When you devote significant chunks of your time to listening to as much music as possible, you tend to dig deep. You’re always looking for that new thing, whether that be an artist, a sound, a style, or some combination of them all. At some point, that becomes your singular goal. You become less interested in following artists because that can get in the way of finding the new thing. While you will never run out of those new things to hear, it does get tough to make any sense of things. In the constant unending quest to find The New, you lose the ability to contextualize. How does this new record/artist/sound compare to last week’s? Or last month’s? Or last year’s? Without that kind of comparison, the goal ceases to be an endpoint and becomes the process or behavior. You’re not looking for The New anymore; you’re just looking.
I found myself falling into that pit, and the thing I learned from it is that it’s completely exhausting. It’s a rat race to prove who the better Music Hipster is, and it made me lose the joy of listening to music. I was listening to a lot of music that I didn’t like for the soul purpose of listening to the cool new record everyone else was talking about. And why would I want to do something like that? If I didn’t like a record, I wouldn’t want to spend the time rehashing this thing I didn’t like. So what’s the point?
In an attempt to fight that feeling back and reclaim the joy of music, I made a decision that I wasn’t going to do that anymore. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with listening to a new band or something like that, but if I don’t like where it’s going then I turn the music off. I evoke my inner Marie Kondo and try to only listen to music if it “sparks joy.” So far in 2021, I feel like I’m reclaiming the joy. I’m finding new things to listen to when they make me feel good, and it’s also giving me permission to listen to music I’ve heard a million times already. So I’m finding new dream pop and doom metal records and bands to listen to, but I’m also allowing myself to re-listen to old favorites like Two Hunters by Wolves in the Throne Room and remembering that the Police is still one of my favorite bands ever. It’s a positive change for me that’s allowed me to engage in a personal favorite niche of music: listening to artists past their heyday.
This particular niche of mine is a fabulous road to go down. You realize that a lot of musicians just kind of disappear from the general pop music discussion but that doesn’t mean they retired. People just aren’t paying as much attention anymore even though there was a time where the artist seemed to be everywhere. Think about a band like Maroon 5. 18 years ago when Songs About Jane came out, you couldn’t get away from hearing the band. As I’m writing this, I can still hear songs like “Harder to Breathe” and “She Will Be Loved.” They were everywhere. And while the band is still together and producing music, when was the last time anyone mentioned Maroon 5? Adam Levine is on primetime television on a weekly basis, and Maroon 5 is hardly mentioned. This is exactly the kind of artist I’m talking about.
And now we come to Rob Zombie. Rob Zombie might be the best example of this kind of artist. I remember White Zombie’s “More Human Than Human” on the radio a lot, but Rob Zombie didn’t have his big moment for a few more years. When Hellbilly Deluxe landed in August 1998, Rob Zombie exploded. I distinctly remember watching the video for “Dragula” on MTV before 6th grade. And then watching that video pretty much every single day for the rest of sixth grade and beyond. But the ultimate sign of huge success to me was “Dragula” being included on The Matrix soundtrack. The arguably most important science fiction film of the decade included Rob Zombie. That’s huge for a career.
Zombie followed that up with 2001’s The Sinister Urge. While not quite as wildly successful as Hellbilly Deluxe, it was a huge success. It sold 2 million copies. Tracks from the record were included on numerous TV shows and movies, including “Scum of the Earth” on the Mission: Impossible 2 soundtrack (a personal favorite of mine). It also included the song “House of 1000 Corpses,” probably due to the fact that Zombie was filming the movie House of 1000 Corpses just prior to recording the album and was having a hell of a time finding a distributor for it due to the extreme violent imagery. Still, that problem would be resolved within the following year with the theatrical release in April 2003. And while critics didn’t care for the movie (possibly because of how damn great it is of a horror movie, but that’s just me), it did well enough to warrant the direct sequel, The Devil’s Rejects, in 2005 and both have gone on to be cult classics. Not only that, but Zombie also earned the right to film a remake of Halloween in 2007 during the heyday of the gritty reboot.
While that quick overview is not the end of Rob Zombie as either a musician or a filmmaker, it is the time where Zombie’s projects and releases stopped carrying the pop culture weight they were accustomed to. 2006’s Educated Horses was the first solo Zombie record not to earn a RIAA sales classification. Halloween II, while certainly not a box office flop, didn’t garner the same critical ravings that the original did. He has continued to work and produce more music and movies, but they don’t get the same kind of press or attention they once did.
As I have been reviewing his material, I’m not entirely sure why that might be. His movies have many similarities between them as Zombie certainly has a style. His music has taken some changes from its 90s groovy industrial metal, but it still has a similar aura. He’s definitely evolved as a musician from originally making a more fun version of industrial metal to more like heavy metal Frank Zappa. It’s not as though the quality of the music has gone down or anything like that. The dude isn’t phoning it in or something. He’s still a hard working artist who puts a lot of time and energy into these projects.
