It's been five years since ROB ZOMBIE's last album and second solo effort, 2001's "The Sinister Urge", and during that time, while Zombie wrote and directed his first two feature films, there was doubt about whether he would even return to music. Well, he has, and "Educated Horses" doesn't sound like the work of an artist who's had enough of music just yet. Far more focused and insistent than "Urge", the new effort opens some doors for Zombie and also channels his influences more directly than before.
Fans of the industrial metal sounds of his first band, WHITE ZOMBIE, may not enjoy all that "Horses" offers up, since those days are long gone.
Opting to record with a live band and rely less on programming and samples, Zombie has gone for grooves that harken back to Seventies glam rock titans like SWEET and T-REX, as well as one of his biggest inspirations, ALICE COOPER. Zombie's vocals sound more like the Coop than ever on the album, while the bouncing beats of tracks like "The Scorpion Sleeps" and "Foxy, Foxy" recall the glittery rock stylings of classic tunes like T-REX's "Bang A Gong" and SWEET's "Blockbuster".
All this makes "Educated Horses" more of a melting pot than previous efforts, but the disc also features some typically heavy Zombie material like the pounding album opener "American Witch" and "Let It All Bleed Out".
With "Witch" and "Lords Of Salem", as well as the use of the phrase "educated horses" in several songs, there seems to be a thematic unity to the album as well, although as usual Zombie keeps his lyrics purposely vague.
The band on the album consists of ex-MARILYN MANSON guitarist John 5, longtime bassist Rob "Blasko" Nicholson and drummer Tommy Clufetos (with some material featuring Tommy Lee left over from the album's initial 2003 sessions), and in many ways this is the most "band"-sounding, loosest record in Zombie's catalog. As a vocalist, Zombie relies as always more on style and attitude than range and power, but the group behind him is solid, the album short enough (nine songs plus two brief instrumental passages) to not outstay its welcome, and the songs punchy and crunchy, with a big, speaker-filling sound.
WHITE ZOMBIE's original fusion of crushing metal, downtown New York art-noise and B-movie mood was an enormous, unique hit when it first emerged in the late Eighties, and it's fair to argue that neither that band throughout its career nor Zombie himself as a solo artist have taken a whole lot of chances since. But with trends coming and going as fast as George Bush lies and breaks the law (which is pretty damn quick), Rob Zombie remains true to his own identity and his own particular style, of which "Educated Horses" is a fine example.