PREVIEW Hightower is quite possibly the only prog rock group that could be accurately described as "gnarly" (sorry, Van Der Graaf Generator). Proving that complex compositions and unpretentious rock 'n' roll aren't mutually exclusive, the San Francisco power trio mixes unpredictable tempos and spacey guitar shredding with beer- and weed-fueled skate thrash to create a style tailor-made for raging circle pits and blacklight poster stare-downs. With song titles like "Wizardhawk" and "I Am the Wallride," the band celebrates and pokes fun at some of the, er, imaginative concepts of their bell-bottomed forefathers. But even if you think the term "progressive rock" is shorthand for overly complex wanking, Hightower proves the genre can be surprisingly crucial.
I inadvertently stumbled into a show featuring local metal band Futur Skullz about a month ago and was blown away by how LOUD these guys play. There's nothing about them that isn't deafening the thrash-meets-sludge guitar, buzzing bass, crusty-ass vocals, and thundering drums are ready to pummel, but with enough variation to keep their sets interesting. Like Hightower, Futur Skullz combine massive, arena-ready riffs with relatable garage band energy; it's a case of powerhouse heavy metal filtered through punk rock sensibilities. Oakland-based One in the Chamber's collage of punk, stoner metal, aggressively jazzy weirdness, and everything in between completes this bill, which should be a revelation to anyone whose nights out have been lacking raw power.
HIGHTOWER, ONE IN THE CHAMBER, FUTUR SKULLZ Sat/20, 9 p.m., $7 (21 and over) El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF. (415) 282-3325, www.elriosf.com