Sounds of the Underground 

Saturday, July 9; Pop's (1403 Mississippi Avenue, Sauget, Illinois)

The Warped Tour sucked this year, and Ozzfest is skipping the Midwest, even though the people here bleed metal like melting androids. Valiantly, the Sounds of the Underground tour cherry-picks the best of these negligent annual bonanzas, merging groups from the heavier side of the punk spectrum with speed-soloing hellspawn. Opeth -- which leads the bill in total hair length -- tempers its savage shredding with eerily eye-of-the-storm instrumental passages and occasional forays into artfully shattered acoustic laments. Strapping Young Lad, fronted by manic Dio doppelganger Devin Townsend, delivers darkness-imprisoned riffs and shooting-gallery percussion. Norma Jean twists its inscrutable hardcore compositions until they become revelatory -- and loves the Lord for good measure.

Less devout is GWAR, whose stage blood should feel as welcome as lawn-sprinkler drops on a Hades-hot summer day. Poison the Well's breakdowns could crack cement, and Cleveland's Chimaira recently lost almost an entire album's worth of material when a studio hard drive failed, leading to sets that should have extra cathartic kick. That makes six standout acts -- more than Ozzy and Vans Inc. combined could muster this year -- with twelve other high-volume groups still left to peruse.

Doors open at 11 a.m. Tickets are $29 to $34; call 618-274-6720 for more information.

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