Various Artists, Nativity in Black II
Nativity in Black II, the first release from new rap-metal label Divine/Priority, is a turbulent twelve-track homage to the Godfathers of gloom and doom, Black Sabbath, as performed by such modern metallurgists as Slayer, Megadeth, Pantera and Monster Magnet. "Divine Records will cater to the artist and his vision and not just the flavor of the week," Mr. Ozzy said recently of the label he and his manager/wife Sharon spearheaded with Priority's CEO Bryan Turner. Ozzy has certainly lived up to his word with Nativity in Black II. The assembled talent of musicians on the CD and the violent intensity with which they deliver their ghastly goods is truly a shriek for sore ears.
Blasphemous as this may seem, some of NIB IIs tracks actually sound better than the original vinyl versions. Black Sabbath, who originated as the band Earth in Birmingham, UK, 1969, were infamous for their bludgeoning blues rock grooves and Ozzy's macabre melodies. To the uninitiated, however, or the not completely stoned, the atmosphere of these cacophonous classics could seem as murky as a dead lake.
NIB II brings these savage symphonies into the new millennium. Like it or not, you're going to hear every soul-searing scream and rat-infested riff with crystal clarity. (Warning guys: your girl will probably like this record as you much as you appreciate her vacuuming during the Super Bowl.) From the first track to the last, NIB II brings back the bone-grinding power of Sabbath with fire and brimstone. It rivals and occasionally surpasses the darkness and despair of Black Sabbath themselves.
Godsmack's toke on "Sweat Leaf," Sabbath's love song to all things cannabis, blows smoke rings in the face of the '70s version and packs a mighty hit with its performance and production. The same is true of Megadeth's rendition of "Never Say Die," the title track of the last studio album Ozzy recorded with Black Sabbath in 1979 before being excommunicated from the band he helped define. To his credit, Ozzy's solo career is a rising tide of success that has yet to ebb. Despite initial prosperity with Ozzy's replacement Ronnie James Dio, however, Sabbath soon faded into Spinal Tap-like obscurity until the original line-up of guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Bill Ward reunited with Osbourne for 1999's ever triumphant Ozzfest tour.
It's not surprising then that NIB IIs song list doesn't contain any tunes that Ozzy didn't sing first himself. Megadeth's "Never Say Die" rocks ever more furiously than the original. Dave Mustaine's vocals come closer than any of the singers on NIB II at capturing Ozzy's wailing vocal style. The only group sounding even more like Sabbath is Primus who recorded its version of "Nativity in Black" (originally unleashed on Black Sabbath's demonic 1970 debut LP) with special guest star Ozzy himself. Though some of the new tracks might not seem as "evil" as the first recordings, in general, NIB II is an onslaught of achievement. Slayer, Soulfly and System of a Down will have the Beavis, Butthead, Wayne, Garth, Bill or Ted in you banging your head and giving Devil signs late into the blackest of nights, or at least until the police show up or your girlfriend comes home.
Editors Note: Artists on Nativity in Black II include Godsmack, Machine Head, Static-X, Megadeth, System of a Down, Pantera, Primus, Slayer, Soulfly, hed(pe), Monster Magnet, and Busta Rhymes.
NOFX, Pump Up the Valuum
California punk-rock comedians NOFX are back at it with Pump Up the Valuum, fourteen furiously funny songs about such torrid topics as problem parents, transvestites and, of course, shellfish. The CD scoots by in a little over half an hour and is as satisfying as a nutritious punk-rock breakfast of Budweiser and Doritos. Fans of suburban punk-lite bands like the Offspring or Green Day will find all they can eat in Pump Up the Valuums platter of snap-tight rhythms, lightning riffs and loony lyrics of lesbians, lager and 'ludes. Imagine "Weird" Al Yankovich singing for Murphy's Law and you'll get the idea. The album's closing cut "Theme from a NOFX Album" begins with accordions and a polka beat. Yikes, maybe the insidious "Weird" Al influence is no coincidence after all.
Not to say NOFX can't play. Fifteen years of almost continuous touring and recording have honed Fat Mike, Melvin, Sandin and El Hefe's musicianship and sense of humor to a sharp and sarcastic point. The press package for Pump Up the Valuum (their eighth release for Epitaph Records) proclaims NOFX to have incredible intelligence and comic genius. Seriously, it says this. As absurd as that sounds, I did get some cynical smirks from "Thank God It's Monday," "Clams Have Feelings Too" and "My Vagina," which tells of sex change operations, bladder infections and includes the poetic lyric "There's nothing finer/Than to have a vagina." At least NOFX aren't a bunch of whiney bastards and no one will ever accuse them of being Pearl Jam wannabees.
So, if NOFX's brand of junk food for drunk punks appeals to you, then go grab a six pack, a big can of Pringles and by all means "Pump Up the Valuum." And don't forget to look for NOFX when they co-headline this summer's Vans Warped Tour 2000, which moshes onto Randall's Island in New York City, July 15.
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