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The Best Progressive Metal Album - Metal Storm Awards 2020

1.  Lucid Planet - Lucid Planet II 169
2.  Pain Of Salvation - Panther 139
3.  Green Carnation - Leaves Of Yesteryear 118
4.  Hail Spirit Noir - Eden In Reverse 110
5.  Fates Warning - Long Day Good Night 95
6.  Protest The Hero - Palimpsest 65
7.  Intronaut - Fluid Existential Inversions 52
8.  Haken - Virus (write-in vote) 23
9.  Convulse - Deathstar 16
10.  Psychotic Waltz - The God-Shaped Void (write-in vote) 15
  Vulkan - Technatura 15
12.  Caligula's Horse - Rise Radiant (write-in vote) 14
13.  Votum - Duhkha 10
Total votes:

For many of us, the name Convulse is synonymous with their 1991 debut, World Without God, one of Finland's most important entries into the death metal canon. But World Without God was 30 years ago (yes, you're old) and since then Convulse has grown. Evolved. Progressed, even. Amidst those strange death metal riffs soaked in great, cold melancholia and otherworldly twang, beneath the ageless growls of Rami Jämsä, there lies a host of new influences ranging from funk to goth rock to surf to classic prog. Deathstar is a complex, trippy death'n'roll album, immersed in the deep, dark black hole of sound that Convulse became known for so long ago and yet piloted with agglutinative curiosity through new realms of sound.

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Fates Warning haven't announced their disbandment, but based on comments made by vocalist Ray Alder, they may well have reached the end of their recording career; the band certainly seems to have tackled Long Day Good Night as if it were a farewell release, and the monumental length, impassioned performances, and diligently crafted compositions all point to this titan of prog wishing to retire without any regrets. It's clear from Ray Alder's emotional vocals and the often sobering mood that Fates Warning want us to feel this album, not just listen to it, because they certainly felt it, every reflective chord and thumping bass groove and misty-eyed chorus. As the guardian returns to its slumber, it serenades us one more time with its last song, a reminder of everything it has been and seen and done over the decades.

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Tasked with living up to almost inhuman(e) expectations, having been silent for nearly two decades, Green Carnation managed to eke out a quiet existence on their diminishing rations relatively unscathed. Despite some calls of disappointment from Light Of Day... worshipers, Leaves Of Yesteryear provides a thoroughly enjoyable (albeit portion-controlled) meal for old-time patrons and newcomers alike -- the band's signature anthemic style of epic keyboard passages, soaring melodies, and evocative vocals blending with meaty riffs and varied drum work to sustain that all-important nostalgia factor of their back catalog while seamlessly modernizing their sound.

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Hail Spirit Noir's progressive, blackened, experimental, and psychedelic take on metal music has been a breath of originality and fresh air. On Eden In Reverse, 'blackened' has been largely removed from the equation since this album feels as if Hail Spirit Noir borrowed David Bowie's space journeys, Kraftwerk's synths, and Camel's progressive melodies and decided to cover Pink Floyd songs. Eden In Reverse is not as dark, malevolent, or avant-garde as the albums before it and, at times, it is barely even metal. It is calmer and more digestible, but at the same time bigger and brighter than any previous Hail Spirit Noir release, and it is an invitation to get lost in the ever-shifting maze of the band's sci-fi dream.

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The loss of a drummer as integral to a band's sound as Danny Walker was to Intronaut is a major obstacle to overcome, but stand-in Alex Rüdinger does an exemplary job on Fluid Existential Inversions to take Intronaut into a post-Walker world. The sludge-tinged, convoluted, and impressively technical instrumentation that one expects from the band is all right here, as are the post-metal tendencies and resulting balance between hard-hitting heaviness and lush, softer sections. A guest appearance by Ben Sharp sees things come full circle after Intronaut filled in as his backing band when Sharp first took his Cloudkicker project into its final settings, and Fluid Existential Inversions represents an element of rebirth as Intronaut move almost flawlessly into the next chapter of their career.

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Lucid Planet II, the inventively titled second album from Lucid Planet, is a sumptuous display of modern alt-leaning prog: lush instrumental soundscapes, smooth vocals, djent crunch to riffs, slick basslines... psytrance? Yes, Lucid Planet hit a lot of the expected notes for a prog metal album with post-metal inclinations, but they also hit some unexpected notes, whether it's trance, reggae, ritualistic chanting, or various World music influences. What's more impressive is that the journey across all these influences feels natural, the nonmetal songs and sections fitting in next to the straighter prog-metal tracks without any real awkwardness. Demonstrating both Lucid Planet's ambition and songwriting intelligence, Lucid Planet II is arguably the most creative and sonically rich nominee in this year's prog category.

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One thing you learn as a Pain Of Salvation fan is to expect the unexpected, and that remains the case with Panther, which followed up a return to prog metal on The Passing Light Of Day with a venture into electronic-heavy territory. There's plenty of complex syncopation, emotionally charged musicianship, and outspoken lyricism, all of which one would expect from a Pain Of Salvation album, as well as a divisive return for Daniel Gildenlöw's rapping on the title track, but the heavy use of synths, robotic vocal effects, and glitches gives Panther a very distinctive feel compared to its predecessor. Panther can be as challenging as Pain Of Salvation records are renowned for being, but it is also as creative and emotionally potent as one would expect for a record from Gildenlöw.

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Seven years following Volition and after navigating a period of vocal issues for frontman Rody Walker, Protest The Hero eventually release their fifth full-length album. Palimpsest shows some changes from its predecessor; the string arrangements that the group dabbled with on the Pacific Myth EP are given a far larger role here, whilst some of those early punk influences are more prominent than they've been in a while, particularly with respect to Mike Ieradi's drumming. Nevertheless, the staggeringly impressively technical guitar work, tendency toward frantic song shifts, and soaring lead vocals the band are known for remain intact, the last of which being particularly well-received given the problems Walker had in the last couple of years. The lyrics see the always politically vocal group tackle revisionist views of America's difficult past, an approach that becomes increasingly relevant as tensions continue to grow in America's difficult present, where the truth has become more flexible than ever.

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Veteran Polish band Votum are back after a five-year break with a snappy, engaging, 30-minute romp through dark, atmospheric prog metal land. Duhkha shows off the band's technical prowess and ability to create new musical forms. Embedded heavily with electronics, samples, and djent-style time signatures, Duhkha is new territory for Votum while establishing a forceful wall of sound. Anneke van Giersbergen's guest appearance is the highlight, further enhancing Votum's capacity to experiment.

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Technatura embodies all that modern prog has to offer with its blatant focus on technical precision and melody, but also explores experimental songwriting avenues to provide a more impactful range of emotional experiences from the carefree and casual to the poignant and bittersweet. Vulkan also don't shy away from lashing out in tandem with a hefty dose of infectious groove to keep things engaging and entertaining from start to finish, as vocalist JB Lindblad croons, rasps, and hollers his way masterfully through the psych-induced, bombastic barrage of instrumental proficiency that comes across like it's better than you, which is fine, because it probably is.

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