There's no one else in metal — hell, in all of rock music — quite like Rob Zombie. The (under)world's one and only Hellbilly cut his teeth in White Zombie, spanning noise-rock, groove metal and eventually industrial metal before breaking off and landing on his own winning formula on his 1998 smash solo debut, Hellbilly Deluxe. In the 20-plus years since, he's enjoyed a fruitful career as one of metal's most charismatic and fearlessly outlandish figures, all while holding down a double life as one of the 21st century's most celebrated cult-horror maestros.
In recent years, he may have seen more commercial success for the films he's directed, but he's also built up a formidable seven-album discography that's evolved into surprising new sonic forms without abandoning his signature flair. Below, are the 20 best cuts from Rob Zombie's solo discography.
Despite his wild dreads, garish costumes and longstanding friendship with many of his rap-metal contemporaries, Rob Zombie's music has never actually sounded very nu-metal. However, this banger from his 2016 album, The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser, shows what would happen if he went buckwild over a crunchy Limp Bizkit groove — injecting his own flair with a trippy guitar solo and pole-dancing industrial vibe.
Zombie's 2013 album, Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor, was a full-throttle embrace of the Seventies glam-punk, proto-metal and acid-tongued hard-rock elements that he'd been flirting with his whole career. "Lucifer Rising" cruises at the speed of an early hit like "Dead Girl Superstar," but the shadowy, sadistic undercurrents are overtaken by a light-hearted wackiness — like when he sounds like a red-eyed, juiced-up trucker cooing madness into his CB radio.
Zombie's music has been hyper-stylized and aggressively kooky since the earliest White Zombie days, but his vocals have become exponentially more eccentric within the last decade. On this catchy-as-hell standout from 2010's Hellbilly Deluxe 2, Zombie channels Lux Interior's psychobilly babble over honky-tonk keyboard plunks. Through distorted grunts and groans, he rants and raves about "vampire lovers in a wild bikini," eventually veering into a primitive, head-bobbing, "uh-huh, uh-huh," that sounds like a honking goose.
Although he's moved away from only writing about ghoulish monsters, Zombie hasn't lost his love for a campy horror blitz. This Electric Warlock riot paints the picture of an inked-up scare-seeker who knows her cinematic references (sporting tattoos of Vincent Price and Boris Karloff) and even has a real-life taste for blood. With fuzzed-out punk-pop riffs and a snotty chorus, it's not unlike the music of fellow Alice Cooper acolyte Wednesday 13 (but better).
Many of Zombie's songs are titled after their most prominent lyrics, so yes, the man does utter the phrase, "Ging Gang Gong De Do Gong De Laga Raga," during this dashing spectacle of unbridled gibberish from Venomous Rat Regeneration. The craziest part is that the moniker isn't even the song's most unhinged line. "Strapped behind the wheel of a flat-bed truck/A payload of pussy and Peking Duck/High on the fumes and high on the gas/Rally round the girl with the skull on her ass." Pure lunacy.
After masterfully taking his industrial-metal-strip-club-monster-mambos as far as they could enjoyably go on 1998's Hellbilly Deluxe and 2001's The Sinister Urge, Zombie took five years off and then came back with Educated Horses, a strikingly effective composite of Southern-fried Alice Cooper hard-rock, riffed-up alt-metal and outlaw-country dread that's among his greatest achievements. With its gooey melody, verses that are sung rather than croaked and ra-ra hand claps, "The Scorpion Sleeps" is the catchiest, cheeriest, and least bizarre-sounding song in Zombie's catalog.
One of the biggest challenges metal bands face is how to broaden their sound without losing their core identity, and Zombie doesn't get enough credit for how well he's pulled that maneuver off. Venomous Rat's best song, "Revelation Revolution," is a KISS-sized stadium soaker that subtly removes the dank hollowness of his early work and fills the gaps with gigantic guitar crunch, wailing leads and a marching beat. It's a noticeable progression from the "Dragula" days, but it's still unmistakably Rob Zombie.
Parallel to his waxing interest in sounding like Aerosmith having a bad trip in a haunted house, Zombie has also been honing his doom-metal chops since Educated Horses' spiraling closer, "The Lords of Salem." Hellbilly 2 begins with him hoisting the title of "Jesus Frankenstein" above cacophonous chants and Sabbath-ian guitar strides, delivering unholy scripture that reads like excerpts from a movie pitch. "Eyes of a sideshow/Teeth of a dog/Face of a marvel/Wander in the fog," he hawks with a gritty snarl.
Despite his creepy themes and ghoulish imagery, the thing that always separated Zombie from his industrial-metal contemporaries was that his songs have a playful zaniness to them. Most of the time, his music isn't actually trying to scare your pants off, but "House of 1000 Corpses" sure does. The Sinister Urge's closing track — which shares its name with his 2003 horror flick — moves at an eerily sedated saunter, and then explodes during the hook as Zombie says, "Come on in," to a house "built on sin" while distressed women scream in the background. It's freaky as fuck.
