The current wrestling renaissance has been accompanied by a glut of soundtracks louder than the wrestlers themselves, and also by wrestlers who are not made of flesh: Witness the clay-animation celebrities who populate MTV's "Celebrity Deathmatch." Since its first airing during halftime of the 1998 Super Bowl, "Celebrity Deathmatch" has become MTV's highest-rated program, pummeling "The Real World" and "Road Rules," particularly with the key demographic--12-to-34-year-olds--that's also been key to the resurgence of professional wrestling.
The MTV show pokes fun at both pop culture and wrestling, but the "Celebrity Deathmatch" album (Interscope) mostly misses out on the fun even as it reflects appropriate sonic mayhem with its half-metal, half-rap mix. While there's no musical equivalent to the Trent Reznor vs. Puffy Combs battle, it gets off on the right track with Marilyn Manson, who fought Charles Manson on "Deathmatch" and apparently survived to give us "Astonishing Panorama of the Endtimes" (also the only new song on his recent live album). For those wary of Manson's current glam-rock fascinations, raging testosterone rules this track, which is as hard and heavy and more industrial than anything Manson's done in years. Other rock tracks include remixes of Sevendust's "Terminator" and Rob Zombie's "Meet the Creeper," as well as the amusing "Standing 8" by Powerman 5000, where Rob's little brother favors funk metal over thrash metal. Primus's "The Heckler," also included here, was a hidden track on that group's last album.
Aside from a remix of Eminem's "My Fault," the rap contributions seem more about lyric battles, though Xzibit's title track does at least evince some connection to the show in its hyper-violent cartoon imagery. Much better are Canibus and Rakim's "I'll Bust 'Em, You Punish 'Em" (where "every word I say detach a vertebra from his spine . . .") and the Prince Paul-produced "Secret Wars" by the Last Emperor. Here, the rapper envisions a wondrous fight card pitting historic figures and underground stars alike in verbal death matches--it's KRS-One vs. Professor X, Dr. Strange vs. the Genius, Dr. Octogon vs. Busta Rhymes.
(To hear a free Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8171.)
"World Wrestling Federation: The Music Volume 4" (Kock-WWF) sounds like a compilation, but it's the work of one James A. Johnston, who provides the entrance music for that tour's superstars. Johnston's clearly a gifted mimic: Chris Jericho's "Break Down the Wall" is rap-metal in the manner of Limp Bizkit; Test's "This Is a Test" recalls the "Give It Away"-era of the Red Hot Chili Peppers; Stone Cold Steve Austin's "Oh, Hell Yeah" (performed with H-Blockx) conjures the gloomy thunder of Ministry and Nine Inch Nails.
There's plenty of silliness, plenty of swagger and some disappointments, as well. Mankind's "Wreck" is lame powerpop-rock accompanied by the sound of cars crashing, while Undertaker's "Ministry" is portentous goth-rock. The biggest change of pace: superman Mark Henry's smooth and creamy "Sexual Chocolate," which comes right out of the Barry White-Marvin Gaye art-of-seduction booklet.
(To hear a free Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8172.)
Another recent compilation, "WCW Mayhem" (Tommy Boy), has a few blasting entrance themes: Goldberg's "Invasion," as well as those of Randy Savage, Diamond Dallas Page, Sting, Hulk Hogan, Konnan, the Nitro Girls and Buff Bagwell ("Buff Daddy," of course). It, too, mixes rap (Ruff Ryders, Cypress Hill with Defari, and Big Punisher & Fat Joe), metal (Metallica, Slayer) and plenty of the metal-rap that seems to have gotten massively popular concurrently with pro wrestling. Highlights include Insane Clown Posse's "Take It," Kid Rock's "Blast" and Limp Bizkit with Everlast on a "Faith" remix. As Spinal Tap might put it, this sounds best cranked up to 11.
CAPTION: The "Celebrity Deathmatch" soundtrack: Not quite as good as the show.