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The Best Black Metal Album - Metal Storm Awards 2020


1.  Akhlys - Melinoë 126
2.  Gaerea - Limbo 115
3.  Panzerfaust - The Suns Of Perdition - Chapter II: Render Unto Eden 108
  Odraza - Rzeczom 108
5.  Regarde Les Hommes Tomber - Ascension 58
6.  Esoctrilihum - Eternity Of Shaog 50
7.  Skáphe - Skáphe³ 22
8.  Serpent Column - Kathodos 13
9.  Uada - Djinn (write-in vote) 12
  Aversio Humanitatis - Behold The Silent Dwellers 12
  Inquisition - Black Mass For A Mass Grave (write-in vote) 12
12.  Borgne - Y 11
Total votes:
729



Naas Alcameth metal -- that is to say occult, mystical, mythological black metal -- is alive and well with the harrowing reverie that is Melinoë, an astral projection of terror and torment personified by eerie, swirling dissonance and harrowing, off-kilter melodies that latch on to your thoughts and feast upon them for sustenance, consuming your deepest fears and darkest desires to conspire against and manipulate you into accepting the Akhlys abyss. The onslaught of extremity breaks character only for moments at a time to showcase surprisingly catchy riffs and an underlying touch of atmosphere within the void, contributing to a delicate hope of escape before the mystifying sense of dread returns once again to overwhelm and suffocate all that opposes it.

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Channeling the ritualistic atmospheres conjured by the likes of Schammasch, Spanish group Aversio Humanitatis delivers a potent strain of mid-tempo, intimidating black metal drenched in a sense of foreboding. The low vocal rasps, sinister guitar tones, dense production, and purposeful percussion work well together to create an insidious dread, setting the stage nicely for the occasional moments of full-pelt assault. Embracing hints of slight melody as the album progresses to keep things varied, Aversio Humanitatis otherwise approach their songwriting with a singular mindset, with Beyond The Silent Dwellers being a cohesive blast of malevolence.

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Borgne - Y

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Talk of "atmospheric" black metal often leads to expectations of ambient or shoegaze integration, but Borgne's spacious compositions and dominant synths don't diminish the sharp production; Y's atmosphere is not only sinister and mood-enhancing but aggressive and heavy, frequently drawing upon industrial techniques for a sound that is forceful, otherworldly, and mechanical. Y often sounds like black metal as written for a horror film score, its death-bearing chord progressions covered over with frigid keys and charging with energy towards dramatic climaxes. Though still firmly rooted in conventional black metal, Borgne is not bound to its toolbox, producing many breakaway passages and declaring grander ambitions with its electronic sounds.

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The invigorating avant-garde nature of an album simultaneously steeped in the origins of black and death metal appeases seekers of traditional-sounding forms of extremity while painstakingly catering to those actively pursuing the potential for outward growth, and the ever-present dreamy soundscapes and multi-layered instrumentation interwoven so effortlessly into what is otherwise a cacophony of brutal, technical, and sinister material highlights the unorthodox advantages of letting songs expand in ways that feel natural, yet calculated. Eternity Of Shaog is a masterclass in one-man-bandism that should encourage other victims of creative stagnation to come forward and tell their own stories for years to come.

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The track lengths have doubled since Gaerea's debut album, and the storm of emotions conjured by this spotlight-eluding Portuguese project has become that much more immersive. What is most striking about Gaerea is not the colorful riff-writing or the titanic drumming or the hardcore and post-metal influences, but their ability to take all of these things and churn out a raw, cathartic album that turns black metal into a vehicle for delivering a sense of human vulnerability. And they do so while armoring themselves with a crushing sound much closer to sludge than shoegaze, refusing to sacrifice the ever-increasing musical hardiness that has made them one of the most respected names in their generation of black metal. Gaerea turned heads with their 2016 EP, then again with their 2018 debut, and if Limbo is proof of anything, it's that Gaerea has no intention of risking our investment.

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Odraza know a thing or two about humanity's ugliness, the decay you feel living in a city, and how it all comes out at night. It is music for dark alleys, for decadence and hate, and, most importantly, filth. With just two albums and two members, Odraza have shown mastery at expressing that with black metal that is alluring, progressive, out-there, and ironically both beautiful and ugly. It's immaculately crafted, but it isn't proud of the world it showcases. Though there are enough moments where their black metal is more bludgeoning and takes from their Polish peers, no one else looks at the world like Odraza do.

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The Suns Of Perdition - Chapter II: Render Unto Eden unfolds on a massive scale that dwarfs most other black metal-adjacent albums of its generation; its methodical pace and propensity for layered instrumentation seem derived from post-metal, while its militant drum work suggests the more noteworthy devotees of combat among death metal bands. The atonal, repetitive riffs resemble what we've come to hear often from psychedelic black metal bands, but Panzerfaust is nothing as mellow and weird as that - this is the black metal of suffering and drudgery, a brutal, dissonant, and unrelenting wall of feral growls, thick bass, and droning melodies. The Suns Of Perdition - Chapter II: Render Unto Eden is filled with purgatorial darkness, unleashing in only five tracks a world of earth-defiling evil.

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On Ascension, Regarde Les Hommes Tomber further emphasize the black metal side of their post-black sound, bringing blast beats, harsh tremolo riffs, and vicious atmosphere in abundance. Nevertheless, there are still irresistibly headbangable mid-tempo grooves, a claustrophobic tone and production, and the hellish, hoarse roars of the vocalist that one would expect based on their previous efforts. Achieving a successful maturation of their already accomplished sound, the French group delivers a juggernaut of atmospheric yet forceful sludge-infused black ready to rip listeners to shreds.

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Black metal's reliance on riffs and atmospheres usually leaves little room for progressive detail. Enter Serpent Column, who do just the opposite, infusing their abrasive black metal sound with mathcore-tinged chaotic intricacy (one that even overtook the black metal elements in Endless Detainment, which you'll find nominated in the respective category). Kathodos, however, maintains the blistering barrage of riffs, but gives it more of a direction, making it less of an overwhelming affair yet nonetheless an extremely manic one. There's more of a knack for melodies, sparser moments, and ambiance, and it introduces those without losing the rhythmic intensity that made the music stand out.

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Akin to their Mystikaos labelmates Serpent Column, the newest offering from Skáphe also finds them polishing the strengths of what made their sound original but channeling it into a more controlled form. The swirling psychedelic dissonance is less of an abrasive element thanks to the more polished production, the complex songwriting, and the addition of Blackburn on drums. Phenomenal drumming aside, the off-kilter riffs, evocative bass, surprisingly well-integrated clean vocals, disharmonic melodies, and interplay between psychedelic black metal and harsh walls of sound make this one Skáphe's most fully realized outing.

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