Aethereus -- Leiden
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AethereusLeiden

✦✦✦✧ Aethereus’ sophomore album find the band in even more uncomprosingly dissonant form. Seamlessly transitioning from tradition techdeath to Gorguts-inspired mayhem is a talent in and of itself. And then there are the orchestral elements: rather than slathering the album with typical metal symphonic filler, the band present sections that would be at home with some of modern classical’s most atonal standardbearers (e.g.

Underoath -- Voyeurist
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UnderoathVoyeurist

✦✦✧✧ Kudos for this postcore band trying to push the envelope, even if the results are not particularly compelling. Album closer "Pneumonia" does feel like something special, though, offering a taste of metal that’s both emotive and updated for a newer digital-ready generation.

Inferi -- Vile Genesis
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InferiVile Genesis

✦✦✦✧ These Tennesseean techdeath titans have done it again: ridiculously tight shredding at blistering speeds. The danger with this kind of approach is that it is apparently easy to misbalance things and totter over into self-indulgent forgettability (I say "apparently" as I’m not nearly the musician that these folks are). But this time around, they show just enough restraint to help the album avoid problems with pacing or tedium.

Fractal Universe -- The Impassable Horizon
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Fractal UniverseThe Impassable Horizon

✦✦✦✧ The third album from this French quartet comes across as impressively technical and jarring, like a good prog metal album should. It reminds me of Intronaut, The Faceless, and Cynic at their best, but somehow doesn’t feel as self-indulgent as those bands do at their worst. And I say that, even with a truly excessive amount of saxophone all over the place.

Trivium -- In The Court Of The Dragon
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TriviumIn The Court Of The Dragon

✦✦✦✧ This is Trivium’s best album in a decade. On top of everyone’s already ridiculous shredability, Matt Heafy’s vocals are vastly improved, if a little more metalcore than is strictly advisable — his low-rent Hetfieldisms only show up toward the end of the album, thank goodness. And the band’s trademark small-plates approach to metal remixing is more cohesive and sensible here than ever before.

Omnium Gatherum -- Origin
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Omnium GatherumOrigin

✦✦✧✧ This is a slightly groovier and more midtempo offering from these melodeath stalwarts, a refinement that suits the band quite nicely. OG have always made a virtue of cleanliness and polish, and this album is no exception, but what is new is a greater sense of laidback self-possession. The album is also a great showcase of the band’s maturity, cohesion, and evolution, which is all the more impressive when you consider that it’s the debut of a brand new rhythm section.