Nativity in Black

Band: Various Artists
Album: Nativity in Black
Best song: As a cover record, most of the songs are pretty solid. They are, after all, Sabbath songs. I’d say the highlights are 1000 Homo DJs’ version of “Supernaut,” Megadeth’s spot-on “Paranoid,” the Bullring Brummies’ “The Wizard” and, mostly, Corrosion of Conformity’s “Lord of this World.” Cathedral’s “Solitude” is pretty great.
Worst song: Ugly Kid Joe mangles “N.I.B.” Therapy?’s cover of “Iron Man” (with Ozzy singing, no less) is pretty bad. I can’t really support Faith No More doing “War Pigs.”

In talking with a younger friend recently, she mentioned a life goal was to write a book. She’s a fellow journalist — though, she actually writes in her profession — so I asked her if she wanted to write a book of fiction or nonfiction or what.

She said she’d never really written much fiction, but did so recently and entered a short story into a competition. Apparently, she’s doing well in said competition and has found a new skill that was before unrealized.

By no means am I a creative type. My attempts at fiction writing devolve into idiocy. I have, however, written a lot. I could — with some time and effort — turn my old RS project into a book, no doubt. I will not do this, of course, because I am lazy.

But, it’s also because I fancy my own state of nature as a one of a critic. It’s sort of a negative, overthinking state of nature, but it’s mine nonetheless. It is wildly self-centered, while also having the luxury or projecting a lot of emotions/feelings/etc. onto pieces of culture and varying stupid philosophies I type out for this space.

The cover album is something a relatable enterprise, no?

Cover albums — when done by a single artist — are a series of reintreprations of different artists by one voice; Cat Power’s The Covers Record is an unparalleled feat of this type of record. The “tribute” album, though, is different.

As an homage, Navitiy in Black — named after the most common misintrepretation of the title of the song “N.I.B.” — is a brilliant work. It takes some of the best 1990s popular metal groups and gives them Sabbath songs to cover. For the most part, the record succeeds.

Heavy metal in the mid-1990s wasn’t much. The album, released in 1994, is a symptom of that. The best metal bands of the era — Neurosis was still sorta a punk band, etc. — were toiling underground before “underground” actually meant something. Similarly, far too many great metal bands were not seen as “metal” enough — Soundgarden, Metallica, Tool, etc. — for the project. Finally, the great resurgence of intricately done doom- and post-metal was five or more years away, so we didn’t get to hear Mastodon do a version of “Sabbra Cadabra” or Isis doing “Hand of Doom.”

Nevertheless, the record has tons of amazing songs. The notion of Rob Halford bringing some musicians in to do a cover of the Sabbath debut record’s sublime “The Wizard” features the ex-Priest singer at his lower registered best. 1000 Homo DJs (featuring my man Al Jourgensen) do the best version — yes, I’m including the original in there — of “Supernaut,” turning the song into a pro-drug industrial romp. Dave Mustaine’s shreds the solo on “Paranoid,” making the Megadeth track completely charming* and listenable. Similarly, whether or not you enjoy Sepultura, “Symptom of the Universe” is a song they were born to play. White Zombie’s “Children of the Grave” adds the movie clip nonsense that Rob Zombie loves so much and Corrosion of Conformity’s take on “Lord of this World” is excellent. Doom band Cathedral, similarly, does a near note-for-note version of “Solitude” that is lovely and haunting. Type O Negative’s version of the band’s titular song is nice and Type O-y and my introduction to the band (which eventually gave me, probably, my finest professional hour).

It’s difficult to screw up classic music. A group of barking dogs could probably do a cover of “Faeries Wear Boots” and it would be listenable.

So, yes, bringing in Ozzy to try and sing with Therapy? for “Iron Man” is not good, but it’s aout 1/100 as bad as a regualr song by that shit band. The pieces of “After Forever” that suck are not the actual songwriting or even execution. The problems are that Evan Seinfeld feels the need to shout rap at the beginning of the song. I love Bruce Dickinson, but, man, he doesn’t really need to try and emulate Ozzy on “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath,” but that’s what he does. Ugly Kid Joe shouldn’t exist, especially not on this record.

Which is to say that the worst songs on this compilation are bad, but still not the worst thing I’ve ever heard. Black Sabbath’s oeuvre is, essentially, unstoppable. That the tracks chosen on this record are what they are is because Ozzy and Co. were amazing. The bands covering them simply work some extra magic on the above tracks.

That is, undoubtedly, the only time anyone has ever called him “charming.”

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  • About Me

    I'm Ross Jordan Gianfortune. I am not a writer, but I sometimes write here about music and my life. I live in Washington, DC.

    I used to review each of Rolling Stone Magazine's top 500 albums of all time. Now I'm writing about albums I own.

    My work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Gazette, The Atlantic, Sno-Cone and a bunch of defunct zines.

    You can contact me at rjgianfortune at gmail dot com.

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