East Of The Wall -- NP-Complete

East Of The WallNP-Complete

★★★☆ Lovely prog metal (emphasis on the ‘prog’). This is kinda what I really want to hear when I imagine Scale The Summit paired with an appropriate singer. (But there’s also echoes of Don Cab, Torrential Downpour, and Glassjaw.) Special shout out to Chris Alfano for pulling off the hat-trick of laying down bass lines that are simultaneously jazzy, muscular, and unique….

Ola Englund -- Master of the Universe

Ola EnglundMaster of the Universe

★★★☆ This solo debut think of Ola Englund as the torchbearer for modern guitar wankery. Imagine a Shrapnel Records vanity album, only by way of Sweden instead of California. (Jason Becker: still alive, gods love him!) Fans of The Haunted expecting more of the same will be disappointed, but keep your eyes on the prize: this album taps into lots of different metal styles, so there’s something here for everyone, even if it isn’t super memorable or emotive.

Children Of Bodom -- Hexed

Children Of BodomHexed

★★★☆ The band is focusing anew on technical ability; they’ve been practicing, and it shows. Thusly armed, CoB’s usual treacly nonsense is interspersed between truly shreddy moments. Even without the bonus tracks, the album drags, but it’s still one of the best things the band have ever made.

Whitechapel -- The Valley

WhitechapelThe Valley

★★★☆ This album finds Whitechapel farthest afield from the deathcore of their formative years, to excellent effect. Sure, the band is still tuned down and know their way around a breakdown, but that’s all leavened by a complexity and progressiveness that I wasn’t entirely sure they had in them. Destined to make it onto lots of best-of lists in December.

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.

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.