It's usually pretty easy to laugh at Manowar's credo, "Death to False Metal." (It's even easier to snicker at their bikers-in-loincloths image.) But when a band is still doing things its way 20 years after its debut and celebrating that fact with a tour this mind-blowing, you gotta show some goddamned respect. The dudes are on the brink of dropping their ninth studio album, and they haven't changed their sound a bit. No hip-hop influences, no corpse-paint makeup -- nothing but pure power metal: a head-crushing blend of 1970s bombast and early '80s thrash fury. The self-described (and, at least in Europe, undisputed) "Kings of Metal" are touring in support of Warriors of the World
, slated for a June release on Metal Blade, and they've got one of the best black metal acts around opening the show in Immortal, a ferocious Norwegian three-piece that's bridging the gap between black metal's hissy-fit rage and old-school thrash's grinding power. Make no mistake: This is one of the best, purest metal shows likely to hit town this year. No self-respecting headbanger should be anywhere else that night.