If there's any thread running through this month's batch of new metal albums, it's that perhaps the three biggest names here -- Down, Crowbar, and (with their first new studio album in 14 years) Eyehategod -- all come from New Orleans. That's no doubt newsworthy enough for some, and thrilling for those devoted to so-called Southern sludge, a doom metal offshoot with more gunk and mosh but less groove and tune. Truth is, though, those three albums are actually some of the less compelling ones in this pile. The most intriguing come mainly from Europe.
That'd include two decades-under-the-radar gangs from Germany (super-melodic Fulda power metal tricksters Edguy, super-convoluted Berlin prog-metal scientists Mekong Delta) and two 21st century-born outfits from Greece (epic Athens fantasy warriors Battleroar, Macedonia black metal experimentalists Hail Spirit Noir), plus bands representing Madrid, Spain (lo-fi thrash Nigromante); Gothenburg, Sweden (meat-and-potatoes Mustasch); Sussex, England (boogie monsters Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell); and Moscow, Russia (forest-folking Arkona).
Two of the four remaining American bands in this go-round -- New York's ageless Swans and Detroit up-and-comers Protomartyr -- play noise-leaning styles that descend from early '80s post-punk but incidentally skirt metal sonics. Which leaves the chopsy L.A. death-thrash of Exmortus and split-second Jersey grindcore of Gridlink. So whether you sludge or you don't, there's plenty here to sink your canines, incisors, molars, fangs and/or tusks into.