Morbid Angel -- Kingdoms Disdained

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

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

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

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

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.

Cavalera Conspiracy -- Psychosis

Cavalera Conspiracy — Psychosis

★★☆☆ If you can imagine the Brothers Cavalera being abducted in 1990, shoved into a time-traveling van, and driven to a modern recording studio while listening to Slayer’s “Undisputed Attitude”, you can imagine what this album sounds like. Certainly interesting from a sci-fi/ethnomusicological standpoint, but not as intriguing as a metal album.

Ensiferum -- Two Paths

Ensiferum — Two Paths

★★★☆ If you liked these Finns’ last folk metal album “One Man Army,” you’ll be equally delighted by this one.  There are some questionable vocal moments (the clean singing is especially shaky at times), but that’s a fleeting misstep in an otherwise rambunctious Amon-Amarth-meets-DragonForce beerhall adventure.