If you're new to the Arsies, you'd be forgiven for thinking that some of these albums are unworthy contenders. That's very much not the case — each and every album on this list is a winner in its own right, and worthy of at least one solid listen-through. And often, that makes for difficult choices early on.
Take today's battle, for example. The latest offering by Baroness has gotten a lot of enthusiastic press over the past few months, and Yellow & Green certainly deserves it. It's an ambitious work, a double album that continues the band's direction from their previous Blue Album into mellow, melodic sludge. There's a surprising lack of filler on an album of this size, and songs like March To The Sea are every bit as epic and self-assured as anything the band's ever done. If anything, my gripe about Yellow & Green is that it's just too mellow. The closest you get to headbanging with this album is a gentle sway.
Not so with Awakened, As I Lay Dying's sixth studio album. It's satisfyingly brutal, from start to finish. Coming from a genre that's often formulaic, this As I Lay Dying album is more than just metalcore-by-the-numbers, breaking away from convention on tracks like Wasted Words. And through it all, the band just rocks out. By itself, the Baroness is an excellent piece of rock. But it cannot compare to the metal mayhem of Awakened. Congrats to As I Lay Dying! They'll go on to the next round, challenging Meshuggah in three weeks.
In the meantime, tomorrow we pit God Forbid against the oddly-named Dew-Scented.