VARIOUS ARTISTS, Nativity in Black II—A Tribute To Black Sabbath (Priority) Tribute albums = barf. I've been burned too many times. Gotten too excited, then vomited on myself while listening and thinking about the $15 sitting in the Cellophane Square cash register that could've been spent on black capes and absinthe. Bands take one of two routes on tribute songs: imitation or interpretation. Sabbath. Do you want to listen to an imitation of Black Sabbath, an interpretation of Black Sabbath, or just Sabbath? Duh. Sabbath. Sabbath. Sabbath. Sabbath. Well, on this tribute the best songs are the best imitations done by the best bands, which means Pantera nailing "Electric Funeral" and Slayer triumphantly hammering on "Hand of Doom." Godsmack does a competent job of "Sweet Leaf," although it really just made me want to go listen to the Butthole Surfers doing "Sweat Loaf." Word to Max Cavalera's Soulfly, which, while sporting one of the worst band names of all time, covers "Under the Sun" with Brazilian zest-o-plenty. Busta Rhymes, System of a Down, and Hed(Pe) get the big red suck button for their respective mutilations: Bzzzzzt! The only essential track here is, surprise surprise, Monster Magnet's late '90s Melvins-like handling of "Into the Void," which is no jaw-dropper considering how much they already uh, appreciate, Black Sabbath in their music. Bottom line, if you've ever had fun at OzzFest, you'll have fun with this album. If you got your flask confiscated at the door, dropped your last $20 in the Honey Bucket, and left pissed because Neurosis went on at noon, you're better off busting out your copy of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and playing bad air guitar while jumping on the couch. That's how I'd do it anyway. —Mark Driver
ARMAND VAN HELDEN, Killing Puritans (Armed) By all rights, Armand Van Helden should be as much of a household name as Fatboy Slim or the Prodigy, if only for his blazing overhauls of the Sneaker Pimps' "Spin Spin Sugar" and Tori Amos' "Professional Widow." But the New York DJ/producer is barely known outside of dance circles. Having used his major label bid, 1998's Sampleslaya: Enter the Meat Market, to flirt underwhelmingly with hip-hop, he wound up releasing last year's 2 Future 4 U on his own Massachusetts-based indie. That album received as much play in clubs as Thriller once did on the radio; unfortunately, hardly anyone in mainstream music circles noticed. Something similar will probably happen with the new Killing Puritans. Once again, Van Helden has created a solid cache of surefire dance hits that radio probably won't touch. "Koochy" is dumb but effective ghetto-tech ("When I call your celly late at night/I want that coochie and I'll do it right") that cuts up enormous chunks of Gary Numan's "Cars." "Full Moon" features the great Chicago-born rapper Common effervescently riding an irresistible disco loop for everything it's worth. Although Common might be hip-hop's best lyricist, even his track is topped by "Hybridz." Over a steal of Adonis' Chicago house classic "No Way Back," Van Helden and fellow house jock Junior Sanchez big up their peers and spew fuck-the-industry rhetoric and self-aggrandizing braggadocio for 10 hilarious minutes.—Michaelangelo Matos
Check out our local music mini-reviews!