On the follow-up to his smash solo debut, Rob Zombie resumes the roll of heavy metal freak show barker, but with some improvements ? the show just got a whole lot freakier.

With “The Sinister Urge,” Zombie displays a creativity that rises far, far above the compelling but uniform metal of his previous album, 1998’s “Hellbilly Deluxe.” This time around, the lyrics are just as bizarre, and the beats and riffs are just as heavy, but there are a lot of unexpected additions.

Perhaps the most shocking is the excellent addition of strings ? floating in the background on “Demon Speeding,” right up front and in the lead on “Bring Her Down (to Crippletown).” As if the strings weren’t enough of a shocker, the slightly softer “(Go to) California” features horns in the chorus that sound like they came off of a James Brown b-side.

And while I’m on the topic of funk and soul, the song “Never Gonna Stop” has a smooth, funky bass line that simultaneously contrasts and complements the creepy guitar riff. Almost every song here features a new twist or turn, always keeping you on your toes while delivering the same bone-crunching music Zombie is proud to be known for.

As Zombie fans know, the man is not only a musician, he also directed a horror movie some time ago ? the perpetually delayed “House of 1000 Corpses.” While the movie itself is unlikely to see the light of day anytime soon ? after filming was completed, Universal Pictures dropped the movie, and Zombie is currently looking for a new distributor, and there is a little teaser on the new CD in the form of the theme song.

“House of 1000 Corpses” ? the song ? is just about the spookiest thing that could ever be described as “honky-tonk,” but is still something you’d expect to hear coming out of a Midwest diner jukebox, not a Rob Zombie album.

“The Sinister Urge” is miles beyond what Zombie accomplished with his solo debut. Whereas his previous work was limited to the same sort of freak-show metal the whole time, this new one refuses to confine itself to any formula.

The nonsensical lyrics, heavy beats and guitar work still abound, but there is enough innovation here to keep this one fresh a whole lot longer.

Feldblyum can be reached at jfeldblyum@campustimes.org.

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