If you find yourself picking through the offal of Nirvana in search of something substantive, you might want to hose yourself off and make the acquaintance of alternative heroes-in-waiting Prime STH. Armed with an uncanny ear for melodic metal and morbidly lovelorn and mysterious (they're from Sweden, which accounts for the "STH" suffix, a reference to Stockholm), Prime STH are part of the post-Nirvana wave, retrieving that fallen standard and running with it hard up the hill. In this age of hyper-promotion, it's always amazing that bands with this much appeal don't quickly become household names -- you'd think a major label would choose this horse to lead a charge into the alternative market, but (for now) Prime STH are relatively small players in a big market. That should change as more people listen to Underneath the Surface. Like the best alternative rock, the merits of the music are right up front: crushing riffs with catchy hooks, creepy industrial devices like whispered vocals and mechanical sounds (a little Nine Inch Nails thrown in), and the all-or-nothing emotional stakes of youth. Most of the songs deal directly with the post-breakup blues, an image the band is unlikely to shake based on the label's choice of singles: "I'm Stupid (Don't Worry 'Bout Me)" and "I Don't Envy You." English not being their native language, the lyrics are prosaic and straightforward, but that's not a big stumbling block; English-speaking natives have done a lot worse over the years. Hopefully, their record label will see fit to give songs like "Even the Score (No One Else)" or "My Evil Friend" some exposure, since they show a different side of a band that can be almost gleeful in their emotional angst. Underneath the Surface succeeds as well as it does by channeling what is initially self-directed anger into the speakers, purging the painful emotion with power chords and driving rhythms. Fortunately, these bitter pills have just the right amount of candy coating, suggesting that some people are most happy when they're unhappy. If you subscribe to that philosophy, you'll want to explore Underneath the Surface. ~ Dave Connolly, Rovi

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