Krallice -- Loüm
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Krallice — Loüm

★★★☆ Interesting, jarring, alien… in other words, business as usual for this band. They’re playing around with unheralded tempo changes more this time than I recall in previous releases. If you ever find yourself missing Gorguts, Torrential Downpour, and Don Caballero at the same time, this is your jam!

Fleshkiller -- Awaken
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Fleshkiller — Awaken

★★★★ Equal parts Extol (this is Ole Børud’s new band after all), Cynic, Extol, Torrential Downpour, The Darkness, early Meshuggah, and Yes after “Union.” I shit you not: you’ve likely never heard any metal like this before. This is a Must Listen, and perhaps The Stunning Debut of 2017.

Veil Of Maya -- False Idol
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Veil Of Maya — False Idol

★★★☆ VOM have by now perfected their recipe for metalcore-anchored djent. Think TesseracT-meets-Vildhjarta-meets-All That Remains. It’s an intriguing yet unholy alliance, and the combinations miss the mark a nontrivial amount of the time. But there’s enough here, between the songwriting, musicianship, and surprising twists that it defies dismissal. Definitely worth a listen, perhaps as a consummate example of what’s possible in metal in 2017.

Marty Friedman -- Wall Of Sound
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Marty Friedman — Wall Of Sound

★★☆☆ After shocking us with the unreasonably good album “Inferno”, Marty returns to form and satisfies every preconception; this is about as good as it gets for self-indulgent lead guitarist wankery. Largely, this is a problem of balance (a tricky thing to nail). There are sporadic moments of red-blooded metal mayhem strewn about, but they’re tempered too often by cheese.

Cradle Of Filth -- Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness Of Decay
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Cradle Of Filth — Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness Of Decay

★★☆☆ If you’re already a fan of Cradle of Filth, this album will most certainly satisfy. It’s more of the same, only better. Full disclosure: I am not one of those fans. In particular, Dani Filth’s vocals have always gotten on my nerves. But everything else is very well done, and there’s enough meat on the bone that I don’t mind the gristle as much as I have in past albums.

Annihilator -- For The Demented
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Annihilator — For The Demented

★★☆☆ This is a weirdly uneven album, careening from rethrash to Megadeth at their cheesiest to… is that Jackyl? Steel Panther? Founder Jeff Waters has been fronting the band since the last album, as well as producing the album, which partially explains the unfortunate prevalence of questionable vocal choices high in the mix.

August Burns Red -- Phantom Anthem
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August Burns Red — Phantom Anthem

★★★☆ ABR continues their epic quest to find new territory without spooking the metalcore natives. It shreds, it surprises, it’s full of energy. How they manage to make a progressive metalcore album is a kind of magic. This album should satisfy pretty much everyone who can be compelled to give it a listen, except for those who doggedly just want more of the same.

Cannabis Corpse -- Left Hand Pass
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Cannabis Corpse — Left Hand Pass

★★★☆ The superficial humor of the band’s premise (and their song titles) is more than ever outclassed by the serious and obvious ambition here. Keep in mind, these guys also have dayjobs in The Black Dahlia Murder, Municipal Waste, and Six Feet Under. The resulting riffage is unsurprisingly virtuosic and inventive.