Given the quite possibly unprecedented deluge of metal booked at SXSW this month (I live in Austin, where the annual festival of hype and branding and occasional intriguing music is impossible to ignore), the genre seems in pretty darn healthy shape, in no danger of disappearing even if much of the more shoegazer-y, tastemaker-approved stuff lately feels designed to evaporate upon eardrum contact. Really, though, anybody who tells you all metal sounds the same nowadays hasn't paid much attention these past few years.
That said, our March march through the best new metal albums might lean slightly toward the trad end of the spectrum. The top three, especially, revel in ye olde stoner or power stylings, while the next two engage in at least borderline atmospheric ways with acid-rock-vintage psychedelicosis, and further down are a couple selections from actual survivors of the hair metal era. There's some alt and industrial weirdness, too. Geographical roll call: Sweden, Texas, Massachusetts, Finland, New York, Maryland, Switzerland, Michigan, Germany, California. Little if any Cookie Monster vocalizing this time out -- but that doesn't mean they don't like cookies!