Soul Grind's leader, the bald and barefoot Michael Brandt, commands a stage with the unruly bellows and whispers of a man gone mad. Backed up with finely shredded guitar chords, thunder-gun bass and a percussionist who flays his skins, Brandt whips up a frenzy of sweat, heat and aggression. If this band doesn't wake you up, you're dead.--Leigh Silverman

Zig Zag Black
When original Zig Zag Black guitarist Mike Venell died two years ago, the band's remaining members were on the verge of tossing in the towel. But they persevered, recently issuing a comeback album of extraordinary power--Dose, which premiered in February to a packed house at Hollywood Alley.

A follow-up to the band's 1993 self-titled debut album, Dose is an easy swallow. On it, the band abandons the sledgehammer sound for a more careful, melodic approach. "We decided to put everything that had happened behind us," says Zag's newly appointed ax man Mark Morrell. "Our ambition became to quit selling beers and start selling records."

--Leigh Silverman

Best Punk
Glass Heroes
A first-generation punk, Glass Heroes front man Keith Jackson carries on the tradition of 16th-note knuckle merchants like Chelsea, the Dead Boys, the Clash, Sham 69 and Johnny Thunders' Heartbreakers with his don't-call-it-postpunk group Glass Heroes. If there's a Punk Preservation Society charter, meet the Chairman of the Bored.

"The power and glory of these bands, and so many others, is the reason we play our music," writes the imposing Les Paul lugger on the J-card of an early demo tape. "It's what we are, and what we will always be."

For solid evidence that old-school punk is alive and well in the '90s, look no further than one of the Heroes' juggernaut live shows. Or merely browse the band's Web page (http://www.primenet.com/robroy.htm). The site gets hundreds of hits a day from little skate punks surfing the oi oi oi infobahn, and is linked to international punker home pages for bands from the Buzzcocks to U.K. Subs.

Glass Heroes has songs on two import-only compilation albums that are harder to get than Nancy Spungen on the phone (ordering through the Web is your best bet), but the band is poised to make a proper CD debut later this year. Until then, why not heed Jackson's friendly advice, "get outta your clique," and go witness some Heroic action.--Serene Dominic

Mandingo
Let's play multiple choice: Mandingo is a) a tribe in the upper Niger River region of Africa; b) a Phoenix punk band; c) a narcotic Mediterranean root that shrieks when you pull it. The correct answers are "a" and "b." The root that shrieks is mandrake, not Mandingo. And this is one band that's happy to uproot. "We like to play as many different places as humanly possible," says Shane Addington. "This summer we're starting our tour in Amsterdam."

Mandingo's drummer pauses to consider the possibilities. "Yeah, we're definitely looking forward to that."

The band's upcoming European tour is a perk from Dr. Strange Records, which customarily sends bands overseas in support of sophomore albums. Macho Grande, Mandingo's second Dr. Strange full-length, is scheduled to come out in June. Recorded late last year at indie-rock luminary Steve Albini's home studio in Chicago, Grande contains Mandingo's longest song ever--a cover of the 1972 U.K. Subs single "Limo Life" that clocks in at just over three minutes. Former Subs and Revolting Cocks front man Terry Bones puts in a cameo on the track--lending no small chunk of old-school punk cred to a band that prefers the label "melodic, hard-core garage pop."

Now what was that line about a rose by any other name?
--David Holthouse

Since I Was 6
It hasn't been that long since two of the guys in this band were 6. Lead vocalist kp! (really, we checked) and the band's drummer, Clint, are 18 and 19, respectively. Bassist Mykey Six and Jimmy the guitar player are both on the downside of 20, but they won't say how far.

Mykey will say that, contrary to popular belief, punk rock isn't all about rage. "It's not all angry. It's just real. It's the rawest form of rock 'n' roll there is. The kids aren't dumb--they know when something is real. We play all-age shows at the Nile, and we don't get spit on because we mean what we do."

Live, SIW6 sets range from covers of the Clash, the Sex Pistols and Fear to originals like "Deserama," a pop-ish ode to the notorious motel on Van Buren.

"We all trade off writing, and I think that's why the younger kids like us," says Six. "Usually, they only hear bands that play crazy, destructive stuff."

kp! says he writes about everything from political scandals to just drinking beer. "I've experienced a lot of different surroundings and environments," he says. "I'm the kind of person that absorbs information."--Marsha Mardock

Best Rap/Hip-Hop
Brothers Grimm
In a genre where he who stands still becomes labeled "old school" overnight, the Brothers Grimm are making heads spin continually. Three years of being acclaimed as the apogee of Phoenix rap have certainly paid off for Dave and Jamal, known as DLB and No Doz, respectively. They've opened for the cream of the current hip-hop crop, everyone from Onyx to Cypress Hill to De La Soul to Souls of Mischief, as well as playing at Lollapalooza in 1993. Currently, the Brothers G are negotiating a deal with Le Face Records, Babyface and L. Reed's custom label, also home to Toni Braxton and the Goodie Mob.

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