Metal Storm logo
The Best Black Metal Album - Metal Storm Awards 2021


Total votes:
705



While it was possible to read some innuendo into previous Ars Magna Umbrae albums, the cover art for Throne Between Worlds portrays "a plutonic underworld of madness and despair, located on the border between the world of the living and the world of the dead". Ars Magna Umbrae have always sounded like the border between life and death, having some dreamlike and otherworldly quality that made it feel like a trance of inescapable dread. Pace changes, layering, hypnotic melodies - all of these create a cloak of sound that slowly seduces you into oblivion. This is what it would sound like if you never woke up.

Bandcamp / YouTube (full album)

›› Full review...
Deiform is the work of a project that simply doesn't need much promotion anymore. Funeral Mist's latest opus was announced merely a week before its release date, scratching the last two weeks of the year. The listener will quickly find out that Arioch's poisonous poetry and meticulous songwriting are several cuts above the rest. There is a grand, devilish aura of biblical proportions throughout the whole album. It's a fiery, dead-serious affair: a dangerous take on fanaticism, fed by the deranged desire to take the most beautiful and pure musical elements and twist them into blasphemous madness. From the furious riffing and inspired leads to the inhuman drumming and maniacal vocal performance, Deiform is the reason why we wait till the year's bitter end to start our Metal Storm Awards. Let the choirs guide you. Let the poison in.

Bandcamp / YouTube (full album)

›› Full review...
Fyrnask don't necessarily sound too out-there, with their sound being mostly an ambient ritualistic take on black metal, but they manage to do some minimal twists in order to still sound unique while sounding mostly very familiar. A lot of it is basically atmospheric black metal, but done with incredible care for the songwriting and the evocative side. VII: Kenoma is an album that was written and recorded over a period of four years and you can feel that. Its strengths lie not in how much it tackles but in how well it tackles what it does, showcasing some amazing ebb-and-flow and fully using and integrating its ambient side.

Bandcamp / YouTube (full album)

›› Full review...
Czechia has been known for its inventive and unorthodox black metal ever since Slovakia was still attached to it. Although Inferno isn't quite old enough to remember the union days, Tomaš "Adramelech" Trombik's project has been putting out dissonant, nightmarish music for a couple of solid decades now, and Paradeigma (Phosphenes Of Aphotic Eternity) stands tall alongside black metal's eeriest new wave. The instruments all blur into a thick fog in which the vocals become abstract and distorted, pushing forward at a demanding pace but maintaining the density of a cloud that cannot be grasped or secured. This is the kind of black metal that traps your soul in space for eternity.

Bandcamp / YouTube (full album)

›› Full review...
Born from the ashes of Asphodèle and choosing the title of that band's only album as their name, Jours Pâles is the new black metal project of Spellbound, also of Aorlhac fame. This is black metal that incorporates so many different shades of it; atmospheric black, post-black, melodic black, depressive black, blackgaze, and even black thrash at times. A gothic and melancholic aura hovers over it, but less so than how prominent it was on Asphodèle, because Éclosion has a more rocking/metal character due to its songwriting choices and the guitar playing of James Sloan (Uada). With Christian Larsson's (Gloson, ex-Shining) amazing bass lines and the expressive vocals of Spellbound singing in French, Jours Pâles demonstrate an impressive ability to make the different aspects of their sound feel special on their own but also to make the sum equally engaging as its parts. For a fusion of aggressive and depressive black metal, this is as good as it gets.

Bandcamp / YouTube (full album playlist)
The cover art of Menschenmühle (human-grinder) reveals the album’s theme and is a great illustration of how humans were used as cannon fodder during the dark times of World War I. Musically, and just like Minenwerfer, these Germans have a knack for melody in their black metal to the point that they use some acoustic/post-rock parts, and they close this debut with a neofolk track. There are also a few groovy death metal riffs and passages and some doom/death metal ones that add to the diversity of the listening experience. Menschenmühle bears the smoky smell of gunpowder and the rotten stench of pits packed with muddy corpses. It is a very promising black metal debut that will satisfy both the extreme metal lover and the history buff in you and leaves a lot to hope for in the future of Kanonenfieber.

Bandcamp / YouTube (single)

›› Full review...
If you find yourself haunted by psychotic howling, dense bass noise, and creepy melodies veiled behind a wall of deafening crash percussion, chances are you’re listening to Maniac Manifest. This one-man band from Belarus made lo-fi into an art, in all the best ways, to create a black metal record as punishing and raw as it is eerie and introspective. It shifts deftly between atmospheric DSBM, punishing proto-black, and melodic second-wave vibes, while never losing its focus. The uncompromising production just serves to bring it all that much more ready for being served straight into your amygdala.

Bandcamp / YouTube (full album)

›› Full review...
After eight years in the cooler, Seth returned to soothe the suffering world with another masterpiece of French black metal. It's not exactly the dissonant style that has become the dominant export of our Frankish friends; Seth pursue a grand, orchestrated, and highly melodic breed of black metal in order to suit their (anti-)ecclesiastical subject matter. Although Seth is dedicated to a generally orthodox interpretation of the black metal strictures, each song swings skyward for courage-kindling melodies; the riffs alone tell stories with their rising and falling, and the echoes of synths and choirs that lie overtop make La Morsure Du Christ a gorgeously angelic-sounding album for something so dead-set against the idea. Tune in for a little hair of the Messiah that bit you.

Bandcamp / YouTube (full album)

›› Full review...
As much as we love the experimental stuff here on Metal Storm, it’s still possible to blast our boots off with an album that’s conceptually straightforward; you just need to have the fundamentals down to a science if you want to leave your audience frigid and spellbound. Spectral Wound is one of the most capable practitioners of orthodox black metal in the scene right now, building on the slight death metal influences and full-bodied sound of the Swedish school to achieve a balance of ferocity and accessibility. A Diabolic Thirst is hypnotic without being repetitive, melodic without losing its searing edge, and grandiose without requiring the use of choirs, keys, orchestras, or saxophones.

Bandcamp / YouTube (full album)

›› Full review...
Ustalost - the one-man band of Will Skarstad, produced by his brother Sam Skarstad, both of Yellow Eyes fame - works best as an exercise in lo-fi abrasiveness used for off-kilter atmospheres. The Spoor Of Vipers already made big waves, but Before The Glinting Spell Unvests feels even more expansive and dreamlike while losing none of its lo-fi appeal. There's a larger palette in the vocal performance, the riffing, and how big of an impact both the synths and the bass make on the music. For real, when was the last time a black metal as raw as this had bass this strong and well-written, acting as a potent counterpoint to the guitars instead of following them along? For such a raw-sounding mix, there must've still been great care towards making each instrument work so exceptionally well in tandem with each other.

Bandcamp / YouTube (full album)

›› Full review...