Lars Gotrich

Sometimes being a punk band means three fast power chords, and everyone's happy because three fast power chords are fundamentals of rock 'n' roll fun. Sometimes being a punk band means evolving from three fast power chords and hoping fans come along for a ride that might get darker and weirder.

Sometimes you don't know that you've missed something, like an old friend or a recipe tucked away in a cookbook, until it reappears just when it's needed. In August, I went to see Unwed Sailor's set in Washington, D.C., partly out of nostalgia. I came away not only fortified by the instrumental rock band's currency, but also reminded of primary songwriter Johnathon Ford's thoughtful, ardent bass playing; he also worked with the underrated Roadside Monument in the '90s. Without using words, Ford is a natural storyteller who doesn't force an emotional narrative.

Monotonic chants, 8-bit four-on-the-floor, MIDI strings... Get your keyboards at the ready, Metal Internet: It's "Quetzalcoatl" from Liturgy's third album, The Ark Work.

Some noise freaks will have you believe that if the music doesn't kill you, it's not extreme enough. Since 2000, the Brooklyn band Zs and its rotating cast could sometimes be accused of that mentality, as they've looked to the caustic examples of '60s free jazz, '80s No Wave and minimalism. Zs' members take grand leaps into music with no place to land, which is what makes the approachable (but no less challenging) Xe, especially its title track, the group's most radical statement.

At the center of Mind Over Mirrors' sound lies the Indian pedal harmonium, an instrument that elicits a piercing tone; it's at once devotional and alarming in its presence and volume. Jaime Fennelly typically surrounds these song-driven drones with tape loops and synthesizers, and on The Voice Calling, he's joined by Circuit Des Yeux's Haley Fohr, whose deep baritone voice could also be described as devotional and alarming. She's an incantatory force in "Calling Your Name."

It's been six years since Blacklisted's No One Deserves To Be Here More Than Me, a gritty hardcore record that outwardly plays with melody, noise and lunging tempos that felt truer to Soundgarden or Nirvana's Bleach than anything else. Now comes When People Grow, People Go, a record that leans more on the band's straight-ahead hardcore fury, but with experimentation lurking beneath the surface. Here's one of the album's major ragers, "Burnt Palms."

If wizards, battles and crunchy riffs roll your 20-sided die a critical hit, heed Visigoth's call. On its debut album, the Salt Lake City power-metal band looks to Manowar, Judas Priest and Manilla Road ("Necropolis" gets covered here) for that classic '80s sound, but the production is decidedly heavier, with mammoth choruses led by Jake Rogers' regal voice. Take a listen to the title track from The Revenant King and try not to raise your fists in triumph.

If you haven't been following along, know that between making gorgeously seething albums, Thou has a thing for cover songs: Soundgarden, several from

It's hard to shake the comparison at first: Bandit's "Losing in a Sense" owes its stylistic cues to Control-era Pedro the Lion, when David Bazan's righteous anger fueled some of his most satisfyingly damning work. Here, the ponderously plucked guitar strings form a minor chord progression and the drawn-out syllables are sung like a solemn hymn against a filmstrip's whirring clicks.

"I thought I'd kick you in the pants."

You could never fully steal the show when you're followed by the blown-out spectacle of Sun Ra Arkestra's Tiny Desk Concert. But the opening act kept jumping on the piano and nibbling on the set, literally pulling up the carpet and leaving "presents" on the floor. How could we not have them back? Did I mention they're hamsters?

We woke up to a world with a new D'Angelo album, his first in almost 15 years. For lovers of R&B and soul — hell, for lovers of music that transcends — this is unreal.

How's this for an opening line? "Gross. They say I ate you in the womb, that Mom had no room." After eight years of other projects, members joining Repulsion on tour, and vocalist/guitarist Marissa Martinez-Hoadley's sex-reassignment process, Cretin has crawled back out of its delightfully gore-obsessed grindcore hole for Stranger and the pit-baiting song "Ghost Of Teeth And Hair."

In the noise-improv trio Borbetomagus, Jim Sauter hooks bells with Don Dietrich to obliterate any notion you have of the saxophone (sorry, birthday boy Adolphe Sax). In Oneida and Man Forever, Kid Millions is a psychedelic shaman of the drums. In "Game Jump," Sauter issues a brief warning that sounds something like a zombie-infested cruise ship bellowing its final notes before it plummets into a blood-freezing ocean. Then it's on.

"Born To Ruin" contains one more letter than Bruce Springsteen's ode to the "runaway American dream." Whether or not the pun is intentional, Damian Master has been steadily ratcheting up the drama in his own riffs, hooks and production over three years of cassette releases under various guises (This Station Of Life, Aksumite, All Wave, the list goes on). But his solo project, A Pregnant Light, continues to be unbound by the metal elsewhere in his catalog.

When listening to Crying's "War Of Attrition," you might think: Which solo came first, the Game Boy or the guitar? With Ryan Galloway's outrageous, Thin Lizzy-esque power-pop hooks going note-for-note with his own series of ecstatic 8-bit blips — not to mention Nick Corbo's muscular drumming — the New York trio has already leaped past the charming chiptune pop-punk of last year's excellent Get Olde, collected now on a double EP with six new tracks.

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