Who's wilder, heavy metal or punk rock fans? That is the question.

The debate has raged since the 1970s when both musical styles (which curiously drew inspiration from some of the same late '60s British pop bands) really took off.In fact, this critic has often gotten into arguments about this particularly sticky subject when he sides with fans of the latter musical styling (probably due to his fondness for such punk pioneers as the Clash and the Dead Kennedys).

Maybe comparing reactions from the Sept. 7 Circle Jerks concert (one of the wildest punk rock shows the Speedway Cafe has housed in some time) with Friday's Vio-Lence show is unfair, but remember that Megaforce Worldwide officials (who represent the latter-mentioned Bay Area band) promised this reviewer that reactions to the show "would easily blow away the Circle Jerks' show."

Was that an accurate statement of what happened Friday night? Not really. Score this punk rock 1, heavy metal 0.

That's not to mean that the small Speedway crowd or the three groups that performed weren't trying hard enough, though. Perhaps one of opening act Yexotay's guitarists put it best when he said, "This ain't Rafters (a local club known for wild metal shows and crowds)." It sure wasn't, folks.

Headliners Vio-Lence and the L.A. quintet Defiance are cut from the same metallic mold - rather than follow the speed metal trend or in the footsteps of glam metal bands, the two groups instead seem to be heavily influenced by metal pioneers like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath.

Where the two bands go from there, though, is widely divergent. Vio-Lence - which creatively revolves around vocalist Sean Killian and guitarist Phil Demmel - is apparently trying for a more commercial and slick-sounding metal mix (replete with "socially aware lyrics"), while Defiance dares to get down and dirty.

To be frank, the former is vastly overrated, especially its ham-handed "Oppressing the Masses" LP, which should probably feature a "banal lyrics" warning rather than the "explicit lyrics" warning it bears on its front cover.

Typical of the band's metallic mess is the album's title track, which sounded much the same live as it did on vinyl, only sloppier. Here's a sample of the lyrics: "Land of old, this soil I see now turns gray. Looking on, I see crowds that stand against tyrant guns. Blow them away."

Much better was Defiance. Though their set was played way too loud to understand which songs were being played much of the time, the five band members were certainly more energetic than Vio-Lence.

Their "Skate" tune, in fact, probably got the night's best reaction and proved that the band has more talent than just screaming and periodically tossing off one or two ridiculous guitar solos.

Local outfit Yexotay also deserves some credit, probably for not naming itself after a violent action. As a performing act, however, the band appears to have seen "This is Spinal Tap" too many times and taken it seriously. Just leave it at that.

So while this critic is still not entirely convinced of the originality and merits that proponents of heavy metal music claim it contains, he's at least willing to place it a notch above country-western music, which he despises - and that's really saying something.