The stage lights dimmed slowly as the notes of the first song thudded ominously acorss the hall. Mysterious characters scuttled in front of the state - a pope dressed in a flowing robe, a nun, the devel, a Roman emperor. The translucent beams of six lasers crisscrossed the room.

A wall of sound exploded. The lights were thrown on. And the capacits crowd was on its feet gyrating in the aisles.

Saturday night, the Urban Verbs, a Washington-based group, appeared at the auditorium of the Corcoran Gallery as part of a benefit for the scholarship fund for the Corcoran School of Art. They presented music that was, at once, old and new - the crashing chords and rhythms of old rock 'n' roll were given a new, maniacal twist that was both frightening and envigorating.

The group's name describes perfectly its music. Stark, malevolent images of modern life are sparked to action by nervos, frenzied sound whose tension is inescapable. Robert Goldstein's guitar is like a multi-faceted harmonic diamond that provides the cutting edge around which Robin Rose's synthesizer, Linda France's bass, and Danny Frankel's drums revolve in spirals of controlled cacaphony. The effect is nothing short of audio shock therapy.

Added to this is the menacing presence of lead singer Roddy Frantz, whose cherubic appearance is galvanized into expressions of rage and anger. As he stands brooding before the microphone, he is transformed suddenly by the music into a stormy eyed Hitler Youth. His clenched fists accent his vocal exhortations.

The music of the group confronts and demands. It asks no quarter and takes no prisoners. The Urban Verbs are the most powerful rock group in Washington.