Liturgy -- H.A.Q.Q
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LiturgyH.A.Q.Q.

★★☆☆ Merry Christmas! I got you a present… assuming of course that you are a fan of cacophonous, shrill, self-indulgent lunacy. Liturgy’s avant-black-metal is tempered here with digital frippery and all manner of orchestral instruments (sampled or otherwise) that have no business near an amplifier. This album is just begging me to give it a 1-star review.

Agnostic Front -- Get Loud!
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Agnostic FrontGet Loud!

★★☆☆ Your best bet is to pretend like this album came out in 1990. This hardcore album is so obstinately nostalgic that it rushes headlong past Charming and instead crashes right into So What. Good news, though: you get 14 songs in 30 minutes, making this my winner for More Concise Album Of The Year.

Nile -- Vile Nilotic Rites
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NileVile Nilotic Rites

★★☆☆ A very consistent and satisfying slab of Egyptian-themed brütal tech death, which makes it an improvement over "What Should Not Be Unearthed." Kudos in particular go to Mike Breazeale and Brian Kingsland, who ably fill the vocal and guitar voids respectively left by the departure of long-term mainstay Dallas Toler-Wade.

Rings Of Saturn -- Gidim
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Rings Of SaturnGidim

★★☆☆ Putting aside the various controversies that have plagued Lucas Mann and Rings Of Saturn for years, this technical deathcore album on its own merits is… okay. The most impactful parts, of course, are the sources of said controversies: the (possibly literal) inhuman performances, the clear substitutions for software over musicianship, and the at-times all-too-familiar riffs.

BABYMETAL -- METAL GALAXY
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BABYMETALMETAL GALAXY

★★☆☆ It’s ironic that an album that starts with a track titled “FUTURE METAL” trades so heavily in clichéd tropes. The metal gems on here are fewer and farther between the increased reliance on J-Pop, and honestly most of this album sounds like the soundtrack to Beat Saber… but don’t sleep on truly interesting and fun tracks like “Elevator Girl” or “Night Night Burn!”

Norma Jean -- All Hail
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Norma JeanAll Hail

★★☆☆ All of the ferocity you’ve come to expect from these glitchy metalcore legends. What makes this album interesting is how the band simultaneously pummel the listener and hold their fire for better pacing throughout the album. The album’s back half is as compelling and brutal as its front half, not an easy feat for anyone in this genre.

Singularity -- Place Of Chains
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SingularityPlace Of Chains

★★☆☆ Symphonic tech death that feels like a cross between The Faceless and Fleshgod Apocalypse. When it’s on (“Sisyphean Cycle”, “Consume And Assume”, “Desmoterion”, it’s fucking on. Otherwise, the music here does trend toward the derivative or at least very familiar. That’s pretty much the worst criticism I can level against this otherwise epic and impressive shredfest of an album.