The Best Gothic Metal Album - Metal Storm Awards 2016





Beseech has a very deep understanding of the strength it has in its two lead vocalists and utilizes those breathy, pain-wracked voices to enormous effect. Sometimes soft and sultry, other times grandiose and enveloping, Beseech's first album in 11 years has a powerful, sanctified sound that makes every song moving. Let's hope we don't have to wait this long for My Darkness, Darkness II: The Darknessing.

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With a full 12 years since their previous album, Darkwell not only return with their original vocalist, Alexandra Pittracher, but have released an album that sounds as if no time had passed. A throwback to the early era of gothic metal, Moloch includes what may be the band's best and catchiest song, "Yoshiwara," a visionary tribute to the masterpiece film Metropolis, with a production that highlights Alexandra's opaque and unique style, balanced with Raphael's perfectly obscure keys. From the glorious "Fall Of Ishtar" tp the dark and dreamy "Golem," Darkwell offer us a return to their labyrinth of forgotten, yet ominously relevant sphere of gothic soundscapes.

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A full six years have passed since Evig Natt's last full-length, and not only have the band thoroughly improved on their production and musicianship, they continue to hold a candle to the sorrowful days of gothic metal nostalgia. But what sets them apart is their superb ballads, such as the mix of hope and desperation in the mental purgatory of "Wildfire," or the overwhelming sadness of "Weathered Emotion," where Kirsten's lyrics pull at the heart of any listener who has experienced painful loss. Complete this with the heavy atmosphere of "Silence Falls" and the freedom of nothing itself of "In God I Grieve," and let the memories of a fading summer take you over, like a warm hand that seems endlessly out of reach.

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Voluminous, grandiloquent, and layered, The Tarot Of The Bohemians: Part 1 spareth not the rod when it comes to throwing down to chug-chug territory, but still indulges in orchestral set pieces and alternating harsh/clean vocal patterns that lift the album into loftier realms. No languorous, morose tedium of so many gothic metal bands can be found in Heavenwood, a band full of unbridled energy and creativity. The Tarot Of The Bohemians boasts enough majestic choruses and dramatic flourishes to feed a family of four power metal bands for weeks.

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Nearly two decades have passed between Kratos's sophomore release and their debut, and, without a second thought, all that time was well spent. Dark, symphonic gothic metal with the vicious growls of Daniel Dron (guitar/orchestral programming as well) and the bewitching, even playful vocals of bassist Monica Barta overpower nearly every gothic release of 2016. Aggressive and dramatic songs like "Three Times In A Lifetime" will instantly appeal to anyone who appreciates ominous symphonics, and with openers like the title track and follow-up, "Fishing," Kratos leave no doubt that perseverance is perhaps the greatest victory. The reward is all ours.

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Conducted into eternity by soulful crooning and guitar leads that remain conservative while adding color, Lacrimas Profundere's latest is a trove of laments as catchy as they are somber. Hope Is Here lies awake at night in fear of the end, drowned in echoing piano and choruses that remain saturated with heavy emotion even when up-tempo. It's as sentimental and broken-hearted as any gothic album, but isn't afraid to break out of its modest power into some doom-style heaviness now and again.

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With the expansive, introspective atmospheres of gloom that The Foreshadowing have refined once again on their fourth album, Seven Heads, Ten Horns embodies the creation, the destruction, and the rebirth of mankind with a defined gothic maturity. From the dynamic percussion of newest member Giuseppe Orlando to the brooding and yet peaceful vocals of Marco Benevento above Francesco Sotto's contemplative keys, The Foreshadowing's evolution is perfectly displayed on the inspiring "Until We Fail," and comes full circle on the stellar closer, "Nimrod."

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Over the years, Throes Of Dawn has metamorphosed into a metal-light band. Despite sounding lighter, the music has a much greater impact. After a six-year absence, the band's now signature brooding atmosphere is even more apparent on Our Voices Shall Remain, with floating keyboards acting as a backdrop for long and drawn-out songs that strike chords within the soul. The voices of the band shall certainly remain, as one will be Mesmerized and have no choice but hit the replay button.

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Like the excellent cover art itself, To Cast A Shadow's newest encircles the listener with a gentle, cold touch at first, only to find its way into your spirit upon repeated listens. With vocals now mainly done by new member Nils Stenmyren, an emotional fragility pervades Winter's Embrace, and, with guitar work that pulls inspiration from alternative roots to add more drive to the previously thick, doomy riffs, songs like "Into Oblivion" and the superb "Bereft" offer an exciting new direction for the band. Balanced with slower tracks like "Darkest Thoughts" and the album-ending journey of reflection in "A Secret Kingdom," Winter's Embrace seeps into your heart like a passing ship beneath a moonlit sky.

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It is tragic that Aleah Stanbridge had to leave us so soon, but she was first able to commend to us a rich portrait of rare worth and beauty. Hour Of The Nightingale marvelously utilizes her voice to convey heartfelt despondence over instrumental performances that blaze with passion; the slow, breathtaking progressions powerfully underscore the soul-baring lyrics to create one of the most moving and emotional metal albums to be released in a long time, possibly ever. Hour Of The Nightingale may be difficult to approach in light of its context, but it is a unique and truly special album well worth the experience.

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