Album review

Various : MTV2 Headbangers Ball
Roadrunner Records

Various : MTV2 Headbangers BallThe fabled Headbangers Ball was an MTV institution in the '90s - and with the return of rock it was inevitable that it would come back to the small screen. So far, only on the other side of the pond - though its arrival on these shores can only be a matter of time.
    This 40-track double CD compilation showcases the cream of the current crop, with heavy emphasis on US acts. There's a definite bias towards the thrashier, trashier end of metal; this is heavyweight genre stuff - loud, angry and furiously fast.

That means sex and subtlety are both in short supply and melody largely absent, with only a few tracks venturing anywhere near the sensual rhythms or melodic intensity of say, A Perfect Circle. The stars of alt-rock (Foo Fighters, Queens Of The Stone Age, Audioslave) are completely unrepresented and the heaviest big hitters aren't necessarily at their best here either: Deftones' Hexagram tries to do murderous angst but just sounds strained, and queasy nursery rhyme This Is The New Shit delivers a Marilyn Manson sick of everything, especially himself.
    There's not much humour in evidence either; this type of music takes itself deadly seriously, unlike Britain's late arrivals to the ball, The Darkness, who fail to make the cut. Like Justin & co. though, there are plenty of bands willing to look nostalgically at the '80s. Strapping Young Lad's Relentless is pure Bruce Dickinson at his hysterical best, and In Flames' Clouds Connected opens like a poodle-rock anthem.
    It isn’t all ranting and raging; for every Hatebreed and Spineshank there's a Lacuna Coil or an Ill Niño, and the latter's When It Cuts is one of the high points of the album, with its slicing guitars and fevered sweetness.
    Cold's Stupid Girl approaches the downright catchy and Godsmack's Straight Out Of Line is Tool-lite, borrowing coarsely from Maynard James Keenan. Stone Sour's Inhale opens with an Uruk-hai roar from Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor, but then settles into a creepy rock ballad with a big corporate chorus and some elegant guitar.

As with any compilation, there’s good and bad, and enough variation to avoid pleasing anyone all of the time. But with 40 tracks for the price of a single CD, this is one Ball worth getting dressed up for. It's released October 27 - grab one before you turn into a Halloween pumpkin.

:: Clare O'Brien

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