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The Best Debut Album - Metal Storm Awards 2021





On Atvm’s debut, Famine, Putrid And Fucking Endless, every single note seems to be in the right place, and - while progressive - the album never gets self-indulgent. The musicians play their music technically, yet unpretentiously; from multiple tempo and time signature changes, to various rhythm choices, to breaks and chugs and melodic gorgeousness, they seamlessly combine all their stylistic elements into a sound that is predominantly death metal, but not exclusively. The album carries many thrash metal elements and boasts a lot of groove and headbangability, while also favouring melody in rather large amounts. While there is a hefty number of different riffs and impressive sections on display, they are all given enough time to unfold and be absorbed by the listener so that the technicality does not become overwhelming. It is old-school in the sense that it worships the riff but it also sounds modern and innovative.

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Anathema turns eternal in Dream Unending's tribute to the equally unending '90s. This duo, comprising members of Tomb Mold and Innumerable Forms, resurrects an older style of death-doom that revels in downtrodden melodies and distraught moods, incorporating the moroseness of gothic romanticism for an expansive and progressive atmosphere. Tide Turns Eternal combines the numbing insubstantiality of dreams with the stinging emotional undercurrents of goth rock/post-punk and reinterprets them as a crushing and funereal work in the vein of old-style gothic doom. Dream Unending have figured out how to capture the bittersweet weightlessness of nostalgic visions and the dark spiraling of nightmares all at once.

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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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Just because Jón Aldará was already the singer of two excellent bands doesn’t mean he couldn’t take on a third project – especially if that project is Iotunn, whose debut album is teeming with opportunities for the Faroese frontman to put his vocal versatility to great use. Much of Access All Worlds plays out like a rich, insulated melodeath album, pushed along by many-tracked lead guitar harmonies and thunderous drum beats, though the pace will sometimes dash forward into a hard rain of black metal or slow for the soulful swells of wailing doom, which is where Aldará excels the most thanks to his drop-dead gorgeous cleans. Iotunn also have their eyes turned to the stars (hoping to access all worlds, no doubt): cosmic synths and a smattering of soft, reflective passages elevate this album to a new plane of galactic contemplation.

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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.

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One impressive thrash metal debut was given to us by Paranorm in 2021. You don’t often come across a band that plays thrash metal and adds death and progressive elements to their sound. If this was a chemical experiment, you would expect this to explode. And while Empyrean does explode in many ways, it’s for all the right reasons. This blend Paranorm has created on their maiden album works brilliantly: it’s aggressive, yet very nuanced at times; it's fast-paced, yet it leaves open enough room to broaden the sound with some experimentation. Empyrean is an intense and engaging thrill ride. In short, it’s an absolute banger!

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From the ashes of the talented heavy/speed metallers