Pop Review: Camp comes to heavy metal

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The Independent Culture
HEAVY METAL has long been regarded as one of the less subtle musical genres - an essentially conservative style that is regularly revived to meet the needs of mutinous adolescents. But if Wednesday night's metal extravaganza is anything to go by, post-modernism has finally wound its way into head-banging circles, and not before time.

What saved both Monster Magnet and Rob Zombie from reaching the depths of poor taste was their ability to send themselves up. While most of Monster Magnet's songs stuck to a similar formula - a slow prelude consisting of simple guitar figures and doom-laden drums erupting into thrusting power riffs - it was the singer Dave Wyndorf's knowingness that prevented it from becoming a tedious trawl through the heavy-metal handbook.

Wyndorf is a carefully crafted rock god complete with tight strides, a glossy mane and Gladiator-style pecs glistening beneath a naff leather waistcoat. He rolled around on the floor, surfed the edge of the stage and strode up and down hugging himself, as if to anticipate after-show congratulations. He even pulled the old simulated orgasm trick with a bottle of beer, and cackled triumphantly as if revelling in his own absurdity.

The guitars are pared down and the pace is slowed for a more serious track, "Space Lord", to reveal the group's sensitive side, but Wyndorf cannot resist thrusting his hips about like a Scandinavian porn star. As cock-rockers Monster Magnet cannot be faulted. However, all their attempts at sobriety are ridiculous.

Rob Zombie was in possession of a similar knowingness but had mercifully few illusions about his sex appeal. With his Mad-Max-meets-Fagin appearance, the former frontman of industrial metal act White Zombie cuts a simultaneously impressive and repulsive figure. Under his green-tinged dreadlocks and ZZ Top beard you can just make out eyes that radiate mischief. Their sound is fashioned by speed-metal guitars, growling death-metal vocals, with a scattering of fractured horror flick samples, that hold an energising appeal but soon start to grate. You can also gauge the band's satire through their B-movie surroundings. A giant robot's head glowers from the back of the stage through green eyes, while the drum kit seems precariously balanced upon a faux-medieval treasure chest.

Zombie's chums on guitar and bass prowl around the stage and sneer at the audience like the chorus line from Cats, while Zombie himself runs up and down like a man possessed. Despite the testosterone bouncing from the Astoria's walls, it all seems gloriously camp. If their metal careers don't stay the course, there's always panto.