Testing Their Metal

And the gold metal goes to: Battle of the Bands nominees

And the gold metal goes to: Battle of the Bands nominees

Hey, Ace Frehley! Are those reflective pants you're wearing? Because I can see myself in them. Ahem, so I haven't quite perfected my heavy-metal pickup lines yet. But forgive me: When I drag myself out to watch local Dokkens writhing around in their gleaming, synthetic slacks, I like to mix business with pleather. Of course, after five hours spent weathering this sonic assault, I'm sure I will also like the sound of my remaining synapses snapping in half.

Along with about a dozen other folks from the music industry, I've been invited by 93X (KXXR-FM 93.7), to judge the hard-rock forum "Quest for Mayhem," which is held here every Friday night. They have successfully lured me out here by promising some especially intoxicating performances (read: free beer). Tonight, I have to help determine the winner in a championship between Minneapolis metal bands, each of whom will play for 45 minutes and have their talent scored somewhere between 1 and 40 (whether this scale has anything to do with the number of days Jesus spent in the desert being tempted by Satan is anyone's guess). So I watch from a couch on a second-floor booth as the bands duke it out for the grand prize: the coveted 7:30 p.m. performance spot at the upcoming metalpalooza 93X-Fest. And I strive to have a wonderful time (also read: free beer).

"Are there any ladies in the house?" shouts a 93X announcer from the stage. "Because I'd like to have sex with each and every one of you!" Do scathing guitar riffs erode one's self-censoring mechanism, or did he just willfully say that out loud? No matter: With all of the love-bitten, angst-ridden white boys in the audience, the designation "XX" doesn't just describe the crowd's chromosomal pattern. It is also the approximate bra size of most metal boys' fantasy mates.

The macho rhetoric espoused by the 93X announcer is soon lost in the wall of noise generated by underdog anglophiles 2 Ton Crutch. Singer James Clark threatens his bandmates with a soft, cockney growl while they counterattack with a Suicidal Tendencies-style blast.

But even when Clark is just whispering sweet nothings in our ears, all of the listeners are going deaf. One gawky meathead approaches Elektra Records promotion assistant and fellow judge Rhiannon Butler to ask her some questions about the label. "You should probably ask her," suggests Butler, motioning toward a young sexpot who is shaking her streaky pink-and-blond mane to the music. "She's my boss."

The man, who has obviously misheard her, looks over excitedly. "That's your mom?" he salivates. One can only imagine the poor, one-eyed fur ball that must run itself rampant on this man's mental hamster wheel.

Yet who can blame him? Things are so loud in here that I'm beginning to feel like the poor sap in that Ricardo Montalban Star Trek movie where the beetle bores its way, Q-Tip-like, through his ear canal, turning his brain into so much tripe. But if everyone here is destined to damage his hearing Ozzy Osbourne-style, then Butler and I might as well bite the bat, so to speak, and headbang along with them.

Next up are hardcore fiends Grimace, who start off performing "Eye of the Tiger." Amid a crowd of cape-clad goths, Grimace are rapping in camouflage pants, which make them blend in among the ridiculously dressed. Where did Grimace go? Is that them in the sweaty rubber pants? Or over there, with the glue-stick hairstyles? No, actually, that's them, pulling off their shirts faster than you can say "Sorority Girls Gone Bad" and repeatedly rubbing their nipples raw. Ouch! When the morning comes, these riot boys will have a pair of party hats erupting from their sore chests.

Following Grimace are audience favorites Sunset Black, who harmonize over rollicking guitars, as lighters flare up in heavy-metal tribute. With their melodic rambunctiousness, Sunset Black are clearly the most courtly brigade at this headbangers ball. But this might just mean that they'd get their asses kicked by bad boyz Black Flood Diesel. This crüe rush the stage with giant crosses, smoke machines, and a bald, bat-outta-hell singer who screeches into his microphone.

"Who invited Pinhead?" one Hellraiser aficionado in the judging booth jokes while peering down at BFD's baldie. I could answer, but I can't see the singer through the smoke rising from the stage. At the end of the night, they receive the highest rating from the judges' combined scores (which are determined on the basis of gargantuan vocals, seismic guitar thumping, and/or biggest hair).

Well, turn in my ballots and call me Lita Ford! I'm done. And now that I've judged the battle, I'm tough enough to drag my knuckles on the concrete, break beer bottles with my teeth, and go to the Quest every Friday for the rest of my god-fearin' life! Well, at least until I wimp out and want to spend my weekend weeping along to a nice Audrey Hepburn flick. Sigh... Perhaps, like Grimace's nipples, I'm just too sensitive.