Oh, Guardian and others at The Rock, Sunday, June 30

Current heavy metal arguably started with Pantera in the '90s, and now has incorporated such subgenres as screamo, hardcore, and industrial/electronic music into the mix. Although lead guitar shredding (eschewed in the anti-technique era of the last two decades) has made a comeback, the focus remains on aggressive rhythms played in unison by the instrumentalists; in other words, the whole band is a rhythm section.

Forever We're Forgotten support the credo that groove is king. The local foursome was good, offering up bottom-heavy riffs that never coalesced into songs that were distinguishable from one another. Also, the singer's ceaseless Exorcist-esque guttural screaming and lack of dynamics contributed to Forever We're Forgotten's faceless update of '70s workingman's rock, like Nazareth or Foghat.

Silence Is Golden, upped the ante a bit by having two singers who complemented each other's yelling by not constantly adhering to the needles-in-the-red aesthetic of most metal outfits. But like Forever We're Forgotten, the absence of stylistic diversity and personality plagued their otherwise well-executed set.

After these two acts, the intensity of locals Invoke the Ghost came as a shock. If there is one attribute this band has in spades, it's personality. Artists who are overly earnest usually appear comical, but Invoke the Ghost, and in particular their vocalist, made believers out of their audience.

The unfortunately named One After the Other unfortunately lived up to their moniker, perhaps because they had to follow Invoke the Ghost. Another local group who possess talent and technique, but not a strong identity, One After the Other played pedestrian songs with no persona to hang on to.

As for San Diego's Oh, Guardian, there's little to praise. They brought twin outdoor patio tables to stand on, presumably because the foot-on-the-monitor signature heavy metal move just wouldn't do. One table was for the screaming guy, the other was for the emo. Without any songs to back the jive up, the attention shifted towards their shortcomings. Worst of all, when the poor kid in the crowd slipped and broke his leg at the end of the show, the "screamer" soothed him by dropping an Oh, Guardian T-shirt on his chest as the fan writhed on the floor, which spoke volumes about Oh, Guardian.

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