To end the reign of "Jesus Frankenstein," Zombie had to summon an even mightier beast from the shadows. Behold: "King Freak." The opening cut to 2021's The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy is another doomy wonder that towers like one of the 15-foot creatures that wanders out in the middle of his sets. The bass drops rumble like detonations during this sonically thunderous cut, which sounds as if Leatherface wore the skins and harnessed the musical powers of George Clinton, Tony Iommi and Trent Reznor. A triumph indeed.
Educated Horses removes the motorik speed of dilated-eye hair-flippers like "Superbeast" and "Demon Speeding" and replaces them with gigundo metal behemoths like its fearsome opener, "American Witch." Here, Zombie opts for the mid-tempo churn of "Dragula" but pares back the sleaze for a vibe that's more shivery and sludgy than off the rails. Lyrically, he's more hauntingly evocative than ever: "Body of a monkey and the feet of a cock/Dragged from her home on the killing rock."
Throughout his whole career, Zombie has been writing songs that go hand-in-hand with a Camaro burning rubber in a makeshift desert raceway, but "Dead Girl Superstar" is possibly the most asphalt-kicking track in his entire repertoire. This Sinister Urge highlight hauls ass at a pace that Motörhead could barely keep up with, as ecstatic, "Go! Go! Go!" cheers sound off over fat organ smacks and in between a ripping guitar solo.
The crown jewel of Hellbilly Deluxe 2 is its colossal centerpiece, "Virgin Witch," which manifests an alternate universe where Zombie modeled his band after Candlemass. Co-written with Zombie's chief shredder John 5 and, surprise!, JD Cronise of stoner-metal wizards the Sword, the track is built around a remarkably savory lead riff that's buttressed by oscillating feedback, bringing to mind long crusty nails scraping down a chalkboard. Zombie's music has never sounded this horns-up epic.
To many fans, "Superbeast" is Zombie's best song, but the same argument can be made for practically any cut on his untouchable 1998 debut. Although we argue that there are several superior standouts, the record's opening salvo immediately puts the energy into overdrive with a turbo-charged tempo, huge streaky synths and Zombie's ravenously self-assured proclamation. "Hey, yeah, I'm the one that you wanted/Hey, yeah, I'm your superbeast."
"Foxy, Foxy" is arguably the stickiest song Zombie's ever recorded. The lead single from Educated Horses casts a hazy shadow over the sensuous glam stylings of T. Rex, conjuring the greasy feeling of visiting a gentleman's club while daylight peeks through the dusty shades. "Don't you wanna ride?" he taunts with a seductive purr over a Seventies funk riff, and then clarifies his suggestion by evoking the record's title, drawing out each syllable with a methodical suaveness: "Edge-you-cay-ted hor-ses."
"Meet the Creeper" is a bit of a deep cut on Hellbilly Deluxe, arriving after a near-spotless run of side-A bangers and still managing to keep the energy of the record at euphoric heights. With drumming from Mötley Crüe's Tommy Lee, the huge, stomping groove batters like a butcher's mallet while Zombie shouts the title's command like a cult leader in the midst of a hypnotizing fury.
It's hard to think of two words that sum up Rob Zombie's music better than "Demon Speeding." The best song on The Sinister Urge sounds like a careening 18-wheeler gunning it to make an overnight deadline — a girthy riff, chugging rhythm and cinematic string strokes that jiggle like fuzzy dice dangling off the cockpit mirror. "Hey, do ya love me?/I'm untouchable darkness," Zombie bellows with peak fervor.
"Dragula" is Zombie's most notorious anthem, and deservedly so. With verses that have the easy-to-mime meter of a creepy children's nursery rhyme, every single line — even poetically oblique incantations like, "Dead I am the light/Dig into the skin/Knuckle crack the bone/Twenty-one to win" — are instantly repeatable. Most of all, the booming refrain that immortalized the phrase, "Slam in the back of my dragula," into the cultural conscience. What the fuck does it even mean? Who knows, but you're already singing along, so does it matter?
Everything about "Living Dead Girl" is quintessential Rob Zombie. It's a tale about a madman who creates an undead lady with an appetite for blood. It's littered with samples and references from obscure horror films of all kinds. It has a loose, promiscuous groove, speckles of eastern-influenced psychedelia and the cantillations of women who sound at once ghastly and suggestive. "Crawl on me/Sink into me/Die for me/Living dead girl."
Oh, she's a killer. She's a thriller. She's "Spookshow Baby." One of the leading starlets in Spookshow International revels in the spotlight on this Hellbilly Deluxe classic. Upon opening with a shimmying sitar lick, an industrial drum-break comes whizzing through the mix and locks the song into a carnal groove that only becomes harder not to shake, rattle and roll to every time Zombie's gravelly murmur snaps into a full-throated howl. It's our pick for the best Rob Zombie song.