[Click on band name for samples and more info]
Among Gods - Monument (PRC)
The three guys who make up this Norwegian outfit spend their time in other bands ranging from doom to melodic death to black metal, so it's not surprising to hear elements of each included on their second album. From single note doom riffs to thrashy, blast beat-infused sections, Monument has a little bit for everyone. Throughout, the trio remains cohesive and maintains a creepy, dark vibe. This album actually contains some of the best riffs I've heard so far this year, making up for the atonal vocals and questionable production, which was probably intentional.
Emptiness - Nothing But The Whole (Dark Descent)
A couple dudes from Enthroned are back with the second release from their side project, conjuring up a sinister blackened death metal sound. I particularly enjoy some of the desolate soundscapes contained on Nothing But The Whole, but the Belgian quartet is at their best when they pick up the tempo and crush the listener's skull. The buzzing guitars mix well with the black metal vocals and the clean interludes add a nice dimension to some tracks. This is pretty accessible for something in the black metal vein and it actually lured me in with it's doom-like vibe.
Dead Congregation - Promulgation Of The Fall (Profound Lore)
I'm not generally into traditional death metal, but there are enough interesting moments on Dead Congregation's second album to keep my attention. It' been 6 years since the Greek quartet released their highly acclaimed debut, and it appears that the boys have honed their chops significantly. The death metal parts are pretty straightforward, but some of the intros and interludes are what set this release apart from the rest of the genre. Haunting guitar melodies pave the way for the crushing brutality that follows and when these guys slow down and groove on a killer riff, there's no way you're not banging your head.
Serpent Skies - A Claim For Reality (Sliptrick)
It's pretty apparent right off the bat that this Swedish quintet is obsessed with In Flames. From the Reroute To Remain-esque staccato riffing on the album opener to the Whoracle-esque spoken vocals in later tracks, Serpent Skies manages to replicate the tried and true Gothenburg sound to a tee. Sometimes the hero worship goes a little overboard, such as the direct rip-off guitar melody line in the second track. However, since In Flames is a complete disaster these days, it's nice that someone picked up where they left off. If you dug that mid-career In Flames stuff as much as I did, you'll find plenty to like on A Claim to Reality.