PREVIEW Summer metal tours, notably Ozzfest, operate like feudal hierarchies. As night descends and the stages get bigger, lesser known vassals doing fealty in the parking lot give way to the landed headbanger aristocracy, who in turn cede the stage to some anointed monarch of metal.
In recent years, package deals like Summer Slaughter have taken a more republican approach, recruiting bands of middling stature to represent a vast array of black-hoodied constituents. Though the ticket buyer is not snared by the ermine-furred eminence of a Maiden or a Priest, a large number of quality upstarts can cast a wide net. Throw in three or four majority whips with reliable fanbases and good reputations, and you've got yourself a Congress of carnage.
Suffocation is the biggest name on the bill, and the veteran New York City death metal band will cater to the "never-too-brutal" crowd with its bludgeoning low-end assaults, including cuts off a new full-length, Blood Oath (Nuclear Blast). Death-heads will also be there for cult German tech outfit Necrophagist, whose impossible chops and mind-bending arrangements justifies its headlining spot.
D.C. thrashers Darkest Hour is embarking on its first U.S. run without departed lead guitarist Kris Norris, and will be eager to show its many detractors the fighting fitness of a new lineup and a new, Norris-less album, The Eternal Return (Victory Records). Folk-inflected Finnish battlers Ensiferum round out the tour's Big Four, promising the best in war-kilts and anthemic, epic barrages. Whatever your particular poison, slaughter is imminent.
SUMMER SLAUGHTER TOUR With Winds of Plague, Dying Fetus, Born of Osiris, Origin, Beneath the Massacre, After the Burial, Decrepit Birth, Blackguard. Wed/1, 2:30 p.m. $30. Regency Grand Ballroom, 1290 Sutter, SF. (415) 673-5716. www.regencycentersf.com/grand