Heavy metal music is at a strange crossroad. On one side, we have the leather-and-makeup glamor rockers who churn out simplistic party chants. On the other, we have denim-clad nihilists who seem to endorse gloom as much as their cohorts praise hedonism.

Friday night at the Warner saw three bands that definitely fall into the latter category. Germany's Helloween opened the show with nothing more than an indecipherable cacophony of cliche'd hard-rock sludge. At no point was there a recognizable structure to their songs, and their furious tempo shifts and double-bass drum thumps sounded like a third-rate attempt to emulate Britain's Iron Maiden.

In an evening where mediocrity was measured in relative terms, Armored Saint fared slightly better by sticking to the thrash code of "faster is better." The Los Angeles band stumbled a bit at the starting gate, but caught stride with the frenzied "Raising Fear" and "Madhouse." The group also provided some humor (although maybe not intentionally) by grinding out a laughable hard rock version of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Saturday Night Special."

Britain's Grim Reaper closed with a more mainstream metal sound even though they still fit the bill appropriately with songs like "Rock You to Hell" and "Rock Me Til I Die." Although they lacked the speed-metal ferocity of Armored Saint, Grim Reaper's lack of complexity and discernible 4-4 tempos made them more accessible than their opening bands, a fact not necessarily desirable in the world of heavy metal.