Personnel: Ian Bearer (vocals); Lucas Mann (guitar, synthesizer); Joel Omans (guitar); Aaron Kitcher (drums).
Audio Mixer: Brette Ciamarra.
Recording information: Studio 344.
Though wildly successful, there are few metal acts as polarizing as the Bay Area's self-proclaimed "aliencore" band Rings of Saturn. Their sci-fi and video game soundtrack-inspired music is so hyper-technical and breakdowns so prevalent that they have been accused of appending their actual musical abilities by digital means -- an unforgivable offense in heavy metal circles. Lugal Ki En is the act's third full-length and follows after the manic, breakneck sound of 2013's wildly popular Dingir. The production is easily as clean -- if not more so -- and the attack more aggressive and ornate. There are many more progressive elements introduced in the no less cranked riffs and almost inhuman blastbeats. More attention has been paid to the "construction" of songs. The guitar solos and riffs are brighter than on Dingir, which is not to say they are less brutal; they're just knottier and less jarring overall. "Desolate Paradise" and "Natural Selection" are two examples. "Infused," led by percussion and basslines and augmented by scorching ten-string guitar workouts, is more unhinged, and is one of the album's standout cuts, along with the more modal and primeval "Godless Times." Lugal Ki En will likely delight an already rabidly faithful fan base and new listeners just coming to extreme music, while doing little to win over skeptics. ~ Thom Jurek