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.

Skindred -- Big Tings
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SkindredBig Tings

☆☆☆☆ This makes nu metal sound like Deathspell Omega by comparison. It’s actually impressive just how densely packed this Skindred album is with all of the most hated elements of music from the last 10 years. Cowbell! Claps! Girl chants! Reggaeton! Even the rare moment when the band approaches actual decentness is inevitably marred by their insipid “ragga rock” proclivities.

Sevendust -- All I See Is War
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SevendustAll I See Is War

★★☆☆ After years of defending Sevendust, this album from them is finally a little more Nickelbackish than I’d like to admit. The big change is the swapping out of actual riffs for DR5-crushed walls of tone, which lays bare some fairly pedestrian songwriting otherwise. At least Lajon Witherspoon continues to deliver world-class vocals.

Parkway Drive -- Reverence
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Parkway DriveReverence

★☆☆☆ Everything goes well until the vocals start; the wah-wah just seals the nu-metal-core deal. In the album’s defense, there are some meaty riffs undergirding the whole affair. Unfortunately, they’re deployed in the service of an outmoded and adolescent sensibility. What a waste.

Ihsahn -- Ámr
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IhsahnÁmr

★★★☆ This is a subtler work from Ihsahn (which is funny, because the album starts out with this huge-ass synth patch that sounds anything but subtle). The epic power comes from the impeccable arrangements and production, featuring the lushest strings I’ve heard in metal in a long time. The songwriting is a bit “safer” than that on “Arktis,” but Ihsahn still delivers solid doubles throughout, if not actual home runs.

The Armed -- Only Love
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The ArmedOnly Love

★★☆☆ Given my beloved The Armed the benefit of the doubt, this is definitely some next-level noise art. However, the dearth of actual tunes here is notable, and a detriment to the album. I’ll listen to it again to see if it grabs me any more, but after my first listen, I’m not (yet?) feeling it.

Inferi -- Revenant
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InferiRevenant

★★★☆ Epic technical death metal that utterly shreds in the moment, but somewhat fails to stick in one’s memory. Also, it goes on and on and on. Still, it’s blistering and super impressive. These guys definitely put in the work (there’s probably something like a quarter million notes on this album, no exaggeration)!