Aethereus -- Leiden
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AethereusLeiden

✦✦✦✧ Aethereus’ sophomore album find the band in even more uncomprosingly dissonant form. Seamlessly transitioning from tradition techdeath to Gorguts-inspired mayhem is a talent in and of itself. And then there are the orchestral elements: rather than slathering the album with typical metal symphonic filler, the band present sections that would be at home with some of modern classical’s most atonal standardbearers (e.g.

Inferi -- Vile Genesis
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InferiVile Genesis

✦✦✦✧ These Tennesseean techdeath titans have done it again: ridiculously tight shredding at blistering speeds. The danger with this kind of approach is that it is apparently easy to misbalance things and totter over into self-indulgent forgettability (I say "apparently" as I’m not nearly the musician that these folks are). But this time around, they show just enough restraint to help the album avoid problems with pacing or tedium.

Fractal Universe -- The Impassable Horizon
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Fractal UniverseThe Impassable Horizon

✦✦✦✧ The third album from this French quartet comes across as impressively technical and jarring, like a good prog metal album should. It reminds me of Intronaut, The Faceless, and Cynic at their best, but somehow doesn’t feel as self-indulgent as those bands do at their worst. And I say that, even with a truly excessive amount of saxophone all over the place.

Trivium -- In The Court Of The Dragon
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TriviumIn The Court Of The Dragon

✦✦✦✧ This is Trivium’s best album in a decade. On top of everyone’s already ridiculous shredability, Matt Heafy’s vocals are vastly improved, if a little more metalcore than is strictly advisable — his low-rent Hetfieldisms only show up toward the end of the album, thank goodness. And the band’s trademark small-plates approach to metal remixing is more cohesive and sensible here than ever before.

Summoning the Lich -- United in Chaos
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Summoning The LichUnited In Chaos

✦✦✦✧ This is a fun and blisteringly shreddy album, landing somewhere between techdeath and melodeath. It’s also catchy and infectious, not just here or there but throughout the entire album. And rather than rely on gimmicky attempts to out-heavy the next band, this quarter focuses on fundamentals like technical prowess and strong songwriting.

Obscura -- A Valediction
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ObscuraA Valediction

✦✦✦✧ This is more like it! The album feels a bit more selective in its excesses than its predecessor Diluvium, which only serves to make the riffs and leads all the more special and memorable. It’s great to hear guitarist Christian Münzner’s energy and skill in this, his return to the band, as it is for bassist Jeroen Paul Thesseling as well.

Quicksand -- Distant Populations
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QuicksandDistant Populations

✦✦✦✧ While this is the first full-length featuring the post-hardcore legends as a trio minus Tom Capone, Quicksand’s trademark street-fight swagger is still all over the album. The broodier and more midtempo side of the band takes greater prominence here, but that’s been coming for a long time now (I’d say it was always here).

Converge -- Bloodmoon- I
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ConvergeBloodmoon: I

✦✦✦✧ This is Converge (with Chelsea Wolfe and Stephen Brodsky) at their most brooding and contemplative. Not sure if that’s what anyone wanted from them, but that’s what they did with their pandemic; how about you? Shit talking aside, I really like this album, but if you think you’re getting “Axe To Fall II” here, you’re going to have a bad time.