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Horns of plenty 

A local metal showcase asks you to leave your irony and indie at the door

Mike Guinn probably couldn't pick a name out of the indie rock canon if the lives of his three bandmates depended on it.

"The names sound familiar," he says, as if to apologize for his lack of interest in Stephen Malkmus' body of work, "but I don't think I've heard 'em before." Asking him to tell the difference between Bob Pollard and Bob Mould seems almost cruel. The way Guinn looks at it, when you've got chops the size of Jesus and you play bass in a band called Sorrow Valley, who needs to bother with old Guided by Voices records, right? Sanguine and full of energy, the residential electrician and former Alltel Pavilion sound engineer is completely content moonlighting with metal and only metal, monogamous and plugged in.

Guinn--who, besides logging time in a Dimebag-as-religion, '80s metal riff machine, put together this year's Winter Metal Showcase at Lincoln Theatre--is quite the genial fella. He speaks modestly of the formation of Sorrow Valley, who'll be playing alongside nine other area metal outfits at this year's fest. The Valley, like many of their N.C. counterparts, champion blue collar riffs, booze and yelling things like "Let's raise some hell."

But, as tempting as it may be for some, tossing "red-state boob" jeers in Sorrow Valley or any of the other bands' direction is missing the point altogether. All these guys want to do is rock you, and if you won't let 'em, it's your loss.

Alan Rueda, lead singer for Garner's Direkt Frequency, shies away from substantive descriptions of his four-piece with an innocence and exuberance easily mistaken for naivety.

He attempts: "If you like banging your head, you'll like Direkt Frequency."

He attempts again: "It's just pure, rockin' metal."

But balls-out, declarative descriptions like Rueda commonly employs often shortchange the sound of local metal acts. What's at work is a tad more complex; he and Direkt's three other members deserve, at the very least, a mealy-mouthed comparison or two. Coughing up COC riffs that drip bongwater and feverish triumph, Rueda and company are perhaps the skuzziest of the Metalfest bunch, sounding more like they'd smoke pot with Pepper Keenan or top mountains with Priest than thrash around with Exodus.

But Rueda, a 24-year-old mortgage underwriter, knows he's no rock star. And while he's quick to proclaim that metal and music are his life, he also just appreciates a spot on stage alongside other metal bands he respects.

"North Carolina, especially Raleigh, has an awesome metal scene. And I'm just excited about being able to be a part of this. The show is a great opportunity to showcase our band ... and we're on the bill with nine other kick-ass bands."

The bill Rueda is so excited about is rounded out by the local sting-slingers in Automag, Sumosha, End of Days, Age of Despair, H.O.W., and the Godsmack tribute band Realign. Greensboro Pantera-lovers American Gothic and Greenville's Strychnine Soul represent the out-of-town talent.

Grasping for Kerry King riffs but usually landing closer to Disturbed, Strychnine takes advantage of a decade-spanning disjunct in the genre. Situating the band somewhere between the staunch capital-M metal of the late '80s and a groove-oriented newer school of bands, their songs are pummeled with mid-90s alterna-angst and the flailing energy of hardcore halftimes with equal candor.

Meanwhile, Age of Despair ape jock-metal goons Trapt and the gothy, detuned pony-tailers in Coal Chamber to interesting effect. Without the arrogance attached to fame, members of these sorts of bands sound far more earnest and far less offensive. And, in the world of metal, it ain't about being obscure or underground, it's about drinking beer and playing songs and drinking beer.

It's blatantly obvious: This ain't indie rock. No skinny boys or threadbare tees allowed. This is pure, innocent--and yes, maybe a little naive--small-town metal. These are bands that draw crowds populated by drunk mothers with black stockings and drunker fathers with black manes. These are bands that down Budweisers and aren't sure-slash-don't-care what Myspace even is yet. But, there's really nothing more metal than a few puking parents and some crazed half-stacks in a local bar.

"We'd love to go beyond, but we're just as content to be playing locally and regionally, doing something we really care about," says Guinn.

Rueda echoes his sentiment: "I look up to any band that has the balls to get up onstage and perform in front of a crowd, no matter how good or bad anyone may think their music is. As long as you enjoy what you're doing and put on a good show, that's all that matters."

The Winter Metal Showcase happens at 4 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre in Raleigh on Saturday, Jan. 7. Tickets are $10.

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