern riff masters a bloody nose, and “Electric Head Pt 1 (The Agony)” still sounds leaps and bounds ahead of most contemporary metal bands.
The second thing it proves is just how much tighter, faster, and more uncompromising Rob Zombie has become over the years. There’s barely a pause for breath between songs, to the point where you can almost hear the audience struggling to catch up as the energy of the music tears off into the horizon. “More Human Than Human” is practically played at twice the speed of its recorded original, and its electric pulse has gone from being a soundscape in the background to a sonic volcano that sounds like it’s rumbling the core of the Earth.
Unlike most live albums, Astro-Creep: 2000 Live does that rarest of things: it actually captures not just a great band with great songs, but a great moment in time and an actual event in the world of heavy music. It’s incredibly doubtful that anyone will forget about what happened at Riot Fest in 2016; its place in the mythology of heavy music is most definitely assured. But it’s hearing that day, that band, on that form; that setlist, from an artist stepping away from what is usually expected of him and giving the people something genuinely memorable, that makes Astro-Creep: 2000 Live such a brilliantly dizzy treat for fans.
The message to Misfits was clear: follow that!