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.

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.

Light The Torch -- Revival
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Light The TorchRevival

★☆☆☆ Light The Torch (née Devil You Know) take a giant step toward metalcore mediocrity with this, ostensibly now just The Howard Jones Show. There’s almost no perceptible energy on this album whatsoever, and every single three-minute song is probably at least a minute too long.

Ministry -- AmeriKKKant
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MinistryAmeriKKKant

★☆☆☆ I’ll always have a love for Ministry, but I don’t hear a compelling reason on this album for them to come out of retirement. Very dated industrial, with the musicianship shoved back behind the thoroughly predictable sound bites from hated politicians. Sludgier than the Mike Scaccia-era Ministry that we loved so much.

Into The Great Divide -- Into The Great Divide
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Into The Great DivideInto The Great Divide

★☆☆☆ This is a different project than usual for Dream Theater’s drummer Mike Mangini: a “rock novel” that reimagines the narrative of Joseph Campbell’s “A Hero’s Journey,” an instrumental album save for “chapter” “intros” from voiceover actor Larry Davis. And it’s pretty much what you’d expect: utter wankery, more fit for a drum clinic than anything else.

Machine Head -- Catharsis
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Machine HeadCatharsis

★☆☆☆ What the actual fuck with this album.

There are touches here (isolated riffs, really) that remind me of the Machine Head I thought I knew: precise, mean, effective metal. The vast bulk of this album unfortunately is something else: a confused and incoherent melange, liberally peppered with references to latter-day nu metal staples like Slipknot and Korn.