For the first installment of Why Did I Buy This?, Nativity in Black II leapt out at me because it deftly combines two wonderful things: Black Sabbath and unnecessary cover songs. As if that wasn’t good enough already, this cassette also bears the weight of a remarkable nu metal presence.
Recall, the June 6, 2000 release date places us just over a year before System of a Down’s “Chop Suey!” blew up the nu metal waters and about a year after Static-X’s “Push It” tried to. (Both bands appear here.) Throw in mainstream metal stalwarts like Pantera, Slayer, and Monster Magnet, and you’ve got yourself a bunch of Black Sabbath covers delightfully of their time.
In addition to my thoughts, I thought it would be fun to include my favorite YouTube comment on each cover, as well as bonus quotes from some of the musicians courtesy of the inexplicably detailed liner notes.
“Sweet Leaf” - Godsmack
Godsmack brought a special level of awful to the nu metal table with that whole turn-of-the-21st-century scorpions-and-voodoo New Age thing they had going on at the time. Apparently they actually supported Black Sabbath on a tour in the late ‘90s, which I was legitimately surprised to learn, although I shouldn’t have been. (I was also surprised-and-shouldn’t-have-been to learn that Godsmack is still a band.) This cover is definitely bullshit, don’t get me wrong, but it also manages to somehow be… endearing. For example, they retain the cough at the beginning, and make it sound more like Godsmack than Black Sabbath, which is saying something. I think. Ha!
Oh, xSOILBORNx. Why must you make me feel so sad?
"Hole in the Sky" - Machine Head
This cover just sucks. I’m unfamiliar with Machine Head, and listening to this doesn’t especially make me want to look them up to get a better idea of what to say about them, either. What I do have, though, are first impressions, and mine alternated between this song sounding like nu metal Soundgarden and nu metal Sublime. I don’t think I can bring myself to say anything more here. Let’s just move on.
BoyfromSevilla’s got the right idea here.
"Behind the Wall of Sleep" - Static-X
Static-X’s cover is especially egregious for two reasons. The first is that Wayne Static (RIP) claimed to be a huge Black Sabbath fan. It’s not that I doubt this, but his enthusiasm for the band somehow makes the flatness even worse. The second reason is that this song actually isn’t even as bad as it could be (given the lovingly butchered industrial influence Static-X brought to nu metal) but their obvious reverence for Black Sabbath keeps their more interesting (for lack of a better word) aspects at bay, resulting in a cover that is mind-blowingly bland in its nu metal shittiness.
Come on, Mike. Don’t be so twelve about it.
BONUS LINER NOTES QUOTE: “I first heard Black Sabbath on a K-Tel compilation I got from my uncle. The song was ‘Paranoid.’ I was five years old. It scared the shit out of me and I’ve been a fan ever since.” – Wayne Static
"Hand of Doom" - Slayer
I assumed from the outset (based, however, more on the other bands) that this would be one of the more tolerable songs on this, and it turns out that I was right. Slayer fans are divided on Tom Araya’s clean singing here, with many questioning whether the song is even by them. I’m not exactly a Slayer fan myself, but this cover seems pretty solid to me. Still, was its existence necessary? Probably not.
Thank you for sharing your experience of this song in the mode of stream of consciousness, vinny. How’d you know that was my favorite?
"Never Say Die" - Megadeth
Honestly, this cover just sounds like Cheap Trick. What the hell is that about?
Well, gerdy5775, you’re the only person to have commented on this song, so I had no other choice here. (In the past 4 weeks, 4 other people have commented, but I’m still gonna go with good old gerdy.)
"Snowblind" - System of a Down
So in the course of doing research I realized that although I had always assumed System of a Down is/was a nu metal band… Wikipedia doesn’t say so. The genres for mainstream music are pretty thorough there, so that was an honest surprise to me. Then I turned to the rest of the Internet and realized there’s a healthy little debate on the subject. I figured I’d rather call attention to that than their cover in this space, considering that the song doesn’t do much for SOAD or Black Sabbath. It just doesn’t seem like they’re as complicit in the Black Sabbath circle jerkery as the other bands are, which in theory could be good for their cover, but it ends up making it feel misplaced instead.
Tell us what you really think, Nova.
"Electric Funeral" - Pantera
Pantera’s cover of “Electric Funeral” is more faithful to the original than I would have expected. I don’t know if it’s because I love the song or because I find Phil Anselmo incredibly likable, but I don’t really mind this version. No, they don’t especially make it their own, as I would expect about ten thousand times more aggression from them, but whatever. They can’t all be “I’m Broken.”
