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Torche used to consider themselves "thunder rock," but given what's going on in Meanderthal, maybe they should start calling themselves "new pop metal." On their second album (and first for Hydra Head Records), they don't disregard the bombastic sludge that they're best known for; instead, they cut their tar with all sorts of non-metallic things. For those that don't mind unforgiving leaden slabs like "Amnesian" and the epic title track sharing space with tracks that have melodies reminiscent of the work of folks like Josh Homme and Dave Grohl, it just means there'll be fewer assholes in the mosh pit. -- David Raposa
Life...The Best Game in Town
Though Life…The Best Game in Town is the sixth album from Georgia's Harvey Milk in 16 years, it's the band's first output with former Earth/High on Fire/Melvins free agent Joe Preston alternating between bass and guitar. It's also the legendary unit's most cohesive statement to date, a dynamic exploration and distillation of the versatility that's long been Harvey Milk's touchstone. Thick-tongued, staggering Southern stoner metal ("Decades") sidles up to a sprawling art-metal ("Death Goes to the Winner"); a streamlined heavy pop number ("Motown") rides a glorious riff next to a beefy Fear cover; there's a ballad that re-breaks the blues and your feelings ("Roses") and a rocker that uses Preston's bass like an electric sledgehammer ("Skull Socks & Rope Shoes"). Life can be as playful as it can be punishing, as large as it can be lean, changing moods and modes at a moment's notice. It's the work of a band seasoned enough to get it right but smart enough to try and fuck it up again. -- Grayson Currin