The Best Metalgaze Album - Metal Storm Awards 2019





What can be said about Alcest that hasn't been said before? It seems like they've managed to survive and even prosper after the label change to Nuclear Blast, coming out with another album in their trademark sound, with some twists. There're some rather post-metal moments, a lot more progressive influence in the songwriting, and some of their most powerful performances ever, but nothing to shake the core of what made their music so special over the years. This is definitely music to hold dear.

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The young duo Falaise is in the business of putting out increasingly impressive albums. A Place I Don't Belong To is a brilliant diamond in atmospheric black metal's thorny crown - the black metal roots and influences of the band are very clear here, and so is the post-rock fuzz that places a warm blanket over the jagged edges of the musical presentation. Falaise are tuned into the depressing realities of the modern urban hellscape and offer a soothing balm for those alienated by the bright lights of the place most humans don't belong to. Apply liberally to wounded area.

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Gold Are The Ashes Of The Restorer sounds like raw black metal played on a badly warped synth and recorded from ten miles away. If that doesn't sound like an album for you, you're probably not into Mories, or maybe you just have too much sense for us; Golden Ashes's half-cuddly/half-abrasive album of dungeon synth airport music is certainly the most unorthodox take on anything resembling metal you'll find in this category (hell, it outdoes nearly everything we've nominated this year, period). Hearing such a spangly, nostalgic sound used for such coarse, jarring music is a bizarre experience, let alone being suffocated by layer upon layer of it. Guess this is what it feels like to have your brain melted from the inside by a freezing sun.

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Is Adore a suggestion? It's alright, Numenorian is allowed to give this album a cheeky name; it deserves the adulation. The high luster of the soothing acoustic interludes turns into the grime of mean black metal, and each turn on the wheel is more exciting than the last. More than anything else, Adore is a very progressive demonstration of the alchemy of making post-black metal, and it brings to mind the glory days of the genre, when we were first introduced to the concept by bands like Deafheaven.

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One of two albums released by Sadness this year, I Want To Be There is the more melancholy, and really one of the most melancholy of any artist in 2019: tremolo-picked riffs all the way down your soul, bright and melodic soundscapes distorted and distorted further into the distant horizon. What makes I Want To Be There so wrenching and painful is how upbeat and blissful the songs sound sometimes - though there are calm, clean post-rock melodies and (very rare) vocals so chirpy and airy that they sound like a children's choir, Sadness has no reprieve for you. The wave of distorted anti-black metal riffing always returns with the bloody shrieks, the sounds all smeared into each other like fading memories, bringing a heart-crushing sense of loss.

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Rarely does one find blackgaze with two vocalists, and rarely are the two vocalists so fucking vicious. It certainly has all the trademarks of blackgaze and all; it really feels like it puts the black metal/post-hardcore in the forefront pretty rarely, but when it does, it's pummeling. Continuing the seemingly recent tradition of Russians blending hardcore into black metal, The All-Devouring certainly couldn't have had a better title; as beautifully nuanced as the album is, it's also extremely destructive.

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A lot of blackgaze albums don't really deserve that label, with An Oblivion Above being an example of this. First of all, the "black" part is clearly hardcore, and I mean clearly hardcore. And then the "gaze" part is clearly post-rock. What matters is that it plays with the same violent/serene, light/dark, heavy/weightless dynamics that blackgaze usually works with, so that works. And, honestly, what's the difference anymore? But it feels great to hear a band with those dynamics also have such pumping hardcore vocals and guitar lines this melodic and memorable, rather than just atmosphere-building.

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Well, we bet none of you expected to find Torche of all bands here in metalgaze instead of sludge. Sure, they're the odd ones out and a lot of their sound is still rooted in sludge, but Admission's inclusion here is us deliberately rewarding some of the most original blends of sounds, with this probably being the only record on this list that is actually reminiscent of actual shoegaze and alt rock from the '90s. Taking all that and blending it with the sludge sound? Why hasn't anybody thought of that before?

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Three albums in 2018 was an impressive effort by Emin Guliyev, the mastermind behind Violet Cold, but whilst there was just the one album in 2019, the reduction in quantity was more than made up for in quality. kOsmik marks a return to the impressive blackgaze of Anomie, albeit in a more concise package and with some delightful new surprises thrown in. Chief among these are the guest female vocal appearances that elevate the album's strongest tracks, whether chanting during the moody early moments of "Black Sun", or delivering an immensely catchy pop hook at the end of the title track that gels impressively well with the ratcheting intensity of the preceding minutes. Short and sweet, kOsmik is a fine example of the euphoric bliss that blackgaze bands can conjure amidst the thunderous blasting and vocal shredding.

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Following up a debut as impressive as Futility Report is always a difficult task, but White Ward have pulled it off nicely. Expanding on their proggy post-black metal sound and further emphasizing the blackgaze elements of their debut, White Ward continue to lead the way as far as the incorporation of saxophone into metal music goes, particularly more extreme styles. As they shift away from the blackgaze that dominates the early parts of the album to a more progressive approach on later tracks, White Ward show off their many talents throughout Love Exchange Failure, including the stirring clean vocal climax of "No Cure For Pain", and confirm that Futility Report was by no means a fluke.

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