Hannes Grossmann -- Apophenia

Hannes GrossmannApophenia

★★★☆ Grossmann’s third solo album starts out with its best track, the ten-minute blistering “Deep,” but has a hard time reaching the same heights, despite guests Jeff Loomis, Marty Friedman, and Christian Muenzner. Even with that issue, the album is technically just about perfect. Crisp production, better-than-average pacing, and of course world-class musicianship make this one a must-listen.

Numenorean -- Adore


★★★☆ This is modern black metal that I can get behind! Not content to splash around in the Deafheaven kiddie pool of Northwestern American post-metal, this band brings in just enough other elements of sustain momentum (and my interest). Hints of Isis, Behemoth, Gojira, and even Deftones make for a surprisingly lively bit of metalgaze.

Periphery -- Periphery IV: Hail Stan

PeripheryPeriphery IV: Hail Stan

★★★☆ One of Periphery’s best albums to date. Of course, as is by now mandatory for this band, I need to give you my first impressions, song by song:

"Reptile": absolutely masterful; a new high water mark for the band; Periphery’s Catch 33
"Blood Eagle": a fun slice of Periphery when they’re feeling their most metal; all over the radio, though, so I’m probably gonna get over it real quick.

Equipoise -- Demiurgus


★★☆☆ Solid prog metal from the Cynic and Sadus school of neoclassical musicianship and sooooo much fretless bass (good to hear Hugo Doyon-Karout’s tireless perambulations all over the place). This is an interesting and promising debut; while it loses points for cookie monster vocals and overall anemic production values, it’s still an almost-great album.

Prion -- Aberrant Calamity

PrionAberrant Calamity

★★☆☆ This is a more proggy kind of Floridian death metal (think old school Morbid Angel with just a hint of Pestilence or Malevolent Creation thrown in). Emphasis on Floridian: this band seem to have doubled down on a garage band ethic, albeit with some welcome bass in the mix; worse is the band’s disregard for the listener’s flow.

Devin Townsend -- Empath

Devin TownsendEmpath

★★★★ This is Devin Townsend at his most devy. More than ever, he imbues all of his music here with metal, but in oblique and non-ostentatious ways. Put another way, this album of progressive rock, electronica, choral music, and soundscapes just happens to treat the panoply of metal subgenres as source motifs.

Queensrÿche -- The Verdict

QueensrÿcheThe Verdict

★★★☆ I’m shocked: not only is this the most not-bad Todd La Torre-era album the band have ever released, but it also finally halfway sells me on the very notion of a post-Empire Rÿche.  (Speaking of La Torre, he not only sings on this album, but he also plays drums on this album instead of Scott Rockenfield.

Candlemass -- The Door To Doom

CandlemassThe Door To Doom

★★★☆ I can believable: 33 years after giving doom metal its name, Candlemass come back with an album every bit as menacing, gritty, and powerful as anything else in their catalog. Bringing back founding vocalist Johan Langquist is a winning touch, as is Tommy Iommi guest soloing on “Astorolus.” The album loses points for its buzzsaw production and luddite attitude to innovation, but these are meaningless quibbles in the face of a foregone classic.

In Flames -- I, The Mask

In FlamesI, The Mask

★★★☆ Don’t be fooled by the album’s decidedly weak first minute: In Flames shred all over the place on this one. The band are no fools when it comes to delivering what their fans want, and "I, The Mask" is another in the unbroken line of the metal primacy of Gothenburg, may it never fade.