For those of us doubting whether Phil can sing good, we have westy west here to press the metaphorical wet towel to our feverish brows.
BONUS LINER NOTES QUOTE: “Black Sabbath does it SO real. It reminds me of us, except they started back in the late 60’s [sic]. They put fear into everyone, with one chord, with one word. Anyone that appreciates this music can see this. It has molded our lives. Beautiful, horryifying [sic], and desolate.” – Phil Anselmo
"N.I.B." - Primus with Ozzy
This is a weird and not-good cover of a great song, but more importantly: what the fuck is Ozzy doing guesting on HIS OWN BAND’S TRIBUTE ALBUM?
Another way to describe this cover would be absolutely useless. (I mean that sentence in both of its interpretations!)
(No comment or video for this one because of copyright issues. Sorry, I know that must be horribly disappointing.)
"Under the Sun" - Soulfly
I guess Soulfly is one of the bigger bands on here, but I hadn’t heard of them until this so I didn’t know it was one of the original Sepultura dudes. That should give this more credibility, but the truth is that I listened to this tape over thirty times in the past couple months and this song completely failed to make an impression on me every single time. What else can I even say about that?
I’m willing to bet Thomas here doesn’t have much of a filter; it’s the periods trailing off that really knock this one out of the park.
"Sabbra Cadabra" - Hed PE
Have you ever wondered what 311 would have sounded like if Jonathan Davis had somehow ended up fronting them instead, and they decided to express their heavy side through covering a Black Sabbath song? Congratulations! This is your lucky day!
I think I’m just gonna let apaspley’s comment speak for itself.
BONUS LINER NOTES QUOTE: “We were stoked to get this opportunity because we all grew up with Black Sabbath. Through all the changing fads and styles in music, Sabbath has always been dope and a source of inspiration.” - Wesstyle
"Into the Void" - Monster Magnet
This is also one of the better songs on here; I expected that to be the case, even though I’m not terribly familiar with Monster Magnet’s music. Apparently they’re one of America’s most well known stoner rock bands, but I’ve never been particularly interested in them. After listening to this cover as many times as I now have, I continue to feel nothing toward them. Then again, it’s pretty easy to slip through the aural cracks when you’re sandwiched in between what are far and away the two worst songs on here.
Thank you, shirley. I couldn’t have dreamed up a better one-liner. (I think it’s the exclamation point. So innocuous, yet full of emotion.)
"Iron Man (This Means War)" — Busta Rhymes (Featuring Ozzy)
Main man Ozzy is back again on this unbelievably absurd track (which originally appeared on a Busta Rhymes album with the title reversed [also, as you can see from the video, some people think of this as a remix instead a cover, but that’s debatable]). While it might seem like this song has very little reason for existing, that couldn’t be further from the truth. After repeated plays of this tape, I’ve been forced to conclude that this song demands to be understood as a mechanism for modernizing one of heavy metal’s most famous origin songs by running it through some sort of avant-garde hip-hop blender, thus explaining Ozzy’s presence as meta rather than bullshit.
Right? There’s no other way to explain it. This means war!
I’m somewhat charmed by Dj7baylum’s unabashed enjoyment on display here. (I should also point out that I didn’t have a great selection, as the conversation in the comments somehow devolved into a Busta Rhymes vs. Eminem debate.)
So, what have we learned?
• Ozzy will do anything – no, the whole world already knew that.
• People will never stop jerking off Black Sabbath – well, I think the huge doom resurgence of recent years has proved that way better than any cover on this thing ever could.
• I’m more of a nu metal apologist than people realized – or not, considering how genuinely funny I found this.
I bought this because I’m morbidly curious about the specific, fleeting time in music captured in these songs. Far be it from me to ever make any grand proclamations about the state of music - I’m a firm believer that interesting things are (and have always been) taking place and it’s simply a matter of finding them. Interesting doesn’t always just mean technically good, either – at least not to me. One way this fascination is cultivated is within the tension of a band’s role or position, or lack thereof, throughout the spectrum of its genre(s), and more broadly, music as a whole. What Black Sabbath did for and to metal (and music in general, as Busta Rhymes’ presence so painfully attests to), those reverberations will clearly echo forever. It’s something within that feeling of forever being stopped dead in its tracks when facing off against the unenduring qualities of Hed PE’s stubbornly atrocious “Sabbra Cadabra” or Static-X’s utterly forgettable “Behind the Wall of Sleep.” It’s something like the supremely weird paradox created by juxtaposing a timeless influence within a specific time period, and the fascination verging on horror with which you consume the cultural detritus produced therein.
I think that’s why I bought this. That, or I just thought it would be funny. One of the two.