Catalyst – A Different Painting For A New World (progressive tech death)
I was pretty damn impressed by Catalyst's debut record The Great Purpose of the Lords back in 2019 and its follow-up only solidifies my sentiment that they "put many of progressive and technical death metal’s reigning overlords to shame." The similarities to prog-tech stalwarts like Death and Obscura remain in tact, but there's also a lot more emphasis on brutality and groove this time around, along with added symphonic and folk-sounding sections that bring to mind Blog-favourites Gods of Eden amid all the intensity. Also, I'm pretty sure the album title is a Dark Souls reference.
In a year already stacked with outstanding tech-death releases, A Different Painting For A New World is one of the most ambitious and easily one of the best.
Alter Bridge – Pawns & Kings (heavy metal, alt metal)
Alter Bridge's popularity has always baffled me a bit, although it wouldn't if they'd released more albums like. Pawns & Kings is the best album by the band (formerly known as Creed) have put out since at least 2013's Fortress and easily one of the strongest of their whole career, for two main reasons; Firstly, it's ten tracks instead of thirteen or fourteen, making it their their most concise and focused effort to date, but mostly it's because of the sheer riffage Mark Tremonti brings to the table.
Tremonti's solo game is consistently strong and he always manages to drop a few massive stonkers per record, but he's reached a whole new level here. Every single track on Pawns & Kings is driven by a massive, driving riff, that often reminds me of peak Black Label Society-era Zakk Wylde, but also occasionally (but distinctly) dips into the Meshuggah and Gojira playbook as well. It really is quite striking that a band this "mainstream" have delivered an album this heavy and I'd love to see them push further down this path.
Sleeping With Sirens – Complete Collapse (post hardcore, screamo)
Sleeping With Sirens are a band I never bothered even giving the time of day to previously, based on, well... *gestures broadly at everything*. A bunch of the singles for Complete Collapse caught my ear though and, having gone back and checked out some of their early stuff, I'm pleasantly surprised to discover that they're a much better and more interesting band than I'd expected. As with Alter Bridge, this latest release is a much heavier and more consistent record than it seems like Sleeping With Sirens have put out in some time and just goes to show that they really are a cut above their more justifiably dismissed peers.
I realise Sleeping With Sirens aren't the coolest band to be recommending around these parts, but good music is good music and I'd like to cash in some of the cred I bought with that Catalyst recommendation above and recommend you check out this one as well, especially if you've been digging what Bring Me the Horizon, Underoath and even Coheed and Cambria have been doing lately.