Night of the Hammer
Label: Profound Lore
Though long known to exhibit early black metal influences, on their fifth album since 1997, this Chicago quartet limits such impurities to the occasional filthy guitar tone, give or take "Not Your Night," when master-of-many-instruments Chris Black gets his growl on. Usually he's melodic, relating bad dreams about being lost in a firm, clear voice while guitarists Matt Johnsen and Bill Palko exchange tasty Lizzy/Maiden leads. Scott Haskitt's acoustic jangles a few times too, most memorably in the Celtic-harmonized "One-Eyed Sister," which seems to concern a Cyclops girl in a hospital corridor.