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POP MUSIC REVIEWS : A Paler Version of Rip's Party

March 15, 1994|JONATHAN GOLD

Rip magazine is more or less the Rolling Stone of heavy metal, and the L.A.-based magazine's anniversary party is an important annual ritual in the life of rock 'n' roll--a multiband spectacular where Guns N' Roses played its last-ever club show in Los Angeles a few years ago, and where Temple of the Dog made its only local appearance. The Rip party is also predictable for a certain display of decadence--reasonably connected nonpartisans can gather enough ammunition to sling at hard rock for the rest of the year.

But the ritual has come to mean slightly less since Helmet and Soundgarden have replaced GNR and Metallica as the thinking metalheads' bands of choice, and on Sunday at the Hollywood Palladium, this year's Rip party seemed almost a little sad. When Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee paraded through the balcony with a pneumatic blonde tethered to his extremely tattooed arm, barely anyone bothered to notice.

Stuttering John, the tedious Howard Stern sidekick, played an equally tedious set of mainstream, Cinderella-style rock; Prong, former defenders of Maoist purity in metal, played half an hour of almost blues-flavored, start-and-stop hard rock. Pantera, probably the next big speed-metal stars, were sloppy and appealing, combining something very much like Robert Morse patter songs from Broadway musicals with riffage that tottered on the thin line between speed-metal and boogie.

But, mostly, there was an extremely rare performance by S.O.D.--Stormtroopers of Death--a broadly satirical all-star speed-metal unit beloved both by anti-fascists and by a certain cadre of intolerant metal lunkheads who just don't get the joke. And although the band (which includes Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian) was often loose and funny in the best tradition of joke-band punk, it was hard to crack a smile when singer Billy Milano, the size of a WWF wrestler, led the audience in a stiff-arm salute and the chant "Speak English or die."

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