The Ocean -- Phanerozoic I_ Palaezoic
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The OceanPhanerozoic I: Palaezoic

★★☆☆ While I applaud Robin Staps and his voracious creativity, this time around the result feels less focused and enthralling. The music starts out in solidly familiar territory, but then veers into post-metal, sounding at times like Deftones and A Perfect Circle. You would think this would be a good thing; I’m just not sure it is.

Revocation -- The Outer Ones
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RevocationThe Outer Ones

★★☆☆ On one level, this is every bit what you’d expect from a Revocation album: unabashed virtuosity in the most fun metal ways imaginable. On another level, the album laudably goes for a wide assortment of musical genres (rethrash, death metal, grind), but does not particularly stick this landings very well.

Haken -- Vector
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HakenVector

★★☆☆ It’s a weird thing to hear a band try to be simultaneously accessible and fucking weird. In Haken’s hands, it comes across like an awkward fusion of Leprous and Muse. By now, the band have made the logical evolution from 80s-inspired prog metal to a metal-and-synthwave melange of influences. Just about the solitary cohesive element here is almost pathological usage of odd time signatures, which sometimes work out just fine, but often wind up euthanizing the material’s sense of flow or momentum.

YOB -- Our Raw Heart
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YOBOur Raw Heart

★★☆☆ YOB’s vocals are much improved this time around, but the band’s plodding stoner metal is as deliberate and singleminded as ever. On some tracks, like “Beauty In Falling Leaves,” this pays off. For other tracks, the material feels underdeveloped, evincing a run-this-one-riff-into-the-ground approach.

Alice In Chains -- Rainier Fog
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Alice In ChainsRainier Fog

★★☆☆ I give props to AIC for continuing to be even halfway relevant. And this album has more grit and snarl than one would reasonably expect from the band. And there are a number of very cool riffs and motifs throughout the album. The pity is that, at the same time, the songs here feel/sound like they’re under a thick blanket.

Obscura -- Diluvium
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ObscuraDiluvium

★★☆☆ Obscura have teetered over into full-blown Cynic mode. Gone is the hitherto casual-at-best relationship the band had with song structure. Instead, “Diluvium” is an all-you-can-eat riff salad bar, with not much deference given to pacing or flow. The band are great at what they do, but this is one trying listen.

Aborted -- TerrorVision
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AbortedTerrorVision

★★☆☆ This is as over-the-top as anything Aborted have ever given us. It’s also all over the fucking map, which is problematic. The band is at their best when they hew closely to their technical grindcore wheelhouse, but there’s enough other stuff in here to dilute the former’s efficacy.