Essence - The Defining Elements
At a very basic level, you can look at this album as an intro, an interlude, and 7 tracks of August Burns Red worship and you wouldn't be wrong. Not many metalcore bands trying their hand at the ABR style of metalcore do it very well. Essence, on the other hand, does. And that's all you need to know. If you want quality metalcore, here's an album for you.
Katabatic - Heavy Water
Any band that can bring to mind Isis in any way is going to get me to turn my ear their way. Katabatic evoke some Isis moments as they craft a mixture of atmospheric sludge with some post-rock leanings. The majority of these 7 tracks churn and ooze their way through your speakers, methodically pulsing and riffing as they move from beginning to end. At times it also almost feels like there's an upbeat undercurrent behind some of the band's riffs, but it is usually crushed under the weight of the band's thick wall of sound.
Landscapes - Life Gone Wrong
I really miss Modern Life Is War. They called it quits to soon. Luckily you can hear the echoes of their brand of hardcore in bands like Landscapes. This entire album is played at the mid-tempo, boiling-under-the-surface pace that MLIW was known for. You can also taste a bit of Defeater coming through from time to time. The emotional punch that this album packs into 30 minutes is stunning. Hardcore fanatics should not skip this album.
El-P - Cancer 4 Cure
This is a great year for experimental hip-hop with releases from both Aesop Rock and El-P. Unlike Rock's latest, which was laser focused on letting Rock's rhymes take center stage, Cancer 4 Cure is more so about big, booming beats and creative song structures. El-P still puts his flow on full display, but it isn't always the center focus, making many of the songs to be found extremely dynamic. Hip-hop fans, this is a can't miss album that you must check out.
Cypress Hill & Rusko - Cypress X Rusko
I really should hate this, and I'm sure most of you will actually hate this, but if you want some wobbly, brostepping hip-hop, you could do worse. The combo of pot-obsessed Cypress Hill and dubstep artist Rusko should have failed miserably, but if you find yourself looking for something that's banging to hammer through your headphones while hitting the gym, this should do. I'd actually be interested to see a full album collaboration between these two.
Scott Kelly - The Forgiven Ghost in Me
Kelly is known to most as being the voice of the legendary Neurosis, but he has a solo career that is just as dark, but not nearly as heavy. The Forgiven Ghost in Me is Kelly's third solo album, and it finds him continuing to craft haunting and depressing contemporary folk songs. These songs are sparse, desert-like affairs, but are so expertly put together that there is no way they won't elicit a sense of heartbreak and world-weariness inside of you.
Glass Cloud - The Royal Thousand
Here's a novel combination--post-hardcore, djent, and some prog metal. And, believe it or not, it actually appears to work! This album swings from moments that are more aggressive than Periphery's heaviest moments to post-hardcore passages that wouldn't sound out of place alongside something from Hands Like Houses. There's a bit more leaning on the heavier side of the spectrum, but the lighter moments are not simply there to give you a break--they're actually very well done and fit within the structures of the various songs.
Inborn Suffering - Regression to Nothingness
Death/doom metal is a tough genre to get into. You usually need lots of patience, have to have an appreciation for the genre's aesthetic, and you can't be scared away by wails, shrieks, and tempos slower than nearly any other genre. I don't often possess those traits, so it's a special death/doom album that can capture my attention. Inborn Suffering, despite most of their songs delving into 10+ minute territory, don't wear out their welcome. It's most likely due to their propensity to simply stretch and slow down the death/doom approach of band like Ghost Brigade orSwallow the Sun instead of falling into the trappings of adding in some funeral doom influences. Whatever it is, this is a spectacular death/doom metal album.
While She Sleeps - This Is the Six
This was a surprisingly release in that it made me fondly remember some of the things I loved about listening to bands like Trivium (before they turned into horrible Metallica wannabes), Unearth, Sanctity, and early As I Lay Dying--raspy vocals, full-on attacks on your eardrums, and a sense of genuine aggression. Whereas so many bands today seem to fake the metalcore approach (and you can hear the fakeness in most bands if you listen for it), this album feels aggressive with a purpose. The couple of instrumentals are really the only downside to an otherwise stellar metalcore album.
Polarization - Chasing the Light
The best way to describe this album is to say that this is very similar to what a combination of an instrumental version of TesseracT plus Dan Dankmeyer plus a bit of Paul Wardingham would sound like. If your tastes are anything like mine, simply mentioning those three names together should have you salivating. Chasing the Light is exactly what you'd expect when thinking of those names and the, by now, well-established djent template. It's 11 prime cuts of djent goodness!