• P.O.D., 'Payable On Death' (Atlantic)

    On their triple-platinum 2001 breakthrough, Satellite, P.O.D. cushioned hard rock's post-9/11 bummer with a healthy dose of what their heroes Bad Brains called Positive Mental Attitude. The God-kicks-ass anthem "Alive" sounded like U2 on a Back in Black binge; "Youth of the Nation" lamented gun violence like a gangsta Pink Floyd. Even when founding guitarist Marcos Curiel departed last year, the band rallied, recruiting new axman Jason Truby and immediately scoring a hit with the spectral "Sleeping Awake," from the Matrix Reloaded soundtrack. Still, P.O.D. have a lot to prove with Payable on Death, the band's third Howard Benson-produced major-label album. Curiel was their musical backbone, and these days, Evanescence are rock's reigning Christian crossover champs.

  • The Bronx, 'The Bronx' (White Drugs/Ferret)

    The Bronx aren't from New York, and even though their debut full-length is distributed by metal-core label Ferret, they're not the next Ozzfest buzz band, either. They are, however, a fine young maximum-punk outfit who, like Hot Snakes, get their ecstatic tempos from garage rock and their noisy edge from hardcore. Seven of these raucous tracks were produced by former Guns N' Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke, who checks his commercial instincts and ratchets up the sleaze. Frontman Matt Caughthran starts the album with a bloodcurdling scream on "Heart Attack American," and before long he's leading a defiant sing-along about quitting both his girl and his job. With the chorus to the dissonant doper anthem "Strobe Life," he neatly sums up the new punk depravity: "I never want to run out." BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Alien Ant Farm, 'TruANT' (El Tondi/Dreamworks)

    Two years ago, Papa Roach protegés Alien Ant Farm proved nü metal could be funny on purpose with their frisky cover of Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal." But even as the song began climbing the charts, the band hit a run of bad luck that nearly derailed their career. First, they irritated a nation of punks by reportedly clamoring for a better slot on the famously egalitarian Warped Tour. And a year later, a serious tour-bus accident in Europe left singer Dryden Mitchell with a broken neck. "Criminal" aside, the band's debut album,ANThology, got as lost in the shuffle as a platinum album can, but it established Mitchell as a smart, sensitive frontman with a knack for hard-rock hooks. On their new disc, which was produced by Stone Temple Pilots' Dean and Robert DeLeo, AAF use pop metal as a springboard for some eclectic experimentation.

  • Metallica, 'St. Anger' (Elektra)

    Metallica, 'St. Anger' (Elektra)

    It's been a tumultuous three years since the last new Metallica song--the Mission: Impossible 2 hit "I Disappear." The metal pioneers have (1) pissed off their fans by suing Napster, (2)parted ways with bassist Jason Newsted, and (3) rendered thousands of vintage "Alcoholica" T-shirts obsolete by packing frontman James Hetfield off to rehab. For the first time in ages, Metallica look like underdogs. Advance word on St. Anger, their eighth studio album, promised a re-dedication to the blitzkrieg tempos and unfettered rage of their youth. And that's exactly what they deliver on the overpowering title track, which borrows lyrics from the Master of Puppetsclassic "Damage, Inc." "Fuck it all and fucking no regrets" was a menacing enough line in 1986; that Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich are resurrecting it as they stare down 40 is proof that they mean business.

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