A renaissance man for the undead, Rob Zombie has used the raw materials of Dwight Frye films, Alice Cooper stage shows, late-night horror-movie hosts, Ed "Big Daddy" Roth's "Rat Fink" cartoons, and disreputable industrial music to fashion a career as a musician, artist, and film director. Musically, the former White Zombie frontman's career reached a high point with his first solo album, 1998's Hellbilly Deluxe, a pounding slab of spook-house atmospherics, mile-wide guitar riffs, pumping beats, and guttural vocals that balanced the booga-booga with a healthy dose of camp. Zombie is more Vincent Price than Charles Manson, and that balancing act represents the key to his appeal: His fangs may look sharp, but he presents a garish, cartoon threat. Since Hellbilly, Zombie directed House Of 1000 Corpses, a film deemed too unseemly for release by its studio. The time he spent on that project might explain why his latest album, The Sinister Urge, doesn't sound like one of his more inspired efforts. Though it retains all the trademark Zombie-isms, it needs a few more of the standout tracks that distinguished its predecessor. Even the titles feel familiar: "Dragula" gets reprised as "Demon Speeding," while "Living Dead Girl" returns as "Dead Girl Superstar." As formulas go, Zombie's is still a winning one, but Urge's best moments come when he stretches its boundaries. "Never Gonna Stop (The Red, Red Kroovy)," for instance, brings in unexpected touches such as handclaps and almost-pretty female vocals, while "Iron Head" benefits from a guest appearance by Zombie's spiritual godfather Ozzy Osbourne. The rest, even with amusing titles like "Bring Her Down (To Crippletown)," feels a bit too reanimated for its own good. At this point, the scariest move Zombie could make would be to dig himself into a rut.

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