Shepherd of Fire
Label: Warner Records
It's getting harder to deny that these big-selling Californians are a real metal band. Pop-punk and metalcore leanings long behind them, their sixth full-length -- following up 2010's chart-topping Nightmare -- aims for full-on trad power-metal mythopoeia. Whether they pull it off is another question: Momentum, groove and chops aren't their strong suits. But the über-gothic stained-glass-window metal of "Requiem" and attempt at "Orgasmatron"-style evil-incarnate narration in "Coming Home" are certainly ambitious. Closing epic "Acid Rain" could almost pass for a Gn'R Use Your Illusion outtake.