Monotheist -- Scourge

Monotheist — Scourge

★★☆☆ Meandering pacing and a suboptimal mix detract from an otherwise enjoyably inventive and compelling tech death experience. The songwriting has baroque and jazz elements to it at times, which I totally dig. Also, another metal album with saxophone? Love it!

Rivers Of Nihil -- Where Owls Know My Name

Rivers Of Nihil — Where Owls Know My Name

★★★☆ Rivers Of Nihil have really outdone themselves this time. Their third album adds a 70s’-prog sensibility to their already omnivorous brand of technical death metal. This seems to have squeezed out and refined some of the other voices in the band’s collective heads, and while not altogether foolproof, it culminates in a new maturity and gravitas.

Pestilence -- Hadeon

Pestilence — Hadeon

★★☆☆ This sounds a lot more like the Pestilence of my youth, and given what the band had been putting out lately, that’s a good thing. Twisted and unusual thrashy death metal was always their best sound, and that’s what you get here. (I could do without the vocoder, though.)

Ministry -- AmeriKKKant

Ministry — AmeriKKKant

★☆☆☆ I’ll always have a love for Ministry, but I don’t hear a compelling reason on this album for them to come out of retirement. Very dated industrial, with the musicianship shoved back behind the thoroughly predictable sound bites from hated politicians. Sludgier than the Mike Scaccia-era Ministry that we loved so much.

Between The Buried And Me -- Automata I

Between The Buried And Me — Automata I

★★★★ This is the biggest level-jump for the band since The Parallax. The album starts out on very familiar territory, with a track that sounds like it could easily fit on either of the band’s last two albums. And then the second track starts, and all of a sudden we have a new sound for BTBAM: heavier, more anthemic, but also less beholden to old prog rock tropes.

Slugdge -- Esoteric Malacology

Slugdge — Esoteric Malacology

★★★☆ The highly anticipated album from our favorite space-slug-themed band does not disappoint. The music is massive like Gojira, inventive and suitably alien like Gorguts, but catchy like Mastodon. And yet, Slugdge manage to avoid some of the pitfalls that have recently tripped up those progenitors. Honestly, this is far better than anyone has a right to expect.

Turnstile -- Time & Space

Turnstile — Time & Space

★★☆☆ This is Turnstile’s most experimental album to date, for good and for ill. The band shines most winsomely when they’re most clearly emulating their punk and metal heroes (especially Quicksand and Sick Of It All). The less straightforward tracks, alas, are all over the place, in a way that works against the album’s pacing, momentum, and cohesion.