"some music was meant to stay underground..."

Rob Zombie - "Hellbilly Deluxe 2 – Noble Jackals, Penny Dreadfuls and the Systematic Dehumanization of Cool" (CD)

Rob Zombie - "Hellbilly Deluxe 2 – Noble Jackals, Penny Dreadfuls and the Systematic Dehumanization of Cool" CD cover image

"Hellbilly Deluxe 2 – Noble Jackals, Penny Dreadfuls and the Systematic Dehumanization of Cool" track listing:

1. Jesus Frankenstein
2. Sick Bubblegum
3. What?
4. Mars Needs Women
5. Werewolf, Baby!
6. Virgin Witch
7. Death And Destiny Inside The Dream Factory
8. Burn
9. Cease To Exist
10. Werewolf Women Of The SS
11. The Man Who Laughs

Reviewed by on February 5, 2010

"'Werewolf Women Of The SS' is the absolute highlight of the album. It easily recaptures the old 'Hellbilly' magic, blending retro and industrial sounds with schlock horror. 'Howl, baby, howl,' indeed!"

Sequels are a tricky business. For every "Empire Strikes Back," you have at least one "French Connection II." As a follow-up to the classic "Hellbilly Deluxe," Rob Zombie's "Hellbilly Deluxe 2 - Noble Jackals, Penny Dreadfuls and the Systematic Dehumanization of Cool" falls somewhere into "Lethal Weapon 2" territory. It's got a lot of moments — particularly near the beginning — that successfully recapture the spirit of the original, but falls short in other areas for an end result that's pleasantly diverting, but nowhere near the ride the first one was.

"Hellbilly Deluxe 2" starts off splendidly with "Jesus Frankenstein," which has a creepy intro reminiscent of "Call Of The Zombie" from the first "Hellbilly" album. Sure, John 5 (or "J5" as he's listed in the lyrics booklet) shows off a little more than Riggs, Zombie's previous guitarist did, but the song still has a bit of that dancefloor stomp feel, and the creepy acoustic interludes are fun.

"Sick Bubblegum" rocks mightily with its "rock, motherfucker" chorus that you'll be singing to yourself for hours on end after hearing it for the first time. The song could easily fit on either the first "Hellbilly" record or its nearly-as-great follow-up "The Sinister Urge."

"What?" has Zombie channeling Gibby Haynes, but the lyrics about "cannibal man and a jungle girl" made me realize how much the horror film vibe seemed to be missing from Zombie's previous album, the underrated "Educated Horses." That's certainly not the case here, with two separate songs dealing with werewolves (the better of which being the wonderfully campy "Werewolf Women Of The SS"). There's plenty of blood-soaked cover art as well.

"Mars Needs Women" is where the album starts to falter a bit. The acoustic intro is reminiscent of similar bits on the DLR Band's self-titled album — which J5 played on under the name "John Lowery." It's completely extraneous to the rest of the song, a stomper that features sampled moans, groans and space sounds. It's trying a little too hard to be "classic Zombie" for its own good.

"Werewolf, Baby!" has an interesting '70s metal vibe, complete with slide guitar, which meshes surprisingly well with the spookshow segments in the verses. Tommy Clufetos' danceable drumming helps propel this one along well.

"Virgin Witch" is perhaps a little overly busy in parts, while "Death And Destiny Inside The Dream Factory" has a punk rock feel that reminds me a bit of a couple tracks on "Educated Horses." Again, they're OK tracks, but if they're meant to be successors to "Hellbilly Tracks" like "Spookshow Baby" and "Demonoid Phenomenon," they fall a little short.

Both "Burn" and "Cease To Exist" begin with some interesting samples. "Burn" is the better of the two, though, as "Cease To Exist" is a slow slog that, other than some interesting drumming at the end, never really goes anywhere.

"Werewolf Women Of The SS" is the absolute highlight of the album. It easily recaptures the old "Hellbilly" magic, blending retro and industrial sounds with schlock horror. "Howl, baby, howl," indeed!

The nearly 10-minute "The Man Who Laughs" experiments with symphonic sounds in a way reminiscent of "Bring Her Down To Crippletown" from "The Sinister Urge." It's meant to be indulgent, so I don't mind the massive drum solo in the middle.

The problem with "Hellbilly Deluxe 2" is that it misses something vital about the original. "Hellbilly Deluxe" wasn't a metal album — well, not just a metal album anyway. It was also loaded up with dance rhythms that made it just as much of a dance record as one to bang your head to, and that's most definitely not the case with many of these tracks. Some of that has to do, I think, with the fact that these songs were written by Zombie in collaboration with John 5 and the rest of the band, whereas the original came from Zombie and producer Scott Humphrey alone. And, let's face it, other than Zombie, the band itself is completely different.

"Hellbilly Deluxe 2" is by no means a bad album, but it suffers from the comparison that its name forces on the listener. Still, it's hooky horror-filled fun from one of shock rock's masters, and that counts for quite a lot.

Highs: "Jesus Frankenstein," "Sick Bubblegum" and "Werewolf Women Of The SS."

Lows: "Cease To Exist" and "Virgin Witch."

Bottom line: A worthy — but hardly equal — successor to the original "Hellbilly Deluxe."

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)