Lowest Creature - Sacrilegious Pain (2019)
4/5 stars. Lowest Creature play a straightforward style of metal that sees compelling mid-tempo thrash and crossover riffs bolted together into uncomplicated verse/chorus structures, driven in alternating fits by D-beats and thrash-style drumming, with well-placed uptempo sections, hangs and sick mosh parts to build and release tension. Well-done thrash leads and the occasional brief, oddish "Bay Area sophomore album" progression provide punctuation where needed. Production is typical for this style: a tad raw-and-dirty (suitably so) with a fair bit of reverb, which provides the aural sense of distance common to crossover. Vocals are raw, dirtyish hardcore shouts, really reminiscent of early Black Breath.
Standout tracks: Preachers Pedestal, Let the Darkness Swallow Me Whole, Spiritual Hypocrisy.
Deathswarm - Shadowlands of Darkness (2019)
4/5 stars. First LP from the Swedish death metal band Deathswarm, formed by members of Sarcasm. This is nicely-done death metal that vacillates somewhat schizophrenically between cavernous, Autopsyesque deathdoom and more uptempo old-school Swedish death metal, with the occasional thrashy chug or bit of somber melodicism (read: Bolt Thrower riff). Sounds like fairly traditional old-school Swedish death metal with more cavernous vocals and a dirtier production.
Standout tracks: Let the Flames Devour, Tomb of the Universe, We Fade Away at Dawn.
Rammstein - s/t (2019)
4/5 stars. First album in ten years from Germany's Rammstein, a pioneering Neue Deutsche Härte band that combined the distorted-guitar-driven essence of metal, Euro dance beats, a distinctive hyper-enunciated vocal style, and synths, sampling and other Industrial elements to form what has been referred to as Tanz Metal. To my ears, this LP contains some of their best work (Deutschland, Radio, Auslaender) as well as Till Lindemann's most demented studio vocal performance to date (Puppe). The über-epic opening track Deutschland, I'd go so far as to say, is my favorite Rammstein song of all time at this point, and the remainder of the album acquits itself very well, offering stylistic glimpses of different eras of the band's history. Weit Weg in particular I will cite as an example of their early-found ability to use a base, crass vignette or metaphor to convey an overwhelmingly poignant, emotionally powerful vision; it is also an excellent example of their thematic use of stirring synths to tie the parts of a song together.
Meticulously crafted, sonically stunning, lyrically ingenious.
Standout tracks: Deutschland, Radio, Auslaender.
Beheaded - Only Death Can Save You (2019)
3.5/5 stars. 6th LP from veteran Maltese death metallers Beheaded. Well-done, if a bit uneven, mid/up-tempo modern brutal/techish death metal with a propensity for groove, and thrashy chugs and sludgy passages for contrast. Drumwork stands out, fluidly using multiple tropes in the same structure; Nile-esque, epic-feeling multi-tempo rolling double bass under slower riffing is common.
Standout Tracks: Evil Be to Him Who Evil Seeks, Embrace Your Messiah.
Needless - Heresy (2019)
4/5 stars. Ace debut LP from Hungary! Asymmetric death metal song structures built from hyperspace Vektor-like tech thrash, macabre black/death riffs and sick, expertly-placed, neck-snapping mid-tempo thrash chugs, all supported by fluid trad/thrash drumming, double-bass and bits of blast. Lots of tasty, varied leads and some effective acoustic bits. Develops pervading, contrasting Exotic and Outer Space atmospheres, both driven primarily by the leadwork. Technicality shows both in some of the riffing and in periodic use of odd time signatures (usually in interlude or bridge passages). Combines a lot of different influences really well. Nice big production to boot.
Standout tracks: The Monolith, Starcult, Marked By a Black Sigil.