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ROCK NOTES

Hard-driving Ill Nino heats up the atmosphere

Get ready to be bowled over by the music of Ill Nino.

``Our original name was El Nino, which has to do with a weather movement coming in and wrecking something,'' says drummer Dave Chavarri. ``It's kind of like what we do onstage. ''

Ill Nino is a Latin heavy metal band that is ready to break big. Its debut CD, ``Revolution Revolucion,'' sold 350,000 copies. The follow-up, ``Confession,'' is out Tuesday, and the first single, the scream-infused ``How Can I Live,'' was on the recent ``Freddy vs. Jason'' soundtrack. It's a tension-and-release number with a Nine Inch Nails guitar sound that should wither anyone without a strong constitution.

But it's the Ill Nino stage act that is winning converts right and left - and can be experienced firsthand when the New Jersey-based group performs at the WAAF-sponsored Locobazooka Sunday afternoon at Fitchburg Municipal Airport with Staind, Sevendust, Cave In, and Shadows Fall.

``We come out swinging,'' says Chavarri. `` Every one of us is active. There's a lot of stage-diving by the band members.''

Ill Nino sports a jarring guitar attack (new guitarist Ahrue Luster used to play with Machine Head), along with driving, Latin-influenced percussion and lyrics that are mostly in English, some in Spanish. This blend could spring only from a mix of many cultures.

``I was born in Peru and came to the US when I was 12,'' says Chavarri, who founded the group. ``And one of our guitarists and our percussionist were born in Brazil. Our singer was born in Brazil and raised in Venezuela. We're like the United Nations out there.''

Chavarri grew up listening to Latin music, then fell in love with Santana, Queen, and the Scorpions when he moved to the United States. A similar musical diversity applies to the other band members, though they have one thing in common: ``We all love heavy music,'' Chavarri says.

That's apparent on ``Confession,'' which contains its share of nu-metal anger in songs such as ``Cleansing'' and the Korn-like ``Letting Go,'' but also more subtly textural, self-reflective tunes such as ``Numb'' (overlaid with congas) and ``This Time's for Real'' (spiced by a flamenco guitar solo).

The CD was coproduced by Bob Marlette, who's worked with Black Sabbath and Saliva. ``He really pushed us to the edge,'' says Chavarri. ``He'd get under your skin. He'd say, `Not good enough! Not good enough!' You wanted to throw him out of the room. But you know what? He got the best out of us. We really like him now.''

Have Mercy Tour: One of the best records of the year is the Mercy Brothers' ``Strange Adventure.'' It marks a fruitful transcontinental teaming of Boston's Barrence Whitfield and Michael Dinallo (who also have a group called Hillbilly Voodoo) with Norwegian guitar phenomenon Vidar Busk. ``Strange Adventure'' is roots music that nods to vintage country and blues, but has a fresh, cut-loose edge that carries it over into rock 'n' roll. Coming off a sold-out tour of Europe, the Mercy Brothers will bring their new ``Have Mercy Tour'' to Toad on Sunday night. Busk will be on guitar, with Kevin Barry (Paula Cole, Dennis Brennan) sitting in on lap steel.

``It's a modern continuation of a lot of old forms of music,'' Dinallo says of the Mercy Brothers' sound. He and Whitfield were put on a bill with Busk last fall in Norway, and the chemistry was instantaneous. ``We met in a hotel lobby in Bergen, Norway, and before we even played together it felt right. This has been an intuitive thing from the start, '' Dinallo says. ``[Busk] plays wild guitar. He plays like nobody else I can think of.''

Busk came to Boston, and the album was made in four days at Milt Reder's Rear Window Studio in Brookline, then mixed at Ducky Carlisle's Room 9 studio in South Boston. Sitting in were bassist Paul Kochanski (Swinging Steaks) and drummer Andy Plaisted (Swinging Steaks, Tim Gearan).

Bits and pieces: Boston's Push Stars have been tapped to open matchbox twenty's tour, including a show at the FleetCenter on Tuesday. ... Carole King plays the Roxy on Monday to benefit John Kerry's campaign. ... Bill Janovitz (Buffalo Tom) wrote and recorded the new theme song for the CBS sitcom ``Yes, Dear.'' ... Jam band moe. has joined with Clear Channel Entertainment to record its fall tour and have live CDs available for purchase after each show. ... Tonight: Nada Surf at the Middle East Downstairs, the Bruce Katz Band at Johnny D's, the opening of the new rock opera ``The Fire of Life'' (purportedly a social commentary about a woman who loses her job, with sci-fi overtones) at the Cambridge Family YMCA Theater, and Fat City at the Sea Note in Hull. ... Tomorrow: John Sinclair, the Shelley Winters Project, and Cul de Sac at the Lizard Lounge. ... Sunday: Ravi Shankar and daughter Anoushka at Symphony Hall, Peter Frampton and Joe Bonamassa at the Roxy, and Built to Spill opening two nights at the Paradise.

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