Sevendust -- All I See Is War
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SevendustAll I See Is War

★★☆☆ After years of defending Sevendust, this album from them is finally a little more Nickelbackish than I’d like to admit. The big change is the swapping out of actual riffs for DR5-crushed walls of tone, which lays bare some fairly pedestrian songwriting otherwise. At least Lajon Witherspoon continues to deliver world-class vocals.

The Armed -- Only Love
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The ArmedOnly Love

★★☆☆ Given my beloved The Armed the benefit of the doubt, this is definitely some next-level noise art. However, the dearth of actual tunes here is notable, and a detriment to the album. I’ll listen to it again to see if it grabs me any more, but after my first listen, I’m not (yet?) feeling it.

Primordial -- Exile Among The Ruins
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PrimordialExile Among The Ruins

★★☆☆ Muddy and meandering, this is a surprisingly limp effort from a band known for energetic excellence. The songs here feel underedited, in terms of musical refinement, emotional resonance, or even just plain length. And the shame of it is that, even with those knocks, you can still get a sense of what might have been: a unique, surefooted, melancholic masterwork.

Kalmah -- Palo
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KalmahPalo

★★☆☆ COOOOOOKIEEEEEEEEEEE! All kidding aside, it was perhaps a tactical mistake for Kalmah to start their latest melodeath album with such a seemingly stereotypical beerhall tune, as that obscures the vitality and innovation found throughout the subsequent tracks. That said, the hits are also surrounded by a few duds and headscratchers.

Kamelot -- The Shadow Theory
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KamelotThe Shadow Theory

★★☆☆ Absolutely no surprises here: this is textbook power metal, with standout vocals from Tommy Karevik, of course, but not much else to stick in one’s memory. There’s nothing here that I would remotely think of as “bad”… also but nothing here to really stir anyone’s blood.

The Crown -- Cobra Speed Venom
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The CrownCobra Speed Venom

★★☆☆ This feels like a cross between vintage ATG and vintage The Haunted: speedy, deathy, high-energy, and a bit dated, more stubbornly old-school thrash than rethrash. The riffs are, on the whole, as solid as the playing but far from memorable. Still, this’ll likely lure a begrudging headbob out of you.