The Best Ambient / Drone / Noise Album - Metal Storm Awards 2020





The sheer scale and intrigue of Dark Buddha Rising's menacing drone has on two occasions reduced our reviewers to mere puddles of imagery and symbolism; yes, even seasoned fans of dark, doomy, and esoteric sounds may be rendered speechless by the cosmic winds and chthonic rumbling that give form to Mathreyata. Dark Buddha Rising has mastered not only the production of preternatural eeriness that fills listeners with the dread of unseen things, but the powerful production to blast the unsuspecting tourist back out of the crumbling, vine-eaten temple into which they stumbled. Like any DBR ritual, Mathreyata is a journey, a winding, deceptive, and kaleidoscopic journey into the center of fear that seems more infinite than it is, an eon of whispering demons, howling chants, and an unquenched sense of danger.

Bandcamp / Apple Music / Deezer / Spotify / YouTube Music

›› Full review...
Though Terminal Aggressor II is the result of a fallout between Dragged Into Sunlight and Prosthetic Records, being released by the label without the band's consent, it doesn't make it less of a monstrous release, even if that's entirely due to the band. Acting as a sequel to the 2009 EP Terminal Aggressor, this one sees Dragged Into Sunlight pushing the patience of the listener with a slow-building 29-minute track that gradually builds from dark ambient and only after enough teasing bringing their trademark punishing blackened sludge, slowly and element-by-element.

Bandcamp / Apple Music / Deezer / Spotify / YouTube Music

›› Full review...
An example of how to explore drone in metal without relying on glacial pace or punishingly long chords, Insect Ark instead make use of layers of interwoven guitar/electronic drones on top of a groovy rhythmic base. The bass regularly serves as the driving force on The Vanishing, working alongside the drums to power the songs featured here forwards whilst the electronics warble, fluctuating in prominence around the guitars that flesh out the sound above the rhythm section. The guitar approach may vary, moving between clean guitar sections not too dissimilar to some of Earth's work and more distorted riff-based parts. The combination makes The Vanishing a relatively accessible entry in this subgenre, but by no means is it any less rewarding than its competitors.

Bandcamp / Apple Music / Deezer / Spotify / YouTube Music / YouTube

›› Full review...
Returning to the scene after a few years in absentia, John Haughm brings his signature post-rock ambient influences back into the foray with a foreboding journey through apocalyptic venues not unlike when Agalloch would venture beyond the physical and into the emotional, dragging their listeners down into the bittersweet abyss of naked isolation. With 1865 // 1895: Cast.Iron.Blood., the unrelenting sense of dread formed by Haughm's atmospheric synth work and evocative acoustic melodies build a dismally beautiful landscape capable of enticing those looking for an escape from their dreary existence as much as overwhelming anyone looking to maintain their loose grip on an ever-increasing insane reality depending on one's interpretation of his passages.

Bandcamp / Apple Music / Deezer / Spotify / YouTube Music

›› Full review...
Lurker Of Chalice's only studio album is an absolute classic held in almost universal regard. As much we'd love a follow-up to it, Tellurian Slaked Furnace instead unearths and re-contextualizes some of the material from the band's demos and some unreleased music from that period. Arranged and edited to flow like a studio album, Tellurian Slaked Furnace showcases a higher emphasis on ambient rather than black metal, with the album being mostly instrumental save for some shrieks and whispers, much more minimalistic, low-key and dark, with drones that either flow freely or rhythmically become almost post-punk-ish in tone. It's haunting and somber, but its strange soundscapes cannot be reduced to simply "dark", being much more lush, melancholic, and unsettling than the word would imply.

Bandcamp

›› Full review...
"Maximalism" is certainly the name of the game for Éons: three parts, two hours, and one paragraph for every song title. This self-described "drone orchestra" comprises a dozen members, multiple drummers among them (with two members credited for "soundscapes" and "black magic scenography," respectively), and the density of Neptunian Maximalism's sound finds its match only in its stylistic complexity. Jazz, drone, and dark ambient meet shades of doom metal and Indian folk, all infused with varying degrees of psychedelia and mysticism, continuously evolving in shape and form, ultimately defining one of 2020's most fascinating debuts; all of this may sound like a demanding listening experience, and it certainly does take éons to listen to, but the chugging bari sax and arsenal of percussion that open "Daiitoku-myōō No Ōdaiko 大威徳明王 鼓童 - L'impact De Théia Durant L'éon Hadéen" will pull you into orbit without a thought.

Bandcamp / Apple Music / Deezer / Spotify / YouTube Music

›› Full review...
Dungeon synth has experienced a newfound popularity in recent years since its beginnings in the late '80s/early '90s. Lurking in the depths of this new wave of promising acts is the entity known as "The Specter". He is the founder of Old Tower, one of the most prolific projects of the past decade. With several albums under his belt, the trademarks of his craft have been well established: meditative, majestic dirges recalling Dark Medieval Times. The Last Eidolon offers more this time around. These somber and ritualistic compositions have been injected with influences from dark ambient and drone to achieve an orchestral and cinematographic tone. All aspects have been turned up a notch: a more sinister approach through the new influences and richer, more grandiose songwriting that evokes large, mystical landscapes.

Bandcamp
Sidereal Sacraments is another trip down a dark ambient black hole, recorded by Italy's obscure act Staurophagia. Once again, the vocals were transmitted through a shortwave radio and re-recorded on a tape to make them sound rawer. The cosmic atmosphere is enhanced by the use of modular synths and there is even a presence of violin on one track. Scoring high on the kvltness scale, this is not some average-sounding ambient black metal; it is mysterious and harsh, and full of droney, psychedelic, and hallucinogenic passages that make it feel completely detached from reality as it lies cloaked in thick, chaotic haze.

Bandcamp
Urfaust have described this album as "[representing] the stages of intoxication," and thus follows its structure. Teufelsgeist begins with an affirmative, even joyful ritual of spectral clean vocals and light, coruscant synths, delighting in the first imbibition. Yet the drums are persistent, too powerful to allow a pure, formless ambiance, ferrying the drinker onward to the next stage with implacable rigidity. The tone quickly darkens, taking on hellish qualities as howling noise and droning guitars pile over the once-freeing venture. Regret and despair filter in, taking the form of a funeral doom invasion, and by the end Teufelsgeist is a pit of emptiness. It doesn't end with the same frivolity with which it began (hey, that's benders for you), but at least you won't have a hangover afterwards. And you can start again any time.

Bandcamp / Apple Music / Deezer / Spotify / YouTube Music / YouTube

›› Full review...
Naturally, music projects that dabble in "quiet" genres like ambient music, drone, post-rock, or neoclassical tend to project a slow-burner approach into their songs. Wrekmeister Harmonies takes this very seriously by releasing one hell of a tense build-up. This is a really dark yet beautiful trip that all of a sudden takes a turn for the bleak and twisted. Spoilers aside, We Love To Look At The Carnage is an emotional and meticulously written album. It's an album where the vocals are foreboding, the violin is painfully introspective, and the droning guitars and background noises slowly but surely close in on you, enveloping you in sweet, velvet darkness.

Bandcamp / Apple Music / Deezer / Spotify / YouTube Music

›› Full review...