There are so many subgenres in metal that a pop fanatic like me can have trouble keeping track of it all. Thus my level of sophistication when classifying heavy bands rarely extends beyond two classes: bands that make me say "meh" and bands that make me say "whoa."

There are so many subgenres in metal that a pop fanatic like me can have trouble keeping track of it all. Thus my level of sophistication when classifying heavy bands rarely extends beyond two classes: bands that make me say "meh" and bands that make me say "whoa."

Bastards made me say "whoa."

Those of you better versed in metal's interlocking gears will understand that Bastards' preferred mode of mayhem is grindcore, and while they aren't doing anything revolutionary with their genre as far as I can tell, they're absolutely nailing it.

The band was already playing when I walked into Carabar last Thursday night. The three instrumentalists were assembled across the front of the stage, while burly, mustachioed James Bowling was marauding across the checkered floor, encircled by a highly enthused pack of youths.

Like many a compelling hardcore frontman, this dude stalked the stage shirtless, revealing a tiny Ohio-shaped tramp stamp above his waistline. He had his Henry Rollins moves down: the lean-back-and-howl, the lean-forward-and-howl, the stomp-around-and-look-angry.

A quick chat with bassist Joel Archibald informed me that Bastards featured vocals by committee for a while - and in fact several friends took a turn on the mic throughout Thursday's set - but Bowling has settled in as the go-to guy. Good choice. His grotesque grunts and sheer physical presence injected plenty of life into the room.

Not that Bastards really needed any help with that. They barreled through each song like a bulbous beast with nimble footing. Some songs lasted less than a minute, some far longer, but they all were startlingly in sync, even as riffs shifted on a dime.

Archibald sometimes plunged onto the floor alongside Bowling to mix it up in the circle pit. Other times he stood back, face blank with bliss, fully entranced in his riffage. Guitarist John Thompson and drummer Jared Langston played with comparable brutality.

Hopefully that electricity will translate into the new recordings they're preparing for summer release. If not, the live show will surface many times before then, and it's more than enough slaughter to suffice.