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.

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.

Ensiferum -- Two Paths
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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.

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!

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.

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.

Code Orange -- Forever
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Code Orange — Forever

★★★☆ Oh man, this is legitimately ugly. I think I’m in love. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on this lo-fi post-hardcore sludgerock, the music comes to a full stop out of nowhere and does something completely different, which just adds to the overall chaos. I don’t want to just come out and say outright that this piece of shit is actually postmodern art… so you take a listen and let me know what you think.