The best metal shows in Denver in December

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SAT | DENVER BLACK SKY at GOTHIC THEATRE | 12/14/13 December is a leaner month than usual with regard to the number of metal shows booked. But quality more than makes up for quantity thanks to Denver Black Sky. This absolute must-see metal festival is being curated by Sherwood Webber, who, in addition to reconvening with his old band Skinless for the occasion, has put together an unbelievably brutal bill featuring Dying Fetus, Ghoul, Exhumed, Speedwolf, Power Trip, Mammoth Grinder, Call of the Void, Reproacher, Weekend Nachos, Iron Reagan, Axeslasher, Primitive Man, Vimana, Of Feather and Bone, Native Daughters, Black Sleep of Kali, Dead Temple and Flight of Sleipnir.

See also: All upcoming concerts in our constantly updated Denver concert calendar

MON & TUES | THE SWORD at BLUEBIRD THEATER | 12/30-12/31 Formed nearly a decade ago in Austin, Texas, the Sword, with its sludgy guitar work and the fantastical themes of its lyrics, is often assigned the stoner-rock designation, and understandably so. But while the band certainly bears the clear influence of acts like Black Sabbath, Sleep and Led Zeppelin, it has also developed into a solid hard-rock band in its own right, one that merits consideration outside of some subgenre tag. On its latest record, Apocryphon, frontman J.D. Cronise displays a clever use of obscure language and a willingness to expose his personal experiences in the lyrics rather than relying on pure fiction.

SUN | SUICIDAL TENDENCIES at FOX THEATRE | 12/8/13 Suicidal Tendencies first attracted attention with its song "Institutionalized," which originally appeared on the act's self-titled 1983 debut and then later made its way onto the Repo Man soundtrack. While the outfit's next record, 1987's Join the Army, firmly established the band as a crossover act, altering its earlier punk sound with the thrash-guitar style of Rocky George, it was 1992's The Art of Rebellion, that really brought the group to the attention of a wider audience, when "Nobody Hears" became something of a left-field hit. Continuously led by Mike Muir, a vocalist who has never stuck to a narrow range of vocal techniques, Suicidal Tendencies -- which issued its thirteenth album in 2013, the fittingly titled 13 -- is still a compelling live act all these years on.

SAT | MUSHROOMHEAD at SUMMIT MUSIC HALL | 12/7/13 Mushroomhead is rarely mentioned in the mainstream music media, and if it is mentioned, it's usually because it's being compared to Slipknot. Not that the comparisons don't make sense: Both bands are similar-sounding seven-piece groups in creepy masks. Except Mushroomhead has been around since 1993 (Slipknot was formed in '95), and its sound is closer to a fusion of Slipknot, Disturbed, and whatever Jeffrey Dahmer probably listened to in his apartment. Originally a side project for several Cleveland-area musicians, Mushroomhead was playing in front of 2,000 people alongside GWAR by the time it had booked a second show. Over seven albums that combine industrial metal, hip-hop, goth, and punk, the band has sold almost a million units worldwide.

THURS | RED FANG at BLACK SHEEP | 12/19/13 If loudness does indeed equal greatness, then Portland's Red Fang could give Spinal Tap a run for its money. But more than volume, the band displays great musicianship, with sizzling guitar leads and complex breakdowns. In a genre becoming saturated with similar ideas and styles, most bands would be well advised to take a cue from Red Fang.

WEDS | WAYNE STATIC at GOTHIC THEATRE | 12/11/13 If you're a Static-X enthusiast, then you'll probably like Pighammer, Wayne Static's solo debut. Actually, when Wayne Static founded Static-X, his original vision was the concept of Pighammer -- more electronic and industrial, not based on live performance. Imagine plenty of the evil disco, compressed guitars and hazy vocals, smothered in the electronic treatment, with the same metal DNA as Static-X.

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