KTEP - El Paso, Texas

Lars Gotrich

Maybe it goes without saying, but if you're a musician and have time to kill on the road, you're going to hit up a record store in town. In Austin, Texas, there are many, many options to throw down cash for vinyl, and for Waxahatchee's Katie Crutchfield, her favorite record store is End of an Ear.

Within the first minute, "War is a Romance" gives you everything you need to know if you're going to be onboard with Wild Throne: a deranged hardcore twang a la Converge, a galloping Motörhead riff, fusion-y Mars Volta-style guitar acrobatics — oh, and a whistle. And then there's Josh Holland's voice yelping and squealing and scaling burning buildings with insane octave jumps.

With just an electric guitar and bass, Girlpool inhabits an entire ecosystem in the space of a bedroom. The single-note melodies are simple and quiet; their instruments are cheap, yet full of character. "Ideal World" comes from the duo's debut album, Before The World Was Big.

Bosse-de-Nage's III was one of 2012's most exhilarating black-metal albums, with movement that lunged from ponderous post-rock to searing screamo mania without inhibition, even if it paradoxically came from an anxious state of mind. The Bay Area band's fourth full-length album (and first that isn't self-titled), All Fours, continues on that path, but somehow sounds darker and more vicious in its attack. Listen to the explosive "A Subtle Change."

There was a time in '90s hardcore when slam-dancing riffs gave way to melody and tempos that swayed like a ship at sea, confusing pit rituals in the process. Quicksand's Manic Compression and Jawbox's For Your Own Special Sweetheart are just a couple examples of this evolution, and it's somewhere in that sound that we find the Bay Area band Never Young.

In the land grab that was the early '90s Seattle grunge scene, TAD was the hard rock band caught up in the groundswell. And how could you miss them? Bummer melodies cloaked in giant riffs, a juvenile sense of humor (see: God's Balls, 8-Way Santa) and the larger-than-life frontman Tad Doyle. More than most of their peers, the band made records that hold up even if major labels dropped them left and right. Six years in the making, Doyle returns triumphant with Brothers of the Sonic Cloth and one of the most satisfying and heaviest doom metal records in years.

Chris Weisman's songs shouldn't work. Or, at the very least, the massive volume and musical limits the Battleboro, Vt., singer places on his songs shouldn't work.

Watch just about any video where Mylets' Henry Kohen is performing his guitar-looping one-man-band wizardry live, and it's like that one scene in Back To The Future III when Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen shoots at the floor, yells "dance!" and Marty McFly hops around until — much to the befuddlement of Tannen — he straight-up moonwalks.

Rock 'n' roll can be a lot of things — dangerous, sexy, stupid — but Pile's rock 'n' roll is deranged. The Boston band delights in riffs that pop wheelies off the side of cliffs, the careening croon and yelp of Rick Maguire, and a pummeling punk rhythm section that eggs it all on. On its fifth album, You're Better Than This, Pile gives its grinning bombast some room to build, as heard in the side-eyed waltz of "Mr. Fish."

Props to a metal band that fully acknowledges its lineage: Philadelphia's Crypt Sermon knows it couldn't exist without Candlemass, Solitude Aeturnus and Dio-era Black Sabbath. On its debut album, Out Of The Garden, the band quickly gets into the business of making majestic doom metal that honors its forebears. Just listen to the hefty "Will Of The Ancient Call."

Nostalgia is a polar bear in the wild — warm and fuzzy from a distance, terrifying once the reality of its power confronts you. In her music as Ô Paon and in her graphic novels, the Anacortes, Wash.-based Geneviève Castrée often writes about the things that haunt her: violence, alienation, greed. With the loosely conceptual Fleuve, Castrée and her characters grapple with alienation from a place and time — specifically, coming of age in '90s suburban Montreal — that can't exist when you return to them.

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

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

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.