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The Best Post-Metal Album - Metal Storm Awards 2021





The post-metal powerhouse from Belgium is back. The serial nature of their album titles has been broken, but all the elements we've come to know and love from Amenra are intact, if not improved upon. The unbelievably crushing waves of riffs are well supported by the anguished screams and emotive clean vocals of frontman Colin H. Van Eeckhout, as well as the solemn voice and harrowing shrieks of Caro Tanghe from Oathbreaker, who guests on this album. Some dark ambient and black metal influences make their appearance here and there, adding extra layers of woe to the whole affair. Even to those who do not understand Flemish, De Doorn is an album that deeply moves the listener and forces them into a state of deep introspection.

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Hot on the heels of their amazing A Dawn To Fear, Swedish post-powerhouse Cult Of Luna's latest release is only an EP, whereas the previous LP was nearly 80 minutes long. The Raging River sports nearly 40 minutes of excellent atmospheric post-hardcore metal, which is, incidentally, no less than what you'd expect from this frighteningly consistent octet. There are fewer organs, more synths, and a slightly more gothic vibe. There are also tectonic riffs, frenetic drumming, drowning-in-outer-space screams, and everything else we've come to know and love about Cult Of Luna. They even throw in a slower track featuring Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees, ex-Queens Of The Stone Age) on vocals. The Raging River is too good to be regarded as dessert to A Dawn To Fear, and too good to be regarded as an appetiser to The Long Road North; it was easily one of 2021's main dishes.

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Der Weg Einer Freiheit have spent a decade slowly shifting tracks from ‘black metal with post-metal flavoring’ to ‘post-metal with black metal flavoring’, and now with Noktvrn, that switch has very much been realized. Black metal vocals and blackened riffs add sharpness to the loud parts of the ‘soft/loud’ post-metal equation, but even those moments at times lean towards blackgaze or are paired with post-rock guitar leads. In contrast, the softer atmosphere-building on Noktvrn fluctuates between delicate post-rock and shoegaze; by now, Der Weg Einer Freiheit are a quintessential example of the ‘post-black metal’ sound, merging darkness and beauty with maturity and conviction.

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Glassing is the kind of band whose combination of black metal and hardcore ironically lands them closer to post-metal, a genre already acquainted with the intensity of hardcore and the atmosphere of black metal. Twin Dream does have notes of blistering screamo and the hazy density of metalgaze, but they are twisted into Indian-esque crushers and Isis-esque dirges. It's an album that can both spew bile viciously and also create sublime soundscapes while doing so.

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After the success of the (re-)release of Psychonaut’s Unfold The God Man in 2020, Stefan De Graef featured on another progressive post-metal debut record released on Pelagic Records the year after, with Hippotraktor emerging as the latest gift from Mechelen to the metal community. More compact on the songwriting front than Psychonaut, Hippotraktor bring in elements such as modern prog-inspired polyrhythmicity and alt-metal vibes into their own brand of prog/post-metal, and an excellent performance behind the drumkit from Lander De Nym keeps the fluid compositions on Meridian smoothly moving between transitions. Shaped to flow seamlessly as a single cohesive stream-of-consciousness experience, Meridian is just another piece of evidence that Pelagic Records recognizes quality when it sees it.

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The music of Ikarie is post-metal of the Cult Of Luna and Amenra kind, but there is also a strong death-doom undertone of the Peaceville Three kind. The band challenges the listener in every way possible: sonically, emotionally, and spiritually. The lyrics denounce stigmas and preconceptions, touching on subjects such as mental illness, emotional trauma, inner ghosts, and scars and wounds left untreated. Musically and lyrically, Cuerpos En Sombra is at the same time draining and fulfilling, soothing and caustic, agonizing and cathartic. For fans of post-metal, doom, and/or sludge, this album is a must-listen.

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It’s been a long time coming, but Poland’s Moanaa finally got around to tackling their difficult third album, and they rise to the challenge. Acolytes of the standard ‘sludgy loud/delicate soft’ post-metal template, Moanaa can push the intensity in the louder moments with muscular riffs and emphatic percussion, while also bleeding passion into the more vulnerable moments on Embers. Elevated further by the inclusion of a song from the 2019 Torches EP, Embers is a great return, and one that leaves you hoping it won’t be so long until album number four.

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The minds of Moriya have produced a debut of dark dirges to ensnare the mind and drive it into darkness with repetitive, hypnotic riffs. The foreboding ambiance and Buddhist aesthetics call to mind Dark Buddha Rising, only with an electric current running through them that makes the metallic qualities feel more immediate and aggressive than those of Moriya’s Finnish forerunners. As Atma-spheric as this unearthly ritual series is, as eerie as its acoustic chant-and-percussion drones are, Moriya’s debut is also outfitted with heavy post-metal riffscapes that quake with energy and shrink before the screeching vocals. It’s fitting that so much of Moriya’s origin and identity remains shrouded in mystery; you don’t want anything to distract you from the psychedelic bludgeoning of one of 2021’s most intimidating and enrapturing debut albums.

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A psychoactive trek through uncanny harmonies, labyrinthine percussion, and oddball rhythms. Ophiuchi's music dances on a knife's edge between atmospheric bliss and progressive madness, never quite settling fully into either, but rather rising above to create something unique. The production is stellar, with a thick, gnarly bass and warm, crisp guitar that manage to sound both immediate and far away simultaneously, as they churn out proggy, sludgy riffs on top of drums inspired by King Crimson's '80s masterpiece Discipline. From the eerie choirs of the opener, to the psychedelic ecstasy of the title track, to the unpredictable, pummeling fury of the third track, to the folksy vibe of the closer, not a second of this album wastes time. Ophiuchi's is a sound constantly in transformation, and it's waiting for a chance to transform you too.

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Year Of No Light celebrated their 20th birthday with another awe-inspiring rendition of their signature instrumental post-metal sound. With six members, including three guitarists and two drummers, Year Of No Light conjure up intense walls of sounds, sounds that owe just as much to metal as to post-rock, with dense heaviness contrasted with ethereal and serene post-rock layers within a sound that also takes elements from the likes of sludge, doom, drone, and shoegaze. Consolamentum also features a more developed presence of keyboards and electronics, particularly on the closing track, where a horror movie vibe adds a new twist to an already enthralling sound.

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