Satan must screw Robin Tunney, seed an evil spawn and destroy the world. Arnold Schwarzenegger must stop him before midnight. With a plot perfectly pitched to quicken the bloodlust and twitch the gonads of impressionable headbangers everywhere, the makers of "End of Days" must have had little trouble recruiting a fistful of iconic hard-rock bands for the soundtrack. But the results are merely semi-apocalyptic.
First, the big news. Guns N' Roses' first new song in more than six years is a frothy mishmash with a run-in-place intro, a couple of speed-metal somersaults and a pair of lurching, high-pitched climaxes. "Oh my God/I cant deny this," Axl Rose yowls above the din. He sounds like an alley cat being castrated by a trash compactor. It's hardly a triumphant return.
As for the rest of the record, Korn uncorks its customary blend of mincing menace and depth-charge mayhem, while Limp Bizkit lays down a dance track so benign that the Laker Girls could shake their booties to it if a few profanities were bleeped out. And Rob Zombie's "Superbeast" would make an ideal theme song on the monster-truck circuit.
So much for the cartoons. The specter of real violence is given disparate spins on minstrel-rapper Eminem's send-up of teen suicide ("Bad Influence") and Everlast's "So Long," a somber portrait of a Columbine-style classroom killer. Oddly enough, Eminem's scabrous sarcasm actually makes his song feel like the more responsible of the pair. With lines like "They say I'm suicidal/Teenagers' new recital -- go ahead, get mad and do it!" and "You only live once/You might as well die now!" hip-hop's court jester belittles the notion of snuffing oneself with a sense of irreverent alienation that a disaffected adolescent might appreciate.
By contrast, Everlast plays it straight, neither condemning nor condoning as he recounts details -- the early exposure to guns, the merciless put-downs at school, the grim, unflinching retribution -- that would be chilling if they weren't so numbingly familiar. No one should expect answers from a pop song, but there's precious little insight here either. Everlast supposedly composed the song before Columbine ever happened, which is all the more reason to reexamine the beguiling anti-heroism of lines like, "He felt so free/Like his destiny/Was linked to someone out on the horizon," and the oft-repeated refrain, "Think I'm gonna die today/And everyone who hurt me is gonna pay."
Having presciently stumbled upon a hot-button issue, Everlast either blindly decided to push it on an audience that might give new meaning to the phrase "target demographic" or he thinks "So Long" could be the sonic Prozac that provides succor for some bent, embittered kid. But it seems equally possible that the kid might think about emulating the protagonist in that Everlast song, the one Geffen thoughtfully sandwiched between tunes by Korn and a new group called Professional Murder Music. In what feels like a feeble attempt to put a fig leaf over their exposed behinds, the label honchos close out "End of Days" with a cautionary tale by the soggy grunge band Creed, featuring the lyrics, "Somebody told me the wrong way/I hope I helped you live." Don't we all.