DARKEST HOUR

"Undoing Ruin"

Victory

THE HIDDEN HAND

"Mother * Teacher * Destroyer"

Southern Lord

There's a storm massing over Washington. Most of the warnings on Darkest Hour's "Undoing Ruin" are the vague intimations of apocalypse common in doom-metal, but the D.C. quintet also includes a song that seems to address gentrification in its hometown: "I've seen the needs of a city / Completely ignored / Surrounded by vultures," growls frontman John Henry in "District Divided."

Social comment this specific is unusual in Darkest Hour, and so are the album's spacious sound and melodic guitar interludes. Produced by Strapping Young Lad's Devin Townsend, "Undoing Ruin" is crisp and airy, with more counterpoint to the severity of the band's fundamental style. Henry's singing remains painfully raw, and Ryan Parrish's drumming is still explosive, but guitarists Kris Norris and Mike Schleibaum now alternate between hectoring speed-metal and stately Bach-rock. On such songs as "With a Thousand Words to Say but One," the more diverse arrangements provide some welcome respite before Henry's voice returns to usher in Armageddon.

The latest project of local underground-metal lifer Scott "Wino" Weinrich, the Hidden Hand takes things more slowly -- and often more tunefully -- than today's speed-metal crew. The trio's second album, "Mother * Teacher * Destroyer," tends to lumber, although it speeds up occasionally, notably for the "we will overcome" coda of "Half Mast." Produced by D.C. post-hardcore veteran J. Robbins, the album neatly balances the pounding and the poetic. But the poesy of the band's lyrics -- which include tales of blood rituals, the Trojan war and a part-Martian moon princess -- are designed strictly for the genre's true believers.

-- Mark Jenkins

Both appearing Saturday at the Black Cat with Haram.