The first two episodes of Hit Parader's No Cover, the unsigned artist music competition featuring only original song performances, just debuted on YouTube and, among the highlights, are a "thrash grass" hillbilly metal band up against a group with rock roots who branched out as a funky wedding type act.

In total, 25 artists hit the stage at The Troubadour in Los Angeles in front of a panel of esteemed judges — Alice Cooper, Lzzy Hale, Gavin Rossdale, Bishop Briggs and Tosin Abasi. Together, they select one group to advance to the next round in each episode and those who don't get the nod are given a potential second chance by a "mercy council" who offer honest criticism and advice in the wake of defeat.

The top prize includes a six-figure recording contract with Sumerian Records, representation from United Talent Agency and Shelter Music Group, performance slots at Danny Wimmer Presents music festivals, a $10,000 shopping spree at Guitar Center and new gear from Gibson USA, Mesa Engineering, Ernie Ball, Liquid Death and Discmakers.

Episode one pits five bands against one another — Scarlet View (modern rock), The Native Howl (thrash grass), Art & The Resistance (art rock), Night Spins (alt-rock) and American History X film director Tony Kaye (indie acoustic).

The Native Howl were the second to hit the stage and dazzled the judges with their rip-roaring track "Thunderhead," which appeared to catch the entire panel off guard. Equally inspired by the high-energy of bluegrass and thrash metal, the band bridges two worlds in such a way that even Alice Cooper admitted he had never heard anything like it. Playing heavy metal leads on an acoustic guitar is quite impressive with no distortion to mask even the slightest bum note or mistake.

Art & The Resistance, who gained entry onto the show for a hard rock song submission, made a daring decision to showcase what other styles of music they're capable of playing. "I love you guys a lot," said Hale, after which Abasi said they possess an "effortless cool vibe."

Watch the full episode of No Cover, hosted by Caity Babs, Kellin Quinn and Matt Pinfield, below and then hit play on the second episode, where things involving the mercy council really heat up and throw some twists your way.

No Cover, Episode One

No Cover, Episode Two

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