With Lamb of God, Shadows Fall, Gizmachi, and Trivium. Wednesday, March 9, at the Wolstein Convocation Center at CSU.

The Exonerated Dobama Theatre, 1846 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights Through March 20, 216-932-3396
The Slipknot/Lamb of God/Shadows Fall outing is one of two tours currently capitalizing on the success of MTV's new Headbanger's Ball, taking modern metal from big theaters to arenas. Unlike the emo-damaged Used/Killswitch Engage/Taste of Chaos bill, this lineup is capital-M Metal, but it has one disturbing similarity. Blinded by success, headbangers of all stripes don't realize they've been infiltrated by a corrupting influence as insidious as any threat metal has ever faced: The big, swelling modern-rock chorus is to post-millennial thrash what the keyboard was to '80s metal -- an unnecessary melodic flourish that's like a big pink bow lovingly tied around a sledgehammer. And there is no pink in metal.

The singsong thing traces to the mid-'90s, when Fear Factory started looking for a way to sound a little less industrial. As nü metal started to fade, Slipknot demonstrated that a singer could sing while still wielding balls of steel.

But now the loud-soft dynamic is everywhere, even in "What Drives the Weak," the current single from Shadows Fall, a band hyped as bearing the standard of old-school thrash. Duality is nice, and we get the whole yin-yang thing, but it seems self-defeating to interrupt a mosh suite with a 15-second sample from the Nickelback songbook, especially if it's a bid for radio play. They should take a cue from tourmates Lamb of God, whose latest, Ashes of the Wake, proves that mass-market metal doesn't need to compromise.

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