Ultimately, I’m still completely unsure why the dude doesn’t get enough love these days. I can only speculate from a 10,000 foot view. The only thing I can think of that’s plausible is that the metal scene has simply changed and Rob Zombie doesn’t fit anymore. The guy was a metal artist in the 90s, a decade many metal fans view as the doldrums for metal in pop culture (though there’s certainly credible opposing viewpoints to that argument). While many people now defend aspects of the nu metal scene, metal fans’ hindsight mostly see the piles of musical trash from that era and want to throw out the whole thing. While I can only speak to generalities like that, that’s the best argument I can make against him.
But on the flipside of that argument, I’d say that a lot of unconventional sounds and traditional metal themes are making a comeback. How many bands has this blog covered and praised the rise of the throwback sound? Of course, most of that is focused on traditional heavy metal sounds coming from bands like Haunt, Wytch Hazel, and Spirit Adrift, but there’s also bands who engage in nu metal and industrial tropes and make very compelling music. Since that is the case, I can think of no reason why more metal fans should be more excited about new material from Rob Zombie.
One thought before the review: I was fairly agnostic about Rob Zombie before writing this. I liked some of his songs from back in the day and was definitely a fan of House of 1000 Corpses, but I didn’t follow him closely nor did I have any negative opinions about him. After writing the deep dive section, I’m definitely a fan of his now. His later releases are legitimately good records that I find pretty interesting. It’s pretty amazing what musical artists can do now with the abundance of publishing companies and record labels that you didn’t have 20 years ago. Zombie is putting out his most interesting musical work now that he’s able to do his own thing on his own label. If any part of this article piqued your interest in his work, I’d strongly recommend Hellbilly Deluxe 2, Venomous Rat Regeneration Commentary, and The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Disaster.
Now to the crux of the article: is The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy worth your time? You can probably guess what I’ll say at this point, and you’d be right. Still, an examination of the merits of the record are worth discussing. While it very distinctly feels like a Rob Zombie record, there’s some variation and experimentation on Lunar Injection that makes it worth your time even if the preceding 1300+ words didn’t convince you that Rob Zombie rules.
The proof that it’s still a Rob Zombie record goes first. There’s that signature sleaze that Zombie puts into everything he does. That’s not an insult to it either. The fact of the matter is that Zombie himself has developed a personal image of a shaggy modern hippy, and he applies that theme to everything he does because it’s really fun. When I hear the tracks on Lunar Injection, I have the same image in my head I’ve always had when it comes to this music: driving down the highway and passing an 18-wheeler with mud flaps featuring silhouettes of naked women. It’s in everything he does. Every bass line, every groove, every lyric has that fun grunginess to it. While a lot of his early industrial sounds are tuned down on this record, they’re still there so it feels like a Zombie record.
Then there’s the more experimental stuff. There’s a really good reason why I made a Frank Zappa reference. Tracks like “18th Century Cannibals, Excitable Warlocks and a One-Way Ticket on the Ghost Train,” “The Much Talked of Metamorphosis,” and “Boom-Boom-Boom” mix up the standard (for lack of a better term) Zombie sound with some throwback country and psychedelia along with some heavy blues. Then you also have those transition tracks less than a minute long that are experimental in their own way. If you only have a passing knowledge of Zombie like I used to, these kinds of tracks sound very different because Zombie just didn’t make records like this one before. It’s not different for the sake of it; it’s all doing something together.
The togetherness of this album is what makes it worth a damn. I’ve written about it before, but some records need connective tissue to hold them together. When you build a record that way, it feels like a singular work. Because Zombie took the time to make sure the entire record works together as a single product, the record becomes better than most other things that will come out this year. Little extra steps like that make records feel like complete works, and I personally value those records more than ones that just feel like a collection of songs.
To sum it all up, what you have here is an experienced artist who knows what he wants to do and how to go about doing it. Zombie has seen a thing or two in his time, and he’s been able to take those ideas and mash things together in a way that feels unique to him and fun for the rest of us. If you’re just checking back in with Zombie as I was, it’ll feel like a departure from the Zombie you’re familiar with. But if you’ve been sticking with Rob Zombie for awhile now, it’ll feel like a continuation of the good work he’s been doing. Either way, you’re gonna dig it.
I think one way to wrap this up with a nice bow is to harken back to an article I wrote about supporting artistic experimentation regardless of the outcome. While the point of that article was to defend the more accessible music Metallica wrote in the 90s, there’s a related thought going on in this article. I’m neither defending nor attacking anything Rob Zombie and other aging artists are doing. I want to encourage everybody to check in on artists that fit that mold. It’s cool to see where artists can sometimes take their careers. Sure, you’ll run into duds. Probably a whole lot of duds, Like when Bob Dylan went Christian. Or when Bob Dylan wrote a boring as hell 17 minute song about the JFK assassination (Bob Dylan didn’t age super well). But on the plus side, you’ll also run into a lot of artists doing their best work when nobody’s watching. Because who knows? You’ll get to do things like make fun of what Bon Jovi has done since the 80s, but you’ll also run into the Rob Zombies of the world.