When it hit stores in 1992, everything about White Zombie’s La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Vol. 1 was a breath of fresh air. Rock was desperately trying to distance itself from metal by embracing alternative (which too often meant kind of whiny), while metal was ripping itself in half between the slowly-fading glam scene and the ultra-brutal underground. Suddenly, here was this badass biker metal record, dripping with groove, obsessed with schlock horror and psychedelia, hailing the thrash world without adopting its iciness. It was an album that opened headbangers’ minds while indoctrinating people who could never find the soul in metal before. It was, simply put, really fucking cool.
In honor of La Sexorcisto turning 29 years old this month, we decided to give the album a ranking. While there are no bad songs on this record — even the sample-heavy interludes are better than most bands’ output — it’s undeniably that some tracks are radder than others. Here’s how the rubber meets the road…
14. & 13. “Knuckle Duster (Radio 1-A)” and “Knuckle Duster (Radio 2-B)”
There’s little to say about the “Knuckle Duster” tracks on La Sexorcisto, other than that they illustrate White Zombie’s talent at weaving samples together. Each one has its treats — the first has all the Spanish and ends with a TV report of mass murder, the second features a preacher talking about how God loves evil and closes with a cheesy TV quote. They add to the psychedelic mindfuck of the album, but do little more than that. Still fun, though.
12. “One Big Crunch”
Similar to the “Knuckle Dusters,” “One Big Crunch” is just a sample-collage interlude. That said, its use of the music from the jewelry box from Night of the Living Dead and its hypnotic repetition of “Only parts of the corpse had been removed” from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre vault it leagues above its between-track brethren. This song feels like Rob Zombie’s vision distilled, a seed that would later bloom on speakers and in movie theaters around the world.
“Soul-Crusher” acts as a solid display of how White Zombie embraced more metallic elements on La Sexorcisto — the opening riff is sick, and the coordinated double-bass blasts throughout are impressive. It also has some excellent accent moments, like the vocal-and-drum break in the middle and Rob’s sneered spoken-word lyrics shortly thereafter. That said, as cool as it is, the track lacks a strong hook, and is therefore just one of the many jangling bad trips on this record rather than a standout.
10. “Grindhouse (A Go-Go)”
The opening drums of “Grindhouse (A Go-Go)” have the attitude and impact everyone loves about White Zombie — so it’s a shame the rest of the track doesn’t keep up. Instead, the song just feels a little thick in the middle, and could use some of the verse-chorus structure trimmed down. While the track has a bounce to it that was vital the the band’s developing sound, White Zombie had plenty of missiles that hit the mark harder and more precisely than this one.
9. “Spiderbaby (Yeah-Yeah-Yeah)”
The structure of “Spiderbaby (Yeah-Yeah-Yeah)” is just excellent, with the tolling bells and ambient music from Hellraiser creating a powerful intro for this creepy-crawl track. The song’s central riff seems made for headbanging, and the chorus has an eerie, strung-out quality. But while its parts are all memorable — the closing is especially rad — it isn’t quite the rager one wants it to be. Diehard fans will always love when White Zombie wipes off the greasepaint and gets scary, but sometimes you just want to go to the circus.
8. “Cosmic Monsters Inc”
What really carries “Cosmic Monsters Inc.” is its momentum. From the instant the track starts, it grinds, moving at a steady clip even as Rob and guitarist Jay Yuenger change the tone and vibe from verse to chorus (those guitar wails at the end of the chorus are, for the record, magnificent). Meanwhile, the song includes two of the band’s best samples — the opening “innocent-looking bookstore” and the beautifully rhythmic kick of, “They come from the bowels of hell!” Groovy as fuck.
7. “Warp Asylum”
If history has shown us anything, it’s that Rob loves ending his albums with an absolutely crushing doom track (“The Return of the Phantom Stranger,” “The Lords of Salem,” “Wurdulak,” you name it). La Sexorcisto is no different, with “Warp Asylum” plodding along at the end like some kind of stoned cyclops. The riffs still rule (gotta love that WAH-WAAAAH during the chorus, not to mention the pure Slayer worship at the close), and Rob does solid work with the vocal layering of the chorus (it’s also cool that he works in a phrase like “smooth operator” into your track). Big, looming, gnarly as hell, the track is a fitting tombstone for this slab of a record.
6. “Black Sunshine”
Old-school hot-rod intensity will always be what sets La Sexorcisto apart from similar albums, and no song embodies that better than “Black Sunshine.” Opening and closing with sweaty, exploitation-film rants by none other than Iggy Pop, and featuring a Sean Yseult bassline that takes the track from zero to sixty in seconds, it’s sonic evidence that White Zombie were a tougher, weirder beast than your average spooky rockers. Forever the song that marks where White Zombie connected with the badass biker world, who were more about the tattoos than the shrunken heads and demons therein.
The penultimate track of La Sexorcisto is a satisfying combination of the album’s many winning elements — the bouncing rhythms, the frothy weed-metal riffs, the ultra-fast lyrics about mummies and space aliens. The song’s thigh-slapping chorus and incendiary solos in the middle just fucking rip. But it’s the throbbing closer, with Rob chanting, “Million miles an hour…” that both takes the song up a notch and alludes to the band’s later hit like “More Human Than Human.” An under-appreciated gem.
4. “I Am Legend”
If White Zombie are going to go slow, they’re going to go slow. The intro to “I Am Legend” definitely smacks of Metallica, but the kick is pure Crowbar. From then on, the song takes things in a huge, Sabbathian direction, with Rob howling and spewing about being nailed to a cross and burning bodies. Involving just enough references to its namesake novel to sound interesting but never going full geek, this one is where White Zombie proves they can slug it out with the sweatiest of their peers. Gotta love that closing part, too.
3. “Thunder Kiss ‘65”
Everyone loves “Thunder Kiss ‘65” — you, me, Beavis, Butthead, the purchaser of any gritty movie soundtrack from 1993 to 2000. The song is a burly, smoke-spewing death machine, the kind of track one lifts weights to, a track that gets every window in the car rolled down. Maybe that’s why, for all its sheer kickass perfection, it only lands at #3 here — it’s White Zombie’s “Enter Sandman,” the track that all fans of loud music can agree on even if they’re not a cloud of patched-up denim and dreadlocks. A metal classic that’ll live on after we’re all dead.
2. “Welcome to the Planet Motherfucker/Psychoholic Slag”
For White Zombie, the opening of La Sexorcisto had to be a grand declaration of who the band had become — the band was officially transitioning from NYC art rock crew to LA muscle-metal powerhouse — and “Welcome to the Planet Motherfucker” was about as loud a statement as they could provide. This one’s got it all: gibbered lyrics about voodoo madness, a wily 1978 chorus, meaty guitar chugs, and perfectly-incorporated samples throughout (“Fucking kiss me!”). Even the breakdown at the end feels jazzy and patchwork, exuding the band’s unique take on road-rashed monster music. Get up and kill.
When it comes to neon-colored, acid-drenched, ass-shaking devil music, there’s nothing like “Thrust!” Kicking off with a kung-fu movie sample and a greased Slayer riff, the song is a jangling, nauseous love-in, complete with a Manson Family singalong chorus, a cowbell-fueled bridge, and the shrieked cry of “Freak hallucination!” In that way, the track is the most exuberant example of everything that La Sexorcisto is really about — a jacked-up celebration of all things filthy, unusual, dangerous and fun. This is what y’all need.
Words by Chris Krovatin