Morbid Angel -- Kingdoms Disdained
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Morbid Angel — Kingdoms Disdained

★★☆☆ Doggedly ferocious and unpristine, this is what you want a Morbid Angel to sound like. It’s also more interesting than I feared, with some clever and unusual riffs and moments buried under the bare brutality. And yet, this album often feels like a Frankenstein’s monster of death metal B-sides and bridges crammed together.

Sons Of Apollo -- Psychotic Symphony
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Sons Of Apollo — Psychotic Symphony

★★★☆ This debut album pretty much comes from a parallel universe Dream Theater, along the way improving upon every complaint I’ve had about DT for years (with stronger vocals, less formulaic prog, real balls to the metal). Hell, even the three obviously-for-radio tracks are at worst inoffensive (take that, “Surrounded”). There’s also a delightful early-90s bum-shaking the permeates the whole thing… except for when it’s replaced with what I swear can only be homages to the band UK.

Operation_ Mindcrime -- A New Reality
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Operation: Mindcrime — A New Reality

★☆☆☆ This latest album from Geoff Tate’s post-Rÿche career has many of the overproduction flaws of “Empire,” without any of the quality songwriting, and a shadow of the musicianship. Also, and this needs to be said, the production makes it sound like Tate recorded this through a phone (a landline). This is actually not all bad news, as that lessens the impact when Tate’s singing goes flat.

The Faceless -- In Becoming A Ghost
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The Faceless — In Becoming A Ghost

★★☆☆ This is, at first, a somewhat frustrating album. It’s still recognizably The Faceless, but the music’s taken on a new inconsistency and weirdness (and Michael Keene is no stranger to weirdness). It starts very strongly (skipping the throwaway opener), with something akin to radio-friendliness without losing any of the technical bravado or progressive elements.

Glassjaw -- Material Control
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Glassjaw — Material Control

★★★☆ This feels like a progression and successor to the band’s previous album, 2002′s “Worship And Tribute.” It’s a testament to Daryl Palumbo and Justin Beck that they sound as potent, masterful, and energetic fifteen years down the line. Among other things, “Material Control” is a study in how far a band can stray from their own tropes and still sound like themselves.