Monotheist -- Scourge

Monotheist — Scourge

★★☆☆ Meandering pacing and a suboptimal mix detract from an otherwise enjoyably inventive and compelling tech death experience. The songwriting has baroque and jazz elements to it at times, which I totally dig. Also, another metal album with saxophone? Love it!

Pestilence -- Hadeon

Pestilence — Hadeon

★★☆☆ This sounds a lot more like the Pestilence of my youth, and given what the band had been putting out lately, that’s a good thing. Twisted and unusual thrashy death metal was always their best sound, and that’s what you get here. (I could do without the vocoder, though.)

Turnstile -- Time & Space

Turnstile — Time & Space

★★☆☆ This is Turnstile’s most experimental album to date, for good and for ill. The band shines most winsomely when they’re most clearly emulating their punk and metal heroes (especially Quicksand and Sick Of It All). The less straightforward tracks, alas, are all over the place, in a way that works against the album’s pacing, momentum, and cohesion.

Saxon -- Thunderbolt

Saxon — Thunderbolt

★★☆☆ Aside from updated production values (which sound great), this is pretty much exactly what you’d expect from a British heavy metal band formed before the advent of the Compact Disc. Jokes aside, if you’re in the mood for some NWOBHM with updated audio sensibilities, this album is for you.

Tribulation -- Down Below

Tribulation — Down Below

★★☆☆ This album feels both novel and dated at the same time. Its production values and humble musical ambitions lend the proceedings a tiredness that’s hard to look past. But the album is also fresh in some of its riffs and chord progressions, as well as its interweaving of Swedish death metal, thrash, and black metal.

Portal -- Ion

Portal — Ion

★★☆☆ This album is nuts. Lo-fi avant garde progressive black cvlt noise, like Boris played on vinyl that also happens to be a cat’s scratching post. Put another way, I imagine this must be what non-metalheads think all metal sounds like.