Sunday's sold-out heavy-metal extravaganza at the Hollywood Palladium often evoked a sense of what George Carlin calls vuja de --the feeling that nothing like this has ever happened before. The performance by Los Angeles' Armored Saint was a knight to remember, from the head-to-toe armor the band wore at the start of the show to singer John Bush's challenge to the audience: "I want to see you break down the barricade--can you do it?"

OK, so Bush will never be a Ph.D. in the study of crowd behavior. But when it comes to heavy metal, he and his shaggy-haired colleagues are trailblazers. Armed with more sophisticated and tuneful artillery than most hard-rock troops, the quintet launched a lean, mean and clean attack. For what it's worth, these guys seem likely to follow in the bootsteps of Ratt and metal's other local boys who've made good.

The only thing that prevented Armored Saint from scoring an even more clear-cut triumph was the set by second-billed Metallica. The San Francisco quartet is a highly unorthodox practitioner of metallism, apparently influenced by more extreme bands like Motorhead and Discharge. Metallica aimed for that wild danger zone between hard-core and hard metal, producing sheets of bone-crushing thunder.

These earsplitting sonic booms elicited a response far beyond the standard fist-pumping. The middle of the Palladium floor became a huge slam-dance pit, with people careening off each other recklessly enough to turn the term "head banger" into a literal expression. Singer James Hetfield showed his concern about the activity by shouting such commentary as, "We're causing some damage--right on!"

On a different night--or a different bill--perhaps Adam Bomb's opening set of hard rock would have carried some distinction. But Sunday the local band was simply outclassed by Armored Saint, and outcrassed by Metallica.

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