After listening to both contenders twice today, I'm going to have to call an audible.
Northlane lucks out with the coin toss and start us off with their fourth album, Mesmer. At first blush it may sound like another post-metalcore, post-djent, radio friendly clone. But putting aside that first impression reveals an undeniably energetic evolution for the band. This music sounds like a combination of the melodic vocabulary of Karnivool, the muscular rhythm of Periphery, and the production sensibilities of Porcupine Tree. It's not wall-to-wall metal, but it's a surprisingly infectious and compelling contender.
The funny thing is that, before today started in earnest, all indications where that Soen had this battle in the bag. They're a prog metal supergroup, co-founded by bassist Steve DiGiorgio, and sound like a mix of Tool, Opeth, and Leprous; if you ever want to play to the judges around here, that's how you do it. And Lykaia gives you everything you'd expect from this band: bluesy retro prog metal excellence (although they too stray far from the "metal" tentpole, inadvertently lending a hand to Northlane). But listening to it again, especially after Mesmer, highlights the album's fatal flaw: it's more often than not boring.
Damn the scorecard: Northlane wins their first round! They'll challenge The Haunted in two weeks. Meanwhile, Set And Setting battle Veil Of Maya tomorrow.