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Darkest Hour 

Saturday, July 16; Mississippi Nights (914 North First Street)

Darkest Hour, which blends thrash riffs with crusty political punk, made good on its signature Bush-basher threat by relocating to a foreign country (Sweden) to record 2003's Hidden Hands of a Sadist Nation. Working with producer Fredrik Nordström -- a defining force behind that nation's unfathomably evil black-metal melodies -- the quintet brought back a disc that funneled anti-administration venom through ornate sonic cylinders. But even when wordless, Darkest Hour converts concertgoers to its cause: The Hands instrumental "Aquetis, Vertunis" has more hypnotic power than spinning concentric circles. That track hinted at the ambitious reach of this year's Undoing Ruin, which unveils Maiden-style dual-guitar harmonies, intricate solos and atmospheric interludes. Too much malevolence can be monotonous, however, so shredders can either slice their records short -- Reign in Blood's 29-minute runtime preserves its undiluted fury -- or ration their savagery. Darkest Hour now enhances the impact of its heaviest moments by offering compositional contrast. Undoing Ruin makes Darkest Hour the class of the Strhess Tour, whose founder -- hardcore-aesthetic-influenced artist Derek Hess -- taps other acts for screamo melodrama and brutal breakdowns.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $13 in advance, $15 at the door; call 314-421-3853 for more information.

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