A decade ago, dates holding hands at a hardcore show prompted a particularly indelicate game of Red Rover, with tattooed toughs rampaging through intertwined fingers like agitated bulls. The only acceptable expressions of affection in this scene were manly I'm-hugging-you-but-I'm-hurting-you exchanges, during which two rib-cracking thumps on the back followed every embrace. Hardcore singers resembled those gruff commercial narrators who tell viewers what real men eat, wear, and drive, and the mosh pits extended all the way to the entrance door.
But Denver's Fear Before the March of Flames represents a leaner brand of heavy bands -- the type that comes with song titles like "Fashion Tips Baby," takes "sassy" as a compliment, and boasts a bulging MySpace account with 22,000-plus stylish fans. The scratchy guitars and screamed vocals make for a loud yet lightweight listen, without any ponderous breakdowns or group-shout choruses. March of Flames shows inevitably become sweaty dance parties, though because the group's stop-and-start rhythms are so sporadic, concertgoers follow the band members' spastic lead instead of the musical cues.