The Best Extreme Progressive Metal Album - Metal Storm Awards 2018





Alkaloid's grounding in furious, technical death metal makes mincemeat of classic prog influences as Liquid Anatomy shreds and swings through songs that seem too complex to be as snappy as they are. Raspy cleans lead the album until guttural growls plunge back into a vortex of sci-fi hell, polished and virtuosic instrumentation escorting Liquid Anatomy through death metal of all moods, phases, and melodic inclinations. The epic, 20-minute closer, "Rise Of The Cephalopods," exemplifies why Alkaloid remains so interesting despite the heavy basis in tech death, a genre that can easily turn stale: this quintet is as gifted as writing songs as it is at playing them.

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What makes a fun album, exactly? It can come down to many things, but the Australian Arkheth certainly crafted one here. Featuring a delicious black metal sound smothered in prog and psychedelic influence, plus the addition of saxophone, 12 Winters is a bouncy, stimulating journey that alludes to many bands (especially Transcending Bizarre? and Oranssi Pazuzu) while still retaining an identity all its own. It's a fine example of how albums that are at times incredibly detailed in their layering and composition can also be incredibly memorable and entertaining as well.

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We've always known Arkona to have progressive tendencies; combined with their coveted ability to convey the sounds of the wilderness, Arkona has always made us feel their music in a way that few other folk metal bands could achieve. Even so, just how much they can still evolve after so many albums comes as a shock - to call them simply "folk metal" would be to write off a vast part of their sound, and that's why you'll find them in this category: Khram is an epic undertaking that takes those traditional sounds and reshapes them into a blackened, progressive object of both admiration and fright. Sometimes a storm of metallic hostility, sometimes a hair-raising ritual hypnotism, at all times the very embodiment of nature in all its dreadful forms, Khram is beautiful in its musicality... but a beast.

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It took a while for Barren Earth to find their own identity beyond a supergroup sounding like Amorphis covering Opeth, but the biggest step came when Jón Aldará joined in 2014 as a vocalist and now A Complex Of Cages is his second album with the band. Whenever the band doesn't sound too much like anyone else, you'll find some amazing passages and it is in these distinctly Barren Earth-ish passages that A Complex Of Cages shines, perfectly progressive without being too indulgent or pretentious.

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After a little thrash detour, Gorod are back in great - nay, grand - shape. While they slightly toned down the aggression, they expanded in almost every other direction. Proggier than its predecessors, catchier too, Æthra is also more varied than everything they've ever done - from insane riffage to catchy breaks, blasts and melodic surprises, Æthra has it all and more, much more. Written in only three months (!) this is nonetheless Gorod's most breathtaking album. Enjoy the ride with the Moon Gods and Goddesses!

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Featuring much fewer guests than previous albums, Ámr doesn't have a reduced sound pallete, but rather leaves all the dynamism to be accomplished by one person. While being similar to its predecessor in the lack of avant-garde experimentation and being more song-focused, it is again a shift in direction, particularly on guitars and keyboards, with a bigger emphasis on electronic sounds. Besides the electronic or cinematic sounds, the guitars also have a whole new sound to them as 8-string guitars make their appearance in the chuggy riffs; there's also a lot of black metal influence to be felt in riffage in certain sections, and the harsh/clean vocal interplay sets a lot of the album in motion.

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In Vain, act IV: after five long years, the Norwegian band finally unleashed Currents. Once again, it's quite unique, and undenialably In Vain, with their unique blend of sounds: Solefald, of course, thrash & -core, and, more importantly than before, that catchy Swedish melodeath sound and flair. Sindre's clean vocals are once again amazing, and the whole performance is nothing short of astounding. While maybe not as close to perfection as was Ænigma, Currents is still a bloody damn solid piece of music, so do yourself a favor: listen and enjoy!

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One look at the cover of Hierurgy and you'd probably guess you're in for a pretty intense, transcendent listen. This assumption would be correct, as Panegyrist's proggy take on black metal brings majestic, intertwining melodies, a very impressive rhythm section, and a dazzling usage of clean, almost operatic vocals to boot. Bright, uplifting, and quite catchy despite its technical complexity, Hierurgy makes for a very cohesive, immersive listen, both through its tight compositions and the interesting theological themes woven into the lyrics and artwork.

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Wankery can a problem in any prog field, so when there's an album that is as technical and convoluted as it is genuine and magical, it's time to rejoice and enjoy it to the fullest, right? Well, Rivers Of Nihil's Where Owls Know My Name is that album. The band expanded the horizons of their already robust tech death, adding lots of new elements - an aerial jazz sax, some alternative vibes, acoustic moments - to create a truly outstanding album. Owls know that name, and it's perfection!

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The polarizing figure that is Niklas Kvarforth is back with yet another ode to suicide, sickness, and depression. One could argue that this is the best work Shining has made in a decade and it's not difficult to see why: the sound is crisp and punchy while the songwriting is more varied and intriguing than ever, yet still faithful to what made Shining a frontrunner in the first place. Always changing styles, from the rocking to the pensive or the all-around insane, Niklas confirms that he truly is a wolf without a pack.

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