Soen -- Imperial
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SoenImperial

★★★☆ This is an intriguing effort at accessibility, from a famously polymathic prog band who have been compared in the past to Tool, Opeth, and Leprous. While those touchstones are still discernible, Imperial finds the Swedes at last sounding more like their own thing than their influences. The only criticism I’ve got is that there’s maybe a little too much polish and sanding down of the rough edges (but that’s fairly typical of any prog band who tries to resonate with an audience, it seems).

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2020: The Year In Metal

Jesus fucking christ, guys. You know what kind of year this was. And if somehow you forgot what 2020 was, consider this: over the past 12 months, I have only managed to audition 52 new albums, or 1 per week. That’s something like 40% my usual workload. Do you have albums that I missed?

The Acacia Strain -- Slow Decay
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The Acacia StrainSlow Decay

★★★☆ I can say, without hyperbole, that this is the most experimental deathcore album I’ve heard in years, if not ever. It contains all of the genre’s hallmark touches (seismic detuning of mushy guitars, compressed triggered drums, and the cookiemonsterest of vocals), but deployed in novel and unpredictable ways throughout the album.

Yashira -- Fail To Be
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YashiraFail To Be

★★☆☆ Not quite as devastating as the band’s 2018 debut Shrine, but hardly an example of a sophomore slump, either. The band continue to serve up steaming heaps of nasty, noisy sludge, a la Old Man Gloom but with less meandering. The edge is smoothed over a little since last time, but this is a quibble; Yoshira are still heavy and fascinating and worth the listen!