The Best Debut Album - Metal Storm Awards 2016

1.  Astronoid - Air 62
2.  Skuggsjá - A Piece For Mind & Mirror 59
3.  Chthe'ilist - Le Dernier Crépuscule 36
4.  Zhrine - Unortheta 34
5.  öOoOoOoOoOo - Samen 32
6.  Départe - Failure, Subside 31
7.  Trees Of Eternity - Hour Of The Nightingale (write-in vote) 27
8.  Abbath - Abbath (write-in vote) 13
9.  An Abstract Illusion - Illuminate the Path (write-in vote) 10
  Eneferens - The Inward Cold 10
  Vôdûn - Possession 10
  Southern Empire - Southern Empire 10
13.  Mortichnia - Heir To Scoria And Ash 9
Total votes:

Boy, even the name is avant-garde. This is going to be an interesting experience... Hey, are those bongos? And, like, a bass clarinet or something? Hang on. When did this become a... black metal disco? With... a gospel choir? Grunge country Psycho strings and grindcore? Keyboards and tribal chants and R&B and pop and suddenly there's The Meads Of Asphodel... and the first song isn't even over. It's like Sigh had a baby with 6:33. Specifically, Rosemary's Baby.

What is this concoction? What has this five-piece band from Boston created? Move over, Deafheaven, a fresh and exhilarating sound has taken the dreampop/hipster genre by storm. Air, the debut album from Astronoid, manifests elements such as blastbeat drums, soaring, multi-layered vocals, and powerful and precise guitar work. The aura surrounding the music is one of romanticism, melancholy and nostalgia. The emotional textures flow gently song-to-song and the creative impact made by Astronoid in the shoegaze culture has generated much-needed talk around the water cooler.

There's a wise old saying which goes "You can't please everyone". Intentional or not, Chthe'ilist is smashing that old saying into bits with a big middle finger by checking all the possible boxes. It's brutal, technical, old school-sounding, gritty, doomy and with a good measure of thrashy riffs.

The phrase "blackened post-death" was tossed around during the preliminary stages of the MSAs, but that horrific aggregation doesn't begin to touch upon the stylistic, thematic, and atmospheric depth that suddenly poured out of Australia without warning in the form of Départe. If it sounds bleak and abysmal, it went into Failure, Subside at some point or another; the pained clean vocals, droning guitar lines, and expansive progressions into enrapturing soundscapes flow through this protracted bout of unfettered anguish. The fact that Failure, Subside is only Départe's first album defies logic, for it feels like the magnum opus of some well-traveled and highly-acclaimed favorite.

Everything about this album is impressive. From the fact that this is the band's self-released debut album, to the fantastic songwriting, the top-notch production as well as the fact this is all done by one man! It's amazing what musician Jori Apedaile has managed to achieve with this album. The Inward Cold is melodic/atmospheric black metal with a touch of death/doom that takes you on a hauntingly beautiful journey that grabs a hold of you from the first note & never lets go.

Not only does this incredible debut sound a bit like Mortichnia's spiritual ancestors and fellow countrymen, Altar Of Plagues, but it was even produced by James Kelly himself. You should already know what to expect. Prepare your body for a post-black metal ride of the highest caliber with a powerful and charismatic vocals.

From two of the minds behind Enslaved and Wardruna comes Skuggsjá, a shrouded, eerie, and unsettling purveyor of Scandinavian folk. A Piece For Mind & Mirror falls more heavily on the Wardruna side than the Enslaved side, running through a cavalcade of instruments and melodies utterly alien to most listeners; Skuggsjá's acoustic-electric neofolk blend has so many facets it's impossible to grasp the full measure of this album in a single listen. Its ominous presence also makes it rather prohibitive for the faint of heart, but A Piece For Mind & Mirror is just as creative as the pedigrees of its artificers warrant.


›› Full review...
Formed by the former Unitopia's keyboardist Sean Timms, Southern Empire naturally follows in the steps of Unitopia but also the likes of Neal Morse and Transatlantic. Not only do they know how to write good prog tunes, they also have a handle on producing epics. Clocking in at almost half an hour, "The Bridge That Binds" is as brilliant as it is imaginative and worth every moment of your time. This is a stunning début album by experienced musicians.

We can guarantee with reasonable certainty that you've never heard this particular mixture of styles before. Vôdûn has such a thick, fuzzy, psychedelic sound that they might be classified as stoner rock (and even stoner metal, because this can get pretty heavy), but Oya's powerful, spirited vocals inject Possession with so much energy and personality that she completely overhauls and redefines the band's direction. The winding, bluesy melodies walk many lines between styles and eras, but always to great success and to some unforeseen destination.

How come Iceland produces such great bands? If you dig Svartidauði, for instance, then Unortheta is right up your alley. The atmosphere on the album is what drives this train. The band pushes its sound to the edge of the black metal spectrum and is not afraid to experiment.. Listen and you won't be disappointed.