A follow-up to the forgettable 1994 release Nativity in Black: A Tribute to Black Sabbath wasn't really warranted, but don't tell that to Ozzy Osbourne, whose new label, Divine Records, is giving it another go with Nativity in Black II. The difference this time around is that bands such as Ugly Kid Joe and White Zombie have been replaced by the trendier Static X and Godsmack. Not to say these new acts will be long gone when Osbourne decides a third installment is needed, but given the high rate of turnover in the unstable metal scene, you can bet there will be a new breed of bands ready to pay tribute to Sabbath in another five years. With that said, Nativity in Black II is strong on novelty, but weak on substance. Hearing Godsmack, the best and angriest Metallica-meets-Alice-in-Chains band around, render "Sweet Leaf" will placate Godsmack fans who want to hear new material, but singer Sully Erna's gruff vocals and the band's bombastic delivery fail to capture the energy of the original.
One of the highlights is System of a Down's sped-up, schizophrenic version of "Snowblind." Its upbeat style successfully reworks the melody, disguising it to such an extent that only the lyrics link it to the original. Another highlight is Primus's version of "N.I.B." (it features a cameo by Osbourne -- which makes you think there should be a law against artists performing on their own tribute albums), which stands out for its tight bass lines and updated melody. Other contributions come from Megadeth ("Never Say Die"), Pantera ("Electric Funeral'), and Static X ("Behind the Wall of Sleep"). Actually, aside from Busta Rhymes's rap-oriented rendition of "Iron Man (This Means War)," none of the artists here really rework the Sabbath tracks they cover. Odds are Nativity in Black II will fade into the void faster than a Tony Iommi solo disc.