Back in the mist of time Headbangers Ball used to be an endless source of amusement. Poor old Riki Rachtman (or Vanessa Warwick depending on which country’s version you could get hold of) would appear and fluff his way through various videos from bands who couldn’t find their arses with both hands.
It was worth watching though, because in amongst the procession of terrible bands (Faster Pussycat, Poison, and the terrifying figure of the bloated and not particularly good any more Ozzy Osbourne) were a few gems. Every so often you’d get a glimpse of the emerging Sepultura, the frenzy of Exodus in their prime, and Megadeth shredding fretboards at will.
Then, grunge happened. Shortly after Nirvana appeared on the ball (Kurt in a fetching yellow ball dress), metal became pass� and Headbangers Ball disappeared. All that was left was a bunch of folks wearing little more than a pair of pants and a Viking helmet, drinking beer on the sofa while listening to a Kreator album.
Metal had beaten a hasty retreat, that’s all that really happened. It went into therapy and got in touch with its feelings. It decided that the Gothic approach was still kind of cool, but instead of Hammer Horror as inspiration, it looked towards Edgar Allen Poe, and the gore of films like Blood Feast, or Flower Of Flesh and Blood. Oh and one last thing, back-combed hair was definitely out.
Step forward the likes of Korn and Slipknot, who have headed up the new wave of metal bands while dealing primarily in the double-bore subjects of therapy and horror. Both bands are included here, claiming their rightful place at the head of this recorded “revenge”, although it would be fair to say that neither are sounding as vital as they once did.
Hatebreed‘s previously unreleased To The Threshold is a storming track though. Crushing brutal hardcore, reminiscent of Billy Milano’s MOD, they bellow “NOW WE’RE STRONGER THAN EVER!” in the chorus, and you’d have to say that on this evidence they’re not wrong. They’re the only band on here I’d be worried about if they came after me for revenge. The rest I could probably deal with by asking questions about their childhoods and drawing the curtains.
This album is crammed with big names, with barely a nod to any smaller name bands. So you get the likes of HIM; the whiny Avenged Sevenfold (who sound like an adenoidal Helloween); Bullet For My Valentine; Lacuna Coil and the fabulous Mastodon.
There are a handful of unreleased tracks here and there, with the most notable (after the aforementioned Hatebreed contribution) being the concrete thrash of Kingdom Of Sorrow (a band featuring members of Hatebreed and Crowbar). Otherwise the majority of these tunes are taken from recent albums, so anyone with more than a passing interest in the metal scene of the last four years will probably have the majority of the material on offer here.
As a document of how metal has evolved since those spandex and hairspray days, it is not a bad compilation. It would have been nice to see some kind of variation in styles, however, as a number of these bands seem to be singing from the same hymn sheet. Next time, how about a third disc with just one Sunn O))) track on it?
It does make you wonder if anyone still writes songs about getting laid and drinking JD out of strippers’ belly-buttons anymore, but Headbangers Ball: The Revenge does its job well, and shows the state of metal in today’s world.