Rob Zombie saw in the 2010s with Hellbilly Deluxe 2, a sequel to his brilliant debut. It marked his most shamelessly over-the-top record in years, reaffirming Zombie in the new decade as an unabashed champion of freaks, spooks, and kooks. And this time he didn’t wait around too long in following it up. Released on April 23, 2013, Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor tightened Zombie’s grip on the throne.
Though a sequel, Hellbilly Deluxe 2 wasn’t a replica of former triumphs given a glossy new paint job. It was an album that saw Rob Zombie adopting a more collaborative approach to writing with his band; an album that, while being unmistakably Rob Zombie, often felt – quite charmingly – like a bunch of guys cranking out tunes in Zombie’s garage, surrounded by all the weird things that undoubtedly hang on those walls. (Seriously, can you imagine Rob Zombie’s garage?) With Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor, however, it was time to make things planet-sized again.
For a start – you didn’t misread it – this record really is called Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor. Who else but Rob Zombie could call an album that and have fans think, Yep, that seems about right? The fact that he followed it up with an even more absurdly titled album, The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser, says it all, but with its Technicolor artwork and that moniker, Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor doesn’t exactly scream “subtle.”
Opening your album with a song called “Teenage Nosferatu Pussy” doesn’t, either. Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor is Zombie wholly back to his most ludicrous best, bearing the most colossal set of arena-worthy anthems he’d penned so far in the 21st Century.
“Teenage Nosferatu Pussy” is one of the most legitimately sinister tracks in his discography, its mid-paced but remorseless march oozing sleaze and sinister intent. At the other end of the scale, there’s the track that immediately follows it: lead single “Dead City Radio And The New Gods Of Supertown.” Here’s where the party really starts – Hammond organ accents and all. Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor is a record with zero inhibitions, from its title to its songwriting and its production, which gives Rob Zombie the most legitimately massive-feeling sound he’s maybe ever had.
“Behold, The Pretty Filthy Creatures!” and “Lucifer Rising” are both particularly fast-paced tracks for Rob Zombie, exhibiting the reckless abandon of a greasy motorcycle gang. Yet the thickness of the guitar, and the drum tones on offer, makes them feel like they have the weight and precision of Rammstein, rather than the scrappy primitivism of punk – further enhanced by the fresh recruitment of Ginger Fish on drums (just the powerhouse player who performed on Marilyn Manson’s Antichrist Superstar, Mechanical Animals, and Holy Wood, then). Rob Zombie was once again making legitimate industrial metal music – music that could only ever feel at home on a stage with massive fire-breathing robots, or the place which Rob Zombie owns more than almost any other metal artist: the dancefloor.
“Revelation Revolution” – opening with a sample which states that “life should be ecstasy” – is one of Zombie’s most underrated thudding hip-shakers, the man himself reveling so much in his character as he opens the jam with, “Spray-paint a pentagram on your face, sing it hey-hey-yeaaaah,” and delivers the chorus with a knowing, monstrous sneer. “The Girl Who Loved The Monsters” is a slow club grind in the lineage of “Living Dead Girl,” while “Rock And Roll (In A Black Hole)” spends half of its running time as something approaching a legitimate dance song, Zombie drawling repeatedly, “You gotta open your mind, girl,” as if to goad anyone waiting around for the guitars – before the song suddenly explodes into a riff that is so insistent, unrelenting and goddamn hard, like “Whole Lotta Rosie” being played by The Terminator. It’s absolutely glorious.
And then there are moments that are plain ridiculous. A cowbell-driven cover of Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re An American Band”? The entirety of “Ging Gang Gong De Do Gong De Laga Raga”? It’s intergalactic levels of fun.
At this point in his career, Rob Zombie was never going to suddenly start making wild swerves into progressive doom or artsy post-rock, so by making his most ridiculously extravagant album in a decade, he also made one of his most engaging. Combine that with the strength of the songwriting across the board – there’s not one track that doesn’t earn its place – and you have a genuine late-career highlight on your hands.