The Black Dahlia Murder -- Nightbringers
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The Black Dahlia Murder — Nightbringers

★★★☆ Fast and furious, with just a hint of innovation to keep things fresh. While perhaps not as insta-classic as “Everblack,” this is a more successfully experiment suite of songs than even that esteemed album. Consistently energetic and enjoyable from start to finish, the band even manages to squeeze a bit of walk-on frippery into the album’s economical 33 minutes.

Chelsea Wolfe -- Hiss Spun
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Chelsea Wolfe — Hiss Spun

★★★☆ The disjointed nature of Chelsea Wolfe’s previous album “Abyss” is better comingled here, undoubtedly thanks in some measure to the production guidance of Kurt “Not My First Rodeo” Ballou. The same disparate influences from last time are still here: Massive Attack, V.A.S.T., Chris Cornell, Tori Amos, Wolves In The Throne Room.

Ufomammut -- 8
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Ufomammut — 8

★★★☆ Ufomammut have for years toiled to perfect the tricky subsubgenre of accessible progressive stoner doom. With that context, their latest album is a towering achievement in that pursuit. Emotive. Interesting. Exotic. Wandering. Concise. Hypnotizing. And now with 50% nastier bass tone! Worth at least two listens.

Akercocke -- Renaissance In Extremis
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Akercocke — Renaissance In Extremis

★★★☆ All hail the long-awaited return of the British band’s unique jazzy-gothy-doom-death alchemy. If anything, this Akercocke album is their most experimental, evoking in rapid and unpredicted fashion the works of Opeth, vintage Rush, Cocteau Twins, Napalm Death, Powermad, U.K., Leprous, Porcupine Tree… and on and on. A fascinating and rewarding listen.

The Haunted -- Strength In Numbers
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The Haunted — Strength In Numbers

★★★☆ This latest album is quintessential Haunted, but not in a way that relies on the proven formula. There is a reinvigorated savagery here, as well as a new melodic sensibility throughout. Those two observations don’t normally coexist well, but on “Strength In Numbers” they thrive in equal measure. I know that, when reviewing their last album “Exit Wounds,” I’d said that it was the best thing the band’s done since “The Dead Eye.” Well… this new album tops that.

Cormorant -- Diaspora
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Cormorant — Diaspora

★★★☆ Cormorant continue their dirty Mastodon-meets-The-Ocean blitz, trading some of their progginess for straight-up sludge. Doubling down on their doomier tendencies seems like a smart move for the band, as it gives them more space to explore and elaborate than ever before. But the last ten minutes is ten minutes too long for this album.

Byzantine -- The Cicada Tree
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Byzantine — The Cicada Tree

★★★☆ Groovy, surefooted, at once familiar and alien… this is classic Byzantine, doing what they do best. As has become par for the course with this band, I still don’t know whether to classify them as prog, thrash, hard rock, djent, agitprop… comparisons to Lamb Of God, Porcupine Tree, Alice In Chains, Meshuggah… all of these approximations fit, and yet all miss the mark.