Tomahawk -- Tonic Immobility
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TomahawkTonic Immobility

★★★☆ Is this even metal? No, it is not (which is a surprise, given that the group now consists of people from FNM, The Jesus Lizard, Mr Bungle, and Helmet/Battles). But it is imminently listenable, endlessly innovative, and just lots of fun. Mybe I’m just a sucker for Duane Denison’s inimitable guitar stylings propping up Mike Patton’s vocal madness.

Soen -- Imperial
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SoenImperial

★★★☆ This is an intriguing effort at accessibility, from a famously polymathic prog band who have been compared in the past to Tool, Opeth, and Leprous. While those touchstones are still discernible, Imperial finds the Swedes at last sounding more like their own thing than their influences. The only criticism I’ve got is that there’s maybe a little too much polish and sanding down of the rough edges (but that’s fairly typical of any prog band who tries to resonate with an audience, it seems).

The Acacia Strain -- Slow Decay
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The Acacia StrainSlow Decay

★★★☆ I can say, without hyperbole, that this is the most experimental deathcore album I’ve heard in years, if not ever. It contains all of the genre’s hallmark touches (seismic detuning of mushy guitars, compressed triggered drums, and the cookiemonsterest of vocals), but deployed in novel and unpredictable ways throughout the album.

Carcass -- Despicable
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CarcassDespicable

★★★☆ Let me just get this off my chest: THIS IS BARELY AN EP, DAMMIT. Still, you know I can’t deny Carcass. And I gotta say, this four-song collection feels just like the goregrind-defining material on Necroticism, the band’s 1991 objective masterpiece. And yet, these four tracks do a great job illustrating the breadth of Carcass’ influence on both grindcore and melodic death metal.

Ensiferum -- Thalassic
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EnsiferumThalassic

★★★☆ I’d wager that when you read the words "Finnish folk metal," some part of you is recalling the mental image of a wooden Viking ship. This album is like that connection: traditional, chilly, sensible, trve. Also, lots of fun. Special props to Pekka Montin on keyboards… and epicly heroic cleans!

August Burns Red -- Guardians
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August Burns RedGuardians

★★★☆ Another ABR record means that it’s time to see how far the band can experimentally lean out of their metalcore envelope and still deliver the goods. The good news is that the band still make threading that needle seem effortless and inevitable. The bad news is that some of the material here does feel a little unemotive and basic, even by metalcore standards.

Ozzy Osbourne -- Ordinary Man
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Ozzy OsbourneOrdinary Man

★★★☆ This, Ozzy’s twelfth solo album, is immediately comparable to some of the high points of his solo career and even some earlier Sabbath albums. Kudos to his support band (featuring Duff McKagan, Chad Smith, and Slash!). The production is surprisingly muddy, but it works pretty well for Ozzy. I could do without the title track (featuring Elton John!),

Katatonia -- City Burials
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KatatoniaCity Burials

★★★☆ Somehow, this is both Katatonia at their most pop-oriented… and their most moodiest album since Dead End Kings. The production by Jonas Renkse and Anders Nyström is as lush and appropriate as ever, with a heightened focus on atmosphere and songwriting. Special shout out to lead single "Lacquer," which uses electronica in a new (to this band) way to convey something unique, accessible, but oh so doomed.