Among the static and burble that opens Godsmack's self-titled album is a transmission from the Moon: "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." The music that follows, of course, is nothing so high-minded. It's 12 walloping alt-metal thumpers that explore such despairing adolescent motifs as feeling "your pins through my eyes piercing me/ Lie down in all this . . ." well, you get the idea. Singer-songwriter-producer Sully Erna is clearly not cultivating the N' Sync fan base.
Bad moods and heavy chords aside, though, "Godsmack" is a relatively sprightly proposition. This Boston quartet writes songs that spew their bile with agreeable cacophony and then spit with admirable efficiency. Indeed, such ham-handed rockers as "Keep Away" are more akin to such proto-metal curiosities as the Troggs's "Wild Thing" than anything from the Black Sabbath catalogue. The members of Godsmack are totally bummed out, but they don't make too big a deal about it.
Hardly the "Freaks of Nature" their album title promises, the members of Drain STH look and sound like the perfect musicians to launch Victoria's Secret's new goth-metal label. Despite the disc's hellfire imagery, this all-female Swedish quartet is actually less irretrievably damned than impeccably coiffed. One of its songs was even produced by Max Martin, who's part of the Scandinavian brain trust that cloned neo-bubblegummers Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys. That's the track that features a rapper chanting "throw your hands in the air."
Drain STH's idea of a hands-in-the-air party is darker and bloodier than Spears's, but only slightly. "My crucifixion is complete/ Now I need a substitute for/ The love that you gave," laments vocalist Maria Sjoholm in "Crave," which is typical of the band's mix of pit-and-the-pendulum imagery and malt-shop themes. If Wilson Phillips had only studied the work of Siouxsie and the Banshees, replaced the plump one with two ethereal babes and then moved to Stockholm, they could have sounded like this.
Both appearing Saturday at Merriweather Post Pavilion with Black Sabbath. To hear a free Sound Bite from Godsmack, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8124. For a free Sound Bite from Drain STH, press 8125. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)