The Best Black Metal Album - Metal Storm Awards 2019


1.  Mgła - Age Of Excuse 348
2.  Mayhem - Daemon 147
3.  Abigail Williams - Walk Beyond The Dark 137
4.  Schammasch - Hearts Of No Light 124
5.  The Great Old Ones - Cosmicism 83
6.  Misþyrming - Algleymi 78
7.  Laster - Het Wassen Oog 22
8.  Andavald - Undir Skyggðarhaldi 19
9.  Aoratos - Gods Without Name 17
10.  Advent Sorrow - Kali Yuga Crown 15
11.  Rotting Christ - The Heretics (write-in vote) 14
12.  Deathspell Omega - The Furnaces Of Palingenesia (write-in vote) 11
Total votes:
1099



The shape-shifting Abigail Williams reinvent themselves once more; compared with the stylistic jumps between the likes of In The Absence Of Light and Becoming, however, Walk Beyond The Dark is more of an amalgamation of their various previous approaches to black metal. The strings and atmo-black elements of Becoming remain, but the meloblack riffing of In The Absence Of Light and metalgaze aspects from The Accuser also feature across the album, as do tastefully employed clean vocals. With all this underpinned by top-notch songwriting and capped with stunning album artwork, Walk Beyond The Dark may be Abigail Williams's finest offering to date.

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Seamlessly blending the melancholic and bittersweet atmosphere of depressive black metal with the more straightforward side of its parent genre's pointed extremity, Advent Sorrow not only expanded beyond the confines of their origins, but they managed to perfect the balance of epic melodies and raw aggression. Kali Yuga Crown is an intelligently composed and brilliantly executed addition to the black metal realm, one that delves into the harrowing apocalyptic expectations of our immediate future, creating a sense of simultaneous impending doom and self-loathing: a soundtrack to nihilism.

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There have been a lot of great artists from Iceland's label/collective Mystískaos, namely the Skáphe & Wormlust collab, Serpent Column, and Arnaut Pavle, but the one that really won us over was the mysterious Andavald. And while it is as atmospheric as all Icelandic black metal is expected to be, the fuel that makes Undir Skyggðarhaldi is dread, with all the ways it can be expressed without the album being outright DSBM. And surprisingly there's almost a feeling of delight in suffering - a rather melodramatic display, but the album is incredibly patient in how it displays that.

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From the mastermind behind Nightbringer, Akhlys, and Bestia Arcana comes another album so frightening that its existence almost cannot be tolerated. There is something deeply wrong about how these storms of creepy riffs, croaky growls, and tempestuous backgrounds slide together into a complete album; Aoratos derives its melodic sense from the most bone-chilling progressions imagined by the human brain and lets howling echoes dominate its atmosphere. The pure sensation of fear conjured by these riffs intimates some wellspring of eldritch knowledge behind Gods Without Name, but you'll never know how it came to be... just cry out in terror as this album thrusts you into the shuddering, abyssal maw of fear.

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The Dutch black metal scene has developed a particular reputation for the quirkiness of its bands as of late, and Laster are as fine an example of why that is as any. Dubbing their style "obscure dance music" and seemingly tapping into the legacy of Ved Buens Ende, on Het Wassen Oog Laster pump out black metal of a dissonant, bouncy, and strangely hypnotizing variety, with a distinct focus on intricate and pleasantly audible bass lines. Highly catchy and groovy, Het Wassen Oog is something you definitely don't hear everyday: black metal you can dance to!

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If you're a Mayhem fan who lived through the year 2019 (and if you're reading this, at least one of those things is true), you may have seen the semi-fictional dramatization Lords Of Chaos. You may have had some mixed feelings about that movie. You may have felt it didn't do justice to black metal. If this describes you, or if it doesn't and you just want to know how black metal sounds when it's made by the original masters of the second wave, Daemon is the stab shot in the arm that your black metal collection needs. Everyone has been all up in Mayhem's business for the last 30 years, and Daemon, which returns the band to a more traditional sound, serves as their rejoinder: there's only one original.

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Age Of Excuse kicks off with E.V.T. - the guitarist of Medico Peste, who also performs live with Mgła - gnashing his teeth. From then on, the band's most familiar characteristics are all present: the signature melodic elements, the expert handling of tension and release, and, finally, the audacity to let certain parts be played for longer than most bands would dare. With stellar performances by both M. and Darkside, the time for Mgła to release a less-than-great album is clearly not here yet.

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The Icelandic black metal scene is definitely an interesting one to study and often feels like it moves in unison, from its incestuous lineups to the release patterns. We've had bands releasing their dissonant, Deathspell Omega-inspired debuts between 2012 and 2015, and a more melodic follow-up years down the line. As far as sophomores go, this year we've also had the Sinmara one, but Misþyrming had riffs for days, enough for us to look over the gripes we had with the production. Algleymi still sounds menacing but also surprisingly triumphant and ecstatic, and it just packs punch after punch after punch.

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Putting the dark ambient elements from The Maldoror Chants somewhat on the backburner this time around, Schammasch instead focus on further refining their ritualistic black metal approach on Hearts Of No Light, to great effect. The pounding, emphatic percussion and ominous vocals allow the album's more atmospheric moments to shine, and Schammasch are still more than capable of letting rip with some fierce riffs. Throw in the intriguing venture into more gothic territory with "A Paradigm Of Beauty", and you have what is arguably Schammasch's most complete record yet.

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France's hottest Lovecraftian metal band arises from the depths of R'lyeh once more with their fourth full-length offering. While it doesn't differ too significantly from their previous efforts, Cosmicism just further shows off what The Great Old Ones are so good at creating: dreamlike, trance-inducing, atmospheric black metal with a welcome variation in both tempo and aggression. At times upbeat and frenetic and at others more mid-tempo and lulling, Cosmicism is as worthy a tribute to the Outer Gods as any. Raise those tentacles high and soak in all its glory.

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