Saor – Guardians

After a two year absence, Saor returns with their trademark Celtic melodies in Guardians. Those concerned about a change in formula from the superlative Roots and Aura need not be alarmed. The sound is a bit more polished, but in essence, the song remains the same. The familiar flutes, violins, and guitars of Saor have returned in Andy Marshall’s labor of love to the Scottish Highlands.

Red Fang – Only Ghosts

In 2013, fresh into high school and edging out of his interest in death metal, a young Jake Tiernan was gifted a $20 iTunes gift card for Christmas by his old sister. At the time, $20 was a lot of money for him to spend on a site like iTunes, and he was naturally thrilled, questioning what he could possibly buy with his newly acquired wealth. He searched for hours, listening and re-listening to every possible Relapse Records sampler and new album to find one that particularly caught his attention until he finally stumbled upon a monster-riff unlike he had ever heard. This riff was “Blood Like Cream” by Red Fang and inspired the purchase of their last album, Whales And Leeches, and a meticulous love affair for one of stoner metal’s finest institutions. Now, almost 4 years later, that love burns strong still and provides an interesting dynamic when listening to the band’s most recent offering, Only Ghosts.

Destrage – A Means To No End

Leave it to Italy to bring us a band like Destrage. With their music striking an impossibly fine balance between relentless progressive metal and all sorts of silliness, the band blew us away with 2014’s Are You Kidding Me? No, somehow keeping up an almost playful sense through the album while simultaneously…

Dark Tranquillity – Atoma

How does a band keep their sound consistent yet fresh after 20+ years of active releases? Especially when the sound is something relatively limited and simple. In Flames clearly don’t have the right answer. Their fellow townmates, Dark Tranquillity, just might. Over the years, the Gothenburg outlet has remained relatively consistent in tone and even though they’ve gone through three distinct eras, they maintained a common thread through them all. While not every Dark Tranquillity album was an instant hit, especially a couple of their more recent ones, somehow with their 11th release Atoma they have rediscovered their spark. Both a return to form and a push forward, this album shows that this particular brand of Swedish melodeath still has more to offer.

Whores. – Gold

To fully play noise rock, a certain aesthetic lyricism is required, even grimier than the music that surrounds and drives it. Initially, this lyricism was pioneered by the slacker-by-way-of-burn-out California hardcore “legends” Flipper, as well as the often perverse and sadistic Big Black. The two acts, stylistically different in many ways, drew a certain kind of glee in exploring the smut that truly made up the average human being, and consistently reflected that lyrically. These lyrics, in addition to the music, supplied a certain attitude to noise rock that became as essential to the genre as the music itself. Unfortunately, this attitude is not always easy to emulate, and has led to an aggressive number of hopeful noise rock bands who simply cannot pull off the swagger. Luckily for us, however, Whores. is not one of those bands, but instead pulls off the grime of noise rock with flying colors.

Homewrecker – Extinction By Design

Thrown into a fit of rage. Your blood starts to boil. Your head bangs and the riffs are smashed against whatever part of your brain makes you a metalhead. Ushering in decades of death metal influence, from the seamless slams of Devourment to the standard tremolo pick death metal riff (you know the one), the hardcore band of old washes away against the new death metal landscape Homewrecker has presented. Extinction By Design sees a band not graduate from hardcore, but rather shift gears in the same sonic vehicle to come into their own. This transition has long since been on the horizon. Their incredible mix of powerviolence, hardcore, death metal and grind on Worms and Dirt, and the similarly sounding Circle of Death slowly built towards this death metal iteration of the band. This change was even more evident when we consider that side project Scorched are OSDM worship and splits albums with similar new death metal acts such as Gatecreeper. Th question, however, remains: does this album pay off by going all in on death metal ? Is this even the same band and is their new sound, well, good?

Alcest – Kodama

Alcest’s Kodama is a perfect example of fluidity. Coming hot off the heels of Shelter, a divisive release which saw the band perform a sharp turn towards the more mellow side of their music, it displays an astonishing ability to borrow what it needs from the past while forging on towards the future. It is essentially a juxtaposition of Shelter unto their previous albums, borrowing what it needs from all eras of the band’s existence and creating something new from the sum of their parts. Thus, it is shoegaze, black metal, folk metal and much more, all blended with a surprising degree of poise into something that works

Serpentine Dominion – Serpentine Dominion

Supergroups are almost always a tricky endeavor. It’s inevitably impossible to not have incredible expectations attached to them, especially when they involve members of some of Metal Blade Records’ biggest acts like Killswitch Engage, Cannibal Corpse, and The Black Dahlia Murder. Add to that the fact that Serpentine Dominion has been in talks for almost five years now in some shape or form, and it’d seem almost impossible for this project to live up to the expectations fans have built up for it. Thankfully, this self-titled debut doesn’t falter and delivers a concise yet brutally-appropriate slab of melodic death metal that feels like each of these three musicians’ best work in quite some time.

Dance Gavin Dance – Mothership

There are are a handful of bands that somehow always manage to top their previous output with their latest output. These rare beasts push onward and upward with their new material without compromising a core-familiarity that’s been woven throughout their music since the start. With each album release it’s becoming apparent that Dance Gavin Dance are a part of this laudable group. After their last album Instant Gratification, Dance Gavin Dance could have gone anywhere and it more than likely would have been well received. luckily they chose to go above and beyond and release one of the best albums of their entire career, Mothership.

Testament – Brotherhood Of The Snake

Testament’s new album, Brotherhood Of The Snake, is likely to please the faithful and even more likely to be ignored by anyone else. While the band delivers typically strong riffs and decent vocal melodies, there is nothing particularly new or groundbreaking. It is, not surprisingly to those who have followed the band for decades, simply another Testament album.