8. Royal Thunder, 'Wick'
In many spots on the third full length from Atlanta's Royal Thunder, the instrument most responsible for bringing the heavy is Mlny Parsonz's voice: rough, raspy, muscular and capable of conveying vulnerability and tenderness. Her bandmates conjure a sound around her that is similarly shapeshifting. Opener "Burning Tree" unfurls with a snaky riff and trancelike, tambourine-accented percussion; "We Slipped" glides along on a bed of jangly guitars before evaporating in a haze of orchestral strings; and the haunting title track juxtaposes watery picked notes against sheets of feedback and distorted power chords. Then there's the slow-burning "Plans," in which every musical element – the clean, strummed guitars; the angelic background vocals; the airy, heavily echoed drums – plays back-up to Parsonz's searing shriek. Even when they're not metal, Royal Thunder are still undeniably heavy. R.B.