California's AFI was touted as the next Nirvana with 2003's Sing the Sorrow, and not just because the disc was overseen by Nevermind producer Butch Vig. The mall-punk kings garnered moderate airplay with the elegant video for "The Leaving Song Pt. 2" and the melodic rocket of a single "Girl's Not Grey." The disc stopped short of major crossover success, but its real payoff came late, with interest, when the new Decemberunderground LP debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts. It's receiving mixed reviews, but the band is still good for a couple of truly great songs an album, and the single "Miss Murder" is a true rarity: a post-hardcore track that still has traces of hardcore.
Dillinger Escape Plan has yet to achieve crossover success, though it did share the stage with heavy hitters Megadeth and Dream Theater on last year's Gigantour. DEP stormed stages with its technical-brutal-spastic trifecta, alternately shocking and underwhelming old-school longhairs with an in-your-face, up-your-arse attack. The group's fractured, fractal song structures stubbornly refuse to sustain a groove for more than a bar or two, though the cover songs from the new Plagiarism EP prove the bandmates can bring the rock when they want to. As "Setting Fire to Sleeping Giants" suggested on their last album, beefy frontman Greg Puciato can carry a tune and throw it 100 yards. Meanwhile, their faithful take on Justin Timberlake's "Like I Love You," makes their precision takes of live-set staples such as Nine Inch Nails' "Wish" and Soundgarden's "Jesus Christ Pose" even more menacing.