Macabre as it may be, we love violence. Throughout history, men have been entertained by the spilling of blood — from ancient Rome’s Coliseum to the torture-porn of modern horror films. On albums like 2007’s Dead in My Arms and 2008’s The Diseased and the Poisoned, San Diego death-metal band Carnifex tap into this continuum of cruelty, summoning the spirit of medieval executioners and channeling it through pummeling guitars, skin-threshing blast beats and yowling vocals that sound like a burning cat. Add a lyrical philosophy in which words like “putrefaction” and “deicide” are spoken with reverence, and themes of suicide and homicide play kissing cousins with twisted love songs, and you’ve bound yourself to a pretty specific audience. Much like their dark namesake (“carnifex” is the Latin word for “executioner”), Carnifex have a higher duty than simply swinging an axe, employing an impressive sense of theatricality to entertain the masses. And the spectacle doesn’t relies only on the five performers onstage. There’s no million-dollar light show, no pyrotechnics — just insanely tight musicianship displaying viscera of human emotion. Miss May I, Underneath The Gun, Conducting From the Grave and Molotov Solution open at 6 p.m. at Peabody’s Down Under (2045 E. 21st St., 216.776.9999). Tickets: $10 advance, $12 day of show. — Nicholas Hall
There was a time when snooty local dance audiences could credibly claim boredom with the classic story ballet Swan Lake, which found its way onto Cleveland Ballet’s schedule every three years. But nearly a decade after the company left town, there’s a legion of little girls who haven’t had a chance to see the ballet. Russia’s Kirov Ballet Company sorta comes to the rescue with a high-def screening of a production filmed at St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre. It shows at 7 tonight and at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Cedar Lee Theater (2163 Lee Rd., Cleveland Hts., 440.321.5411). Tickets: $15. — Michael Gill
Hip-hop aficionados Mick Boogie and Terry Urban welcomed rap icon MC Hammer to the Press Play Show, their weekly showcase on Eminem's Shade45 Sirius/XM satellite radio station. Take a full listen here.
The expatriate Cleveland DJs are returning home for the holiday weekend. Catch them Friday, July 3 at Ultra (1212 W. 6th St., 216.555.7716) and Saturday, July 4 at House of Blues (308 Euclid Ave., downtown). The Saturday party is Word of Mouth's annual True White Affair, a white-attire party hosted by Babylon. These shows always sell out, so get tickets early. — D.X. Ferris
Middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik will appear at the Fairlawn Borders (3737 W. Market St., 330.666.7568) at 2 p.m. on Saturday, signing copies of the new book Kelly "The Ghost" Pavlik: The Pride of Youngstown. Its authors are Beacon Journal writer David Lee Morgan Jr. and Greg Gulas. Boxing historian Bert Sugar contributed the foreword. — D.X. Ferris
Comic and Rescue Me co-star at Cleveland Improv:
Australian guitarist at Fat Fish Blue (21 Prospect, 216-875-6000).
Amy Speace’s bio could have been conceived by John Irving. An undisciplined sight-reading musical prodigy, Speace learned piano, saxophone and clarinet by the time she entered high school, took voice lessons and then took up theater at Amherst College. Summer stock in Vermont led to the National Shakespeare Company in Manhattan, but a broken heart drew her to songwriting. She was jolted into touring and releasing her debut album, 2002’s Fable, after 9/11. Her next album, 2006’s Songs for Bright Street, included “Two,” which won an open-category International Acoustic Music Award. Speace’s new CD, The Killer in Me, comes out next week, and on it she straddles genres like a skilled rodeo rider, bouncing confidently between Americana, roots-rock, country, folk and streaks of pop. She says her music is inspired by her dad’s Johnny Cash records, her mom’s Neil Diamond collection and her own love of Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, the Replacements, Tom Petty and Matthew Sweet. Throw in a dash of Lucinda Williams, and it sounds pretty good to us. Chris Castle opens at 8 p.m. at Wilbert’s (812 Huron Avenue, 216.902.4663). Tickets: $10. — Brian Baker
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