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Lately, the sound of alternative music is inching closer to mainstream hard rock. The grinding guitars, driving drums and bass combined with screaming or throaty vocals on a couple of new releases document this move.

- Mutha's Day Out hails from President Clinton's home state of Arkansas. The album "My Soul Is Wet" is a blend of leg-bouncing, guitar-oriented rock mixed with subtle shades of rap.The first cut on the album, "What U See," segues two minutes of rapid-fire lyrics and speed-metal guitars into a social-minded power rap called "We All Bleed Red."

Thrash is balanced with sentiment as the nostalgic "Memories Fade," a song about a blue-collar family that survives the lack of money through love, pays homage to the Midwestern story-telling style of John Mellencamp.

The closing cut is a fun and funky stutter-beat ditty called "Ugly" that expounds upon the notion of beauty being in the eye of the beholder.

Mutha's Day Out is a young band with electrifying potential. If the band stays true to its roots, recognition is within blooming distance.

- Thanks to a song called "Slip Slide Melting" featured in the movie "The Crow," some people may be familiar with For Love Not Lisa.

The band's new album "Merge" features that song and stays true to the style. The thick, distorted mix of sharp, industrial metal guitars and far-away vocals is what the band is earning a name for.

However, three tunes demonstrate the band's musical diversity. "Simple Line of Decline" features a grinding sound mixed with a Spin Doctor-ish funk. And the epic chatter piece "Just a Phase" introduces some back-alley philosophies with roaming pianos and busy bass lines. During "Swallow," the less-than-overbearing guitar distortion is used solely for effect.

Tactfully, the band returns to the grit as the title cut's thrashing gothic dynamics close the album. Good stuff.