VARIOUS ARTISTS - "NATIVITY IN BLACK II: A TRIBUTE TO BLACK SABBATH" (PRIORITY RECORDS)
"Nativity in Black" (the prequel, if you will) is definitely the finest Black Sabbath tribute to date. In fact, among tribute albums in general it stands out as a particularly fine one. Musically it was very OK, there was a star-studded cast of musicians, and the band that was paid tribute to is really good. These are the three ingredients you need, whereas most tribute albums just focus on one of the three (mostly the final one).
About half a year ago, the grapevine started buzzing about a second "Nativity in Black" album. I've been waiting for it ever since. Now it's released, am I disappointed?
The line-up is once more as star-studded as you could possible wish for. There's Slayer, Megadeth, Monster Magnet, Soulfly, Machinehead and Primus, for starters, and there's Pantera and Godsmack too. With these names, you principally have all three conditions met...
The album kicks off with "Sweet Leaf" by Godsmack, which is a cool version. Slightly less is Machinehead's "Hole in the Sky", after which follows the lousy "Behind the Walls of Sleep", mangled and tortured by Static-X. "Never Say Die" isn't the strongest track to start with, and Megadeth do a pretty OK job except for the singing. "Snowblind" is a given a lighter treatment by System of a Down, which is OK. Pantera do "Electric Funeral" and do a good job. Perhaps it would have been a bit more modest, though, to not compare their thuthfulness to that of old Black Sabbath... On we go to one of the climaxes, "N.I.B." by Primus, with Ozzy on vocals (and sounding identical to his olden days, I might add). Les Claypool, incidentally, lifts the original bassline to another level. I was a bit disappointed with Slayer's "Hands of Doom". I had expected Tom Araya to scream his head off, but he actually sings most of the time. During the second half of the song, however, things do get a bit more intense. Soulfy's version of "Under the Sun" is another climax, Max screaming his lungs out, it's a cool original tune. Maybe the climax of the album. Then follow two awful versions of "Sabbra Cadabra" and "Into the Void", performed by Hed(pe) and Monster Magnet respectively. These suck mightily, both of 'em. Hed(pe)'s singer is simply atrocious and totally drowns the original musical interpretation, and Monster Magnet throws so many effects and noises in the mix that it almost hurts the ears. A bit of a surprise is the 12th and final track, "Iron Man (This Means War)" by the unlikely Busta Rhymes. It's a hip-hop kind of version, which results in a mix of Body Count meets Black Sabbath. It's pretty cool actually.
So, to get back to the original question, was I disappointed? No, even though there are once more a couple of lows on the album. Then again, even the original "NIB" album had those. "Nativity in Black II" is a safe buy for any Black Sabbath fan!
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Written June 2000
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