Amaranthe - Amaranthe
You might as well start giving me shit for picking this album. Amaranthe's mix of modern MDM, metalcore, and power metal, all done with an extremely glossy sheen, is sure to turn off anyone looking for "deep" music, but if you want something to get stuck in your head for days, just listen to "Hunger." These guys are like the bastard child of Dead By April and Within Temptation, excelling at what each does best. The only missteps are the somewhat bland ballads.
Dirge Within - There Will Be Blood
Remember the bands Soil and The Blank Theory from the early 2000s? Yeah, that's right, those crappy nu-metal bands. Well, Dirge Within contains a couple of members from those bands, so you can only guess what to expect, right? WRONG. This is far from nu-metal schlock. Instead you'll find that There Will Be Blood treads much closer to the groove metal you'd hear from God Forbid, Shadows Fall, or even Machine Head. There's a little bit of metalcore here and there (mostly in the double bass rolls and occasional breakdown), but for the most part it's simply well executed groove metal with just the right mix of riffing, solos, and solid songwriting.
Leech - If We Get There One Day, Would You Please Open the Gates?
Yes, the album name is a bit pretentious. Yes, Leech are a long-winded post-rock band. Yes, they strive to be as epic as Explosions in the Sky (but not quite as epic as Godspeed You Black Emperor). Yes, you will traverse numerous peaks and valleys throughout each song. Yes, there is a lot to take in during a single sitting. And, yes, most importantly, you will love every last damn minute of it.
A Whisper in the Noise - To Forget
A Whisper in the Noise have been a Minnesota band perpetually on my radar. Having existed since the early 2000s, they've perfected their band of slowcore, ambient, post-rock-influenced art rock. I've always had trouble describing their sound, but at the core their breed of music is focused on the mellow, introspective side of things… perhaps something like an entire album of The Dear Hunter's mellowest works, but put through a Sigur Ros filter and given a significant tempo downshift.
Solitude - Tied to the Anchor
Bullet For My Valentine's debut album Poison was a spectacular blend of Metallica influences with a lot of modern metalcore appeal. I played that album to death. It's unfortunate that their follow up albums were utter balls. But that's where Solitude comes in to play. Tied to the Anchor feels like the sequel to Poison. Solitude may not have been trying to be Bullet For My Valentine Version 2.0, but when you listen to this album, you won't be able to think of anything else. Considering how much I miss the early BFMV sound, though, this is far from a criticism.
Rusko - Songs
I know Dylan mentioned Rusko in his dubstep article, but I think he needs another mention, especially to have you take note of his latest release,Songs. This album sees Rusko going a little more in the dance direction, but there are still the trademarks of dubstep found throughout. Although, to set your expectations, don't go looking for tons of drops and brostep tendencies. Those elements are there, but are metered between many other influences.
Poets of the Fall - Temple of Thought
Most alternative rock that I enjoy leans in the "progressive" direction. However, in this case, Poets of the Fall play a very straight forward style of modern rock with some pop leanings here and there. Although, for as much as I enjoy this album, I have a hard time placing the influences (which is probably why I actually enjoy it). You could think of a slightly less upbeat Mae or a lesser hard-rock oriented Anberlin… but neither of those comparisons really does the band justice. Each song is very well crafted and thought out, and I feel like the band is very comfortable in their own skin since their sound is so natural feeling; not once do I ever feel like the band is forcing things.
Make Me Famous - It's Now or Never
This is really a band I should hate… vehemently. They play trendy keyboard infused deathcore. They ape The Devil Wears Prada a little too heavily at times. The singer sometimes feels like he's auditioning for Emarosa. There's more breakdowns than I know what to do with. The band name is terrible. The list goes on and on. But, the fact remains, I keep listening. Even though I logically should be turning the album off, I keep it on, I nod my head, I bounce my legs… I oddly feel like I'm enjoying the experience… but I shouldn't be… yet I am… help?
All Else Fails - Ruins Punk for Everyone
My love of cover songs raises its head once again. Here we see metalcore band All Else Fails providing their take on a number of punk songs. They show they have an uncanny ability to mimic the bands they cover, paying a nice homage to each, while not getting too experimental. They do a pretty spot-on cover of Type O Negative's "I Don't Wanna Be Me" that is nearly as good as the original. They put some life into "The Meaning of Life" from The Offspring. And they show their appreciation of 90's punk with various covers of Good Riddance, Bad Religion, Milencolin, andAlkaline Trio. All in all, this is a great covers album that doesn't feel cheesy or trite. Instead it feels like a nice tribute to those who have influenced the band.
Cliff Lin - This Is War
Finally. This is a stellar marrying of industrial, electronics (with some dubstep), soundtrack aesthetics, and a sense of epic grandeur--all this while still sporting track lengths usually in the 2-3 minute range. Since he's had a lot of experience creating music for movie trailers and TV spots, this would seem only natural, but his compositions are great to listen to even without the backing images.