Why Rob Zombie is the king of rock monsters

On his 56th birthday, we honour metal’s ultimate horror host – Mr. Rob Zombie

Why Rob Zombie is the king of rock monsters

Monsters are awesome, because they’re us. Sure, the Devil as a philosophical concept is interesting, and the real-life horror of human corruption is fascinating, but neither of them are as fascinating and sympathetic as a warty, lumbering horror with a lust for blood. Monsters are the metalheads of the universe, generals in the armies of night who are hopelessly driven by all-too-human traits like pride, loneliness, and rage. And when it comes to heavy metal music, no-one does monsters like Rob Zombie.

Rob Zombie is the great heavy metal horror icon of our time. He’s the ringleader of the haunted circus in our minds, the pun-weaving host of the 24-hour seven-days-a-week horror movie marathon playing in the headbanger subconscious. He gives the hot lice of the rock world all the blood, sex, explosions, and danceable beats they could ever ask for. And even today, he’s showing no signs of stopping his campaign of total entertainment and horror domination.

Even if you get rid of all the art, stage effects, gogo dancers, and horror film clips that come with Zombie’s image and live show, his tunes are primal, kinetic death marches that merge nu-metal’s percussive riffs, industrial’s pneumatic stomp, garage rock’s outlaw sneer and goth’s spooky decay into a beast that is louder than loud and bigger than big. Zombie’s music is perfectly inundated with monsters, witchcraft, exploitation cinema, and the jumbled, horny instincts of those that love these things, that it comes out the other side of superficial as purely earnest. He’s the Metallica of people who love the fuckin’ Wolfman, honest in its psychological immersion in fantasy.

As a kid obsessed with monsters, that hit me hard. So much of my life before discovering Hellbilly Deluxe was spent being told I needed to experience real art – real movies, real books, real music, about real things like love and sex and angst and the quiet things that no one ever blah blah blah. What nobody understood was that I was experiencing with those things, just through monsters. Dracula was sexy, Frankenstein never asked to be born, and the Creature From The Black Lagoon was punished for being ugly. The zombie apocalypse was my life, and every teacher was a psycho in a mask who had it out for me.

But Rob Zombie, man, he got it. He took the mixture of cinematic morbidity and hormonal confusion that was brewing inside of me and set it to huge, fuzzy guitars and a beat that was made for humping. Rather than show me what was cool or artistic or real, he spoke to the grimy, bloody, insane love for all things bizarre and evil that was bubbling up inside of me. More importantly, he didn’t try to mask it in pretentious metaphor or art house imagery, he just injected it directly into my brain in a blur of wondrous Technicolor.

This isn’t to paint Zombie as predictable or simplistic, and for a diehard fan like me his more daring choices are some of his most interesting. While Zombie’s more traditional gore-fests are awesome, The Lords Of Salem is a gross and bizarre slow-burn, and sonically 2006’s Educated Horses has a lot of cool Alice Cooper-ish classic rock bravado to it. But what makes Rob’s work fantastic is that his base level is an unhinged freak show, and he builds from there. Even when he goes out on a limb of tries something different, he’s never boring, and he’s always got something that’ll connect to that classic monsters-in-hot-rods sensibility. If you want something strange and murky and uncommon, Zombie can give you that; if you want a hillbilly jock jam about Dr. Phibes bangin’ a stripper while reciting the Code Of Hammurabi, welp, you’re also in luck.

Monsters rule, and in the world of heavy metal, Rob Zombie is their commander in chief. Today, in honour of his birthday, have yourself a good ol’ fashioned metal monster mash. Go skinny-dipping in a haunted lake, or drink moonshine with a coven of zaftig babes, or take the mouldering corpse of your ex to a drive-in showing of Werewolves On Wheels, or just watch the last part of Fantasia and remember how cool the Devil was before everyone started talking about black metal. Be the slavering abomination you want to see lumbering towards you. Christmas may have just ended, but in Rob Zombie’s world, it’s Halloween somewhere.

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