Rob Zombie - Educated Horses Review
by Travis Becker
A kinder gentler Rob Zombie? Say it ain't so. While he's not excavating Barry Manilow territory just yet, it seems that incomparable shock rock (and now splatter cinema) ringmaster has grown up just a shade. Gone are the dreadlocks, scary makeup, and cartoonishly violent, Satan-themed artwork replaced by a cleaner cut, almost sedate-looking Zombie. Clearly, however, box office success agrees with Mr. Zombie as Educated Horses represents his best work, musically speaking, in years. In fact, the 2006 release marks Zombie's first collection of new original, non-film music in five years. Not a radical departure from his earlier efforts, Zombie's new record still rocks, but in a more grown up way.
The basic formula remains the same. Tons of big riffs, lots of "Yeah"s and "Alright"s, and several spooky theatrical interludes. The intro/first song, "Sawdust in the Blood" finds a piano lurking in the shadows punctuated with blasts from the drums. "American Witch" features Zombie's more recent vocal bleat in place of the thick growl he favored previously, but the song is Rob Zombie all the way through. On "Let it All Bleed Out" Zombie and his band channel Pepper Keenan briefly with a wicked guitar intro and a vocal chord shredding chorus. The barely audible spoken parts at the beginning and in the middle create excellent contrast within the song. By the end, however, it's a much more musical record featuring string arrangements, acoustic guitars, and some borderline theatrical arrangements, as on "Death of it All." Also, the pseudo-industrial crunch is gone for the most part, leaving a more stripped down heavy rock that will be tougher for Zombie to remix for a dance album, but is ultimately a more satisfying listen.
Of course, sex and violence drip and spatter all over the record. Zombie seems fond of the convention that the two are inextricably linked. Samples still moan here and there throughout the record but much of the "La Sexorcisto" silliness goes out the window. One can hardly blame Zombie for his preoccupation with the flesh, as he is married to Sheri Zombie, to whom he gives special thanks in the liner notes. Just another reminder of what a great freaking job being a rock star is. On the violence front, the inclusion of "Devil's Rejects" showcases the most obvious horror-show elements on the record. It brings to mind last year's excellent murder romp of the same name and probably brings together the old and new in terms of Zombie's music better than any other song.
Rob Zombie seems to turn to gold anything he touches of late. Educated Horses will likely be no different as his fingerprints are all over it, from writing to performing to creating the album's artwork. Always the artistic completist, Zombie sees the album through, despite being pulled in many directions of late due to the success of his film career. While one side of the work or the other would suffer under the hand of a mere mortal, Zombie integrates one into the other, creating more satisfying results on both sides. How is it fair that one man should enjoy such success in two endeavors you might ask? Well, while Rob Zombie sings that "God Hates the Lords of Salem", but something or someone, somewhere certainly seems to love Rob Zombie.
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