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White Zombie Let Sleeping Corpses Lie

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Friday, November 21, 2008 @ 11:52 PM


(Geffen)

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Most peoples’ experience with White Zombie was the whirlwind stretch from when they exploded with 1992’s La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Vol. 1 until they imploded after 1995’s Astro-Creep: 2000 .... But White Zombie had paved quite a history for themselves long before they became an overnight sensations - it’s just that hardly anyone knew it. Perhaps for good reason.

This four-CD, one-DVD retrospective will certainly help fill in the blanks - literally all of them - for those who jumped onto the White Zombie bandwagon once “Thunder Kiss ‘65” was on MTV all friggin’ day and Beavis & Butt-head were going apeshit over them. Let Sleeping Corpses Lie brings together all 64 songs the band ever released - some of them extremely rare - into one all-encompassing, chronological package that shows just what a long strange trip their career actually was. The DVD tosses in White Zombie’s various videos and a bunch of bootleg-quality live footage for good measure.

When the band formed in New York in 1985, frontman Rob Zombie - who worked on the “Pee Wee’s Playhouse” TV show for a stretch - still had not adopted the “Zombie” last name and White Zombie’s music was anything but the thundering electro-metal they would later go multi-platinum with. The 30 tracks on Corpses’ first two discs show the trial and, mostly, error the band went through before they got headed in the right direction.

The quartet’s debut EP, Gods on Voodoo Moon, which sold all of 100 of the 300 copies that were pressed, the Psycho-Head Blow Out EP and even their debut full-length, Soul-Crusher, saw them dabbling in arty noise and jam rock that recalled Iggy Pop and the Stooges and Sonic Youth. Actually, White Zombie sounded more like a bad garage band than anything else. And I don’t mean bad in a funny sort of way, I mean just bad, like really fucking awful.

Aimless tunes like “Tales from the Scarecrowman” and “Shack of Hate,” shoddy, low-budget recordings and Zombie’s unintelligible nasal yelping make a much of this early material pretty hard to listen to. It wasn’t until 1989’s Make The Die Slowly that White Zombie’s metallic tendencies really began to manifest themselves - and the band stopped sucking.

Tracks like “Disaster Blaster” and “Godslayer” were leaner, meaner and much heavier, and Zombie discovered his voice’s lower register and began to roar with a hell of a lot more authority, giving White Zombie some balls to go with their weirdness. It was a formula that worked. Not long after, the band had a big label deal and the rest was history.

Discs three and four offer up the White Zombie everyone is familiar with: the aforementioned La Sexorcisto and Astro-Creep - along with covers and soundtrack stuff that actually was some of the best stuff the band ever did. Their cover of Black Sabbath’s “Children of the Grave” was massive, thanks to Sean Yseult’s quaking bass and Jay Yuenger’s hulking riffs. Ditto their own “Feed The Gods,” from the soundtrack to the otherwise forgettable film “Airheads,” and “The One,” from another wretched movie, “Escape from L.A.”

And say what you will about White Zombie’s campy B-grade horror-movie schtick, La Sexorcisto was undeniably catchy and certainly rocked. And Astro-Creep - thanks to the lethal production of Terry Date, who worked similar magic with Pantera - was one of the heaviest mainstream metal albums of the ‘90s. The band’s break up after the Astro-Creep tour was actually a fortuitous move, since there was probably no way they were going to do anything bigger and better.

As the last two discs are what is essentially the, well, “essential” White Zombie material - and most fans probably already have it - there’s little compelling reason to fork over $60 or more for the whole Let Sleeping Corpses Lie shebang, as impressive a package as it is. Were the rare and hard-to-find tracks not, in many cases, downright embarrassing, if not utter crap, it might be a different story. And the DVD is a bit of a letdown too, since the live footage is mostly cruddy, handy-cam shot stuff that looks like it was cobbled together from YouTube.

So unless you’re really, really curious or a hardcore collector that absolutely, positively must have everything White Zombie, best to let this sleeping corpse lie.

* * (two out of five stars)

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