If you've ever mistaken the music of Scum of the Earth for early-era Rob Zombie, it's certainly no accident: founder & frontman Mike Riggs was the guitarist on Rob's legendary solo debut Hellbilly Deluxe, and his hefty groove-metal riffs played an instrumental role in that album's success, along with the rhythms of John Tempesta. In 2003, Riggs and Tempesta departed the Zombie camp to form their own group (Tempesta departed SOTE three years later to play with The Cult), and Riggs has maintained the same horror vibe, but with a more playful Halloween-party attitude; in fact, I'd venture that Riggs' group is now probably more overtly horror-centric than Rob at his musical peak. The danceable beats, chunky industrial riffs and movie samples are all there too, first introduced in SOTE's 2004 album Blah, Blah, Blah: Love Songs for the New Millennium and the 2007 follow-up Sleaze Freak (tracks from which appeared in the indie horror flick Devil Girl). This week, Riggs and crew are back with their third full-length release The Devil Made Me Do It, which Riggs describes as “a demonic twist” on the band's already evil sound.
“Being that this is 2012 and the end of the world and all, I thought the Scum of the Earth sound had run its course,” says Riggs, who sought out the talents of producer & electro artist Volkstroker to bring something new to the operating table – namely a double-dip of electro/house and dubstep, styles which have worked their digital tentacles into many a rock and metal release over the past year or so, to varying degrees of success. The more intense infusion of electro rhythms actually works pretty well overall, offsetting the greasy, grimy riffs and serpentine licks; even the expected wub-wub drops lend a distinctly spooky effect, especially on tracks like the bombastic roof-raising “Ghost, the evil robot massacre “Pray” and the twitchy “Born Again Masochist.” The overall production could have used beefier bass, mostly to offset all the sharp-edged electronics, but at the same time that buzzing undercurrent lends a little extra crunch to the guitars, which is a plus.
Riggs still keeps one steel-toed boot firmly on Zombie ground, with tracks like “(Mindless) Dead Things” flashing back to “Living Dead Girl” (maybe a little too clearly), and “Zombie Apocalypse” or “Via Dela Rosa” sounding more than a little bit like outtakes from an early '90s White Zombie session. But while there's plenty to satisfy industrial-metal nostalgia, there's also a few more gothic touches than I expected, with some of the band's darkest moments coming in the decadent Marilyn Manson-style vocals of “Sounds of the Dead” and “Zombies vs. Skeletons,” and the down-tempo doom of “Funeral March” (based on a theme that you'll instantly recognize), further rocking the whole demonic freakshow vibe.
The album's first single “The Devil Made Me Do It 3” is a simple but effective mix of ripping, sliding riffs and electro dizziness; it's not the most original offering from the band, but it has a fun, sleazy groove that fits the whole chicks 'n' reptiles party in this video:
Scum of the Earth nearly always deliver the goods when it comes to club-friendly horror metal, and on The Devil Made Me Do It, Riggs and company have enhanced their already prominent use of electronics to bring the danceable components to the foreground. But while other metal bands jumping on the dubstep wagon seem to be merely dabbling in a passing trend, in this band's case it seems those elements have been waiting for enhancement all along. Ironically, by playing up that thump, buzz and glitch, SOTE has hit on a pattern that actually enhances the scare factor, and might set them on a unique creative path.