They're going to have to invent a whole new subdivision of rock 'n' roll in order to come up with a term that accurately describes Mother's Finest, the sextet that appeared in three shows Saturday night at the Howard Theater. "Heavy metal funk" might do the trick, for Mother's Finest is the first group ever to blend pop music's two most popular genres.

Up 'til now, heavy metal has been almost exclusively the province of whites and funk the property of blacks. Mother's Finest, though, makes any kind of easy categorizing impossible: With singer Joyce Kennedy at the helm, this interracial group sounds like nothing so much as Chaka Khan backed by Led Zeppelin.

That leads to such startling musical departures as a version of Smokey Robinson's "Mickey's Monkey" dominated by guitar power chords and a rendition of the Elvis Presley hit "Burning Love" that's heavy on Earth, Wind & Fire-style visual efforts. For its money, the audience gets both the obligatory heavy-metal drum solo and flashy soul choreography.

Kennedy, dressed in a star-spangled leather outfit, with the visual focus of the show even when she turned the vocals over to singer Glenn Murdock. Musically, though, the center of attention was lead guitarist Moses Mo, who quoted liberally from the Yardbirds' heavy-metal classic "Train Kept A 'Rollin'" when he took a scorching solo on "Rain."

And as if they weren't enough, Mother's Finest also displayed a wonderful sense of showmanship and humor. Bassist "Mr. Wizard" is nearly as outragious as Bootsy Collins, and it's worth noting that the group opened their show with a hilarious disco satire called "Dis Go Dis Way, Dis Go Dat Way."