POP MUSIC REVIEWS : Fear Factory Shines Brightest

There are occasionally gigs where the opening bands outshine the headliner, and at Friday's speed-metal revue at the Palace, tired, top-billed Sick of It All never had a chance.

As Ministry approaches thrash metal from the vantage of industrial music, the young Los Angeles band Fear Factory is a metal band that slouches toward the industrial groove. Pumped-up sampled drums supplemented the live beats in its opening set; blocks of synthesizer racket recalled Roxy Music-era Eno. Fear Factory faltered at times, but its sound was undeniable--one suspects the band itself is unaware of its power.

Smart money on Biohazard, which is more or less the hot underground metal band of the moment, has the Brooklynites as sort of a speed-metal equivalent to the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

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On Friday, Biohazard bounced and thrashed, but it was as if the band had internalized the lessons of those great early Def Jam hip-hop records and reapplied them to metal, all the rhythmic clarity of, saL Cool J combined with the bratty intensity and chanted rhymes of early Beastie Boys and the crunchy drone guitar of Slayer.

Headliner Sick of It All ended the evening with a set of generic N.Y. hard-core: an incessant punk-polka beat, overlaid with warp-speed metal riffing and one-dimensional strangled-shout vocals. This is what people who don't particularly care for the genre think all speed-metal sounds like.

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