The two biggest up-and-comers in American metal are tracking each other across the country right now. The difference is, Mastodon's playing its brilliant new album in its entirety to small club crowds, while Lamb of God is topping a head-spinningly awesome package tour. The band's 2009 disc, Wrath, is a striking return to form after the disappointment of 2006's Sacrament. Tourmates God Forbid and Children of Bodom are supporting equally strong efforts. GF's Earthsblood, in particular, is likely to wind up being one of the year's best metal releases, progressive and brutal in equal measure. As I Lay Dying and Municipal Waste are pure crowd-rockers: The former offers a blend of metal and hardcore, heavy on drill-instructor barking, while the latter is a grinning retro-thrash cartoon with infectious riffs and solos for days. If you're planning on staying in the pit all night, pack a case of Red Bull.
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