Various Artists

MTV: The Return of the Rock, Vol. 2

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It's hard to tell exactly what the title of MTV: The Return of the Rock, Vol. 2 is referring to. Even though teen-oriented dance-pop and R&B dominated both MTV and the charts during the late '90s, guitar-based rock never really went away; the title doesn't even apply if you take "rock" to mean aggressive, heavy rock, since alternative metal remained pretty steadily popular over the course of the '90s. To put it another way, about the only place rock disappeared from was MTV's own minuscule play list (aside from a few Total Request Live mainstays). Nevertheless, the channel mounted a late-night, metal-oriented video showcase called Return of the Rock, and began releasing companion compilations on the Roadrunner label. Like its predecessor, 2000's Vol. 2 demonstrates the way metal refreshed itself and regained its popularity by borrowing from other aggressive styles in the post-alternative age: grunge, rap, industrial, hardcore punk, whatever it could. Yet for all that eclecticism, there's a strange uniformity to some (though not all) of the music on Return of the Rock, Vol. 2. Maybe it's the relentless (and thus predictable) intensity; maybe it's the frequent emphasis on production and sheer sonic force over riffs or melodies; maybe it's just that record companies have already pushed the new metal into formulaic boundaries. (Which means it will be interesting to see whether alternative metal suffers the same sort of backlash that killed hair metal did at the end of the '80s.) Whatever the case, this set is for the already converted. They'll likely find it a strong sampler, though, since it features popular songs and unreleased tracks by some of the biggest names in alternative metal -- Limp Bizkit, Papa Roach, Spineshank, Marilyn Manson, Orgy, Soulfly, Godsmack, the Deftones, and more -- plus some up-and-comers. As such, it's a necessary purchase for anyone who enjoyed the first volume.

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