Hot . . . or Not?

Your official guide to the blood, sweat, and angst of the Sounds of the Underground tour.

Sounds of the Underground grind power metal metalcore deathcore New England nü metal screamo thrash Atlantic Records Hot Topic The Time Warner Cable Amphitheatre at Tower City, 1887 Third Street, the Flats With Mushroomhead, GWAR, Shadows Fall, Chimaira, Every Time I Die, Necro, Job for a Cowboy, Amon Amarth, Darkest Hour, the Acacia Strain, Heavy Heavy Low Low, The Devil Wears Prada, The Number Twelve Looks Like You, and Goatwhore; 12 p.m. Saturday, July 2, $28.50, 216-241-5555
The Goatwhore crew have conned metal dudes into thinking they rock.
The Goatwhore crew have conned metal dudes into thinking they rock.
Hot Topic's dominance of American youth culture is pretty much complete. When every mall's one-stop shop for goths, punks, and metalheads teamed up with Epitaph Records and the Suicide Girls for 2005's Black Heart Retrospective CD, it spelled the end for the underground.

But make no mistake: Wasting away in an unknown, dirt-poor rock band sucks. Hot Topic's sponsorship of the third-annual Sounds of the Underground tour is a great thing. It affords metalcore bands mainstream exposure without paying Sharon Osbourne $75,000 -- or whatever she would charge them to play Ozzfest with her zombie husband.

As with any package tour, however, the lineup for 2007's Sounds of the Underground is far from perfect. And unlike the makeup counter at Hot Topic, there's a dizzying number of choices -- 14, to be exact.

To help Clevelanders rock out, we present the "Hot or Not?" concert guide. Here are the bands to catch and those to avoid:

Mushroomhead: HOT
These hometown heroes make a special appearance in Cleveland only. Nothing any critic says should prevent you from checking out these wild -- and wildly underrated -- industro-metal marauders.

GWAR albums are pointless, but every mall rocker should witness the band's blood-, pus-, and semen-splattered live show at least once. Parents will turn red when their teenage daughters return home drenched in demon jizz. Sporting codpieces, armor, and latex, GWAR unloads one thrasher after another, punctuated by gory skits that tear into our society's every taboo.

Goatwhore: NOT
An overrated black-/death-metal outfit from Louisiana, Goatwhore contains former members of Soilent Green, Acid Bath, and Crowbar. For some inexplicable reason, metal's elite and its avant-garde wing have embraced the band. Hate Eternal's Erik Rutan produced the 2006 CD, A Haunting Curse, while the group has toured with Sunn O))) and Celtic Frost. Maybe those experiences will help Goatwhore write some decent songs for its next record.

Shadows Fall: HOT
These New England thrash revivalists are going big-time. Threads of Life, SF's new album, is its debut for Atlantic Records. Back in the '80s, Atlantic didn't properly market thrash-metal pioneers like Vio-lence and Powermad. Hopefully, SF's grassroots appeal will help the band break as big as it deserves.

Amon Amarth: HOT
The Vikings have returned. If you've ever wanted to grow a chest-length beard and drink beer from a horn, Amon Amarth is your band. Even if -- like the majority of SOTU attendees -- you're struggling to harvest your first dirt 'stache, this melodic power-thrash quintet should still be your band. Thump your chest, bang your head, and hold your imaginary broadsword high.

Every Time I Die: NOT
Every Time I Die is the only band on the current Sounds of the Underground with the word "die" in its name. Two years ago, you couldn't fling a shitty screamo CD without it bouncing off a band named after death: Dead to Fall, It Dies Today, A Life Once Lost, As I Lay Dying, Through the Eyes of the Dead, and so on. ETID's second CD, The Big Dirty, drops in September, so they'll probably bore you with new songs.

Necro: HOT
Necro is a white rapper fixated on drugs, death, gore, and porn. He embodies everything cultural conservatives mistakenly thought Eminem did -- back when people still gave a shit about the dude. But that actually sells Necro short. He possesses serious death-metal cred, having collaborated with members of Obituary, Voivod, and Testament. He's the only performer on SOTU to have opened for Run-D.M.C. and Napalm Death.

The Devil Wears Prada: NOT
When these dorks named themselves, they weren't just ripping off a movie. They really meant the devil, as in George W. -- oh yeah, we mean Satan. DWP is a Christian metalcore band from Dayton. Some concertgoers need to know nothing more. Others may wish to stop by and take a gander, just to find out if the band's music is as wretched as its name.

Job for a Cowboy: HOT
That name blows. It camouflages a group well worth checking out. Job for a Cowboy is not math-damaged like Dillinger Escape Plan. Nor are they screamo saps, like too many other bands in their '20s. Instead, Job for a Cowboy crunches, growls, and shreds in ways only technical death-metal bands can. Recommended for dudes with carpal tunnel from basement air-guitar sessions.

The Acacia Strain: HOT
A Massachusetts deathcore outfit, the Acacia Strain's jams have mutated from overly complex to overly indebted to Pantera and Sick of It All. To call them obsessed with the typical metalcore breakdown would be a massive understatement. But hey, that's what keeps the pits roiling, right?

Chimaira: HOT
Like Mushroomhead, Chimaira is another local group that blew up too early (i.e., when they sucked). Only after getting booted from nü metal's buzz bin did the group rediscover the glories of, y'know, being a metal band. Then again, Chimaira's self-titled disc from 2005 rocked harder than this year's Resurrection. Still, Chimaira is a strong unit with a killer live show.

Heavy Heavy Low Low: NOT
These melodic mathcore dudes understand the importance of titles. HHLL followed its 2005 debut, Courtside Seats to the Greatest Fuck of All Time, with the Fuck It . . . EP and 2006's Steak, Football and Tits. But the band should spend more time practicing and writing songs than concocting witty titles for records full of half-assed riffs and generic grind.

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