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‘New Titans’ Work Hollywood Palladium Into a Lather

Like cigarettes and mad dogs, thrash-metal bands tend to travel in packs, dozens of long-haired guys wearing Hirax T-shirts and goofy grins. At the Hollywood Palladium on Thursday, the four-thrash-band bill--informally dubbed “New Titans on the Block"--was the loudest pack of the summer. This was a typical lyric: “ Aargh-eee-aargh aargh-eee-aargh aargh-eee-aargh . . . aaahhhhh !” It was one of those nights the Palladium’s high ceilings dripped sweat, and the heaving masses in front of the stage looked like something out of one of Gustave Dore’s Dante tableaux.

Sepultura, the headliner, is subtle and varied in its recordings (well, for speed-core), but on stage sounded like yet another generic death-metal clone: churning minor-key riffs; standard-issue voice-of-death vocals; chunky, fast songs. A scenester in the balcony mimed a yawn and called them “Slayer Lite.” But somehow the Brazilian band had more power than you might have expected from a group so basic. The secret could have been a smidge of Milton Nascimento swing in the drums, something Brazilian that managed to worm its way into Sepultura the way the blues does into even the squarest American bands.

Sacred Reich, from Arizona, had a little of the tight, segmented feel of early Metallica, all starts and stops and tempo changes, real monster riffs and laconic stadium moves. Ultimately, its thrash-by-numbers speed-metal was a bit dull. A colossally ill-conceived version of Fear’s hard-core classic “Let’s Have a War” didn’t help.

What also didn’t help was having to follow English grindcore pioneers Napalm Death, one of the most exciting bands in the world right now, whose set seemed more like a natural phenomenon than rock ‘n’ roll, a wash of white noise and power and light that pretty much overwhelmed everything that followed it. (New York’s Sick of It All opened.) Napalm Death shirts outnumbered Sepultura shirts in the audience at least two to one.

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