At The Gates -- To Drink From The Night Itself
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At The GatesTo Drink From The Night Itself

★★★☆ The ancient kings of Gothenburg are back, sounding as polished, virtuosic, and driving as ever. And yet, there’s not a lot hear we haven’t heard before. Even as the band nudges their formula here and there, the result is evocative of other melodeath staples (and more often than not, it’s evocative of other bands in post-heyday form; I’m looking at you, The Haunted and In Flames).

ASG -- Survive Sunrise
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ASGSurvive Sunrise

★★★☆ This is as good as a stoner metal album can get in 2018 without being great. It’s fantastic that an early progenitor of the subgenre can still sound vigorous and vital, gently expanding the envelope even as they run deeper ruts into the old familiar paths. And yet, there’s something so damned familiar and been-there-done-that about the whole thing.

Akhenaten -- Golden Serpent God
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AkhenatenGolden Serpent God

★★★☆ This death metal band from Colorado wear their Middle Eastern Egyptologist schtick on their sleeves in a big way. This seems far too obvious at first, too on the nose. But it grows on you fast: not only do Akhenaten show that there’s still unplumbed depths to the connection between Middle Eastern music modes and technical death metal, but there’s also something adorable about how committed they are to their sound.

Ghost -- Prequelle
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GhostPrequelle

★★☆☆ This time around, Ghost are emulating The Scorps more than anyone else, which fits I guess; I don’t fault them for emerging from their latest personnel changeup with a little less Satanism, and sounding a little more stadium rock instead. The tunes are still catchy, the guitars still polished and appropriate, but all of this is harder to care that much about.

Gruesome -- Twisted Prayers
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GruesomeTwisted Prayers

★☆☆☆ The good news is that this is often a spot-on homage to Death (specifically, the classic album “Spiritual Healing”). And when Gruesome is in this Tribute Mode (as they largely were on their debut album “Savage Land,” you had a sense of extrapolation into something both old and new. The bad news is that, more often than not, the music on this new album feels like the band simply took Spiritual Healing sheet music, put it in a shredder, taped the scraps back together, traveled from Orlando to Tampa (and from 2018 to 1989), found Scott Burns, and got him to record it.

Micawber -- Beyond The Reach Of Flame
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MicawberBeyond The Reach Of Flame

★★★☆ A subtly interesting album, evincing a rethrashed form of progressive tech death album, with hints of Revocation, Black Dahlia Murder, Job For A Cowboy, and even Control Denied. Just when you think you know where it’s going, it throws a curveball. If there’s a downside here, it’s that it trades immediacy for memorability.