If anything is keeping rock n roll alive, it’s the undead. What appeared to be a long-standing line outside the venue bore more resemblance to what one would call a zombie horde. Eager long-haired, sweaty bearded fans were rife with anticipation; some queuing for half the day, some haggling down extortionate prices from the touts outside, others clinging onto their sweaty tickets as if they were the last of an apocalyptic currency.
Zombie’s only UK date this year, this show spells the end of the ‘Three Days of Hell’ tour. Having dashed to London from nights in Paris and Berlin, these guys are known for their fleeting visits, generally only playing one date per country. This coupled with a set featuring a few songs from their new album ‘The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser’ as well as a limited variation of hits from early and more recent Zombie material was sure to leave fans wanting more – as always.
The director, producer and long-time musician brought his band of metal-head misfits to the O2 Forum Kentish Town on a suitably gloomy North London evening. With iconic albums under his belt including the ‘Hellbilly Deluxe’ couplet, Mondo Sex Head and the 2013 release ‘Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor’, Zombie’s iconic sound fails to bore fans.
A few years ago these guys co-headlined The O2 Arena with Marilyn Manson. The following year they played the main stage at Download Festival. With most of his visits to the UK involving elaborate stages in far bigger venues, I was curious to see how this comparatively intimate gig would serve fans – no giant animatronic robots or massive gimmicks this time; just a giant monochrome image of King Kong as a backdrop with a few risers at the front to elevate the band even further above the 2,300 strong audience.
Indeed, this was a somewhat condensed version of previous tours… At first appearances. With no LED backdrops this time, the majority of the set was bathed in red or blue light and featured heavy use of strobes. Notably, virtuoso guitarist John5 provided most of the visual entertainment with his expansive collection of quirky custom built guitars, played with what appeared to be glowing fingerpicks. Even J5’s creepy grin was flashing rainbows as he bared his teeth to reveal a luminous grill. Throughout the set, the gimmicks started flying… literally. Inflatable aliens were thrown to the crowd and the Queen of the Undead herself, Sheri Moon Zombie made an appearance, much to the crowd’s delight, sending raucous cheers throughout the venue.
The appeal of this band is clear as night with a full moon. Destined for fans of horror and the more cult themes within film and music, the visual aspects of Zombie’s whole act are evident. The music and energy though – they smash through the Broadway guise of the show like a mace would through a skull. Heavy grooves and memorable lyrics as found on every track; from their opener, ‘Dead City Radio’ through to ‘Well, Everybody’s Fucking in a UFO’ all the way to the end of the second encore with ‘Sick Bubblegum’, every track keeps the Zombie horde very much alive on the dance floor.
Since selling out Brixton O2 back in 2011, the past 5 years haven’t seen Zombie take his foot off the creative pedal. Every new release whether it’s a new film or album turns out to be a finely tuned revitalisation of classic Zombie influences, perfectly serving the purpose of whetting the appetite of his fans and consistently leaving us desperate for more.
Words and photography by Ed Jacobs