Various Artists

Tattoo the Earth: The First Crusade (1500 Records)

There's something reassuring about metal. No matter what member of the Bush family is president, or what member of the Clinton family is in office, or what hairstyle or clothing style or body-art style or circumcision style is in favor at any given time, metal is always there -- drums thudding, bass pounding, guitars shrieking, vocalists yowling, testosterone spraying -- just like an old buddy, albeit one with bad breath, poor grooming habits and a hard-on that won't go away. The music may ostensibly be about rebellion, but it's actually as conformist as the United States Postal Service, and, with the exception of the occasional well-armed psychotic, every bit as reliable. Neither snow nor rain nor dark of night shall prevent this monster riff from creasing your cranium.

Tattoo the Earth, named for the 2000 tour of the same name, is ostensibly an opportunity to grok some of the new, or relatively new, masters of the form as well as get warm and comfy with the black-hearted veterans in Slayer. But at its base, the disc is a reminder that glaciers move faster than metal changes. Slipknot, whose press tends to revolve around its members' claim that they never clean the masks they wear (don't let the Man make ya do it!), slide a little DJ wicka-wicka into numbers such as "Liberate," but these token concessions to modernism tremble before monolithic power chords and enthusiastically chanted profanities that are themselves comforting references to the bastards that laid the groundwork for the band's brand of mayhem. Likewise, Sevendust's "Waffle," with its juxtapositions of noise slabs and finger picking, Hatebreed's "I Will Be Heard," which stomps like the dinosaurs of old, and the echoey growling of Nothingface's "Can't Wait for Violence" stick to the verities in the full knowledge that they continue to work like magic on anyone for whom acne is not an occasional concern but an everyday companion. In this context, the Workhorse Movement's "Keep the Sabbath Dream Alive" is downright sentimental. Anybody see where I left my lighter?

Of course, the best metal has something sonically distinctive about it, whereas too much of Tattoo the Earth is a collection of gestures, like the demand to see "your middle fingers in the fucking air!" shouted during "your new national fucking anthem," Slipknot's "Surfacing." But stop complaining, America. If another Bush is good enough for you, so is this.

 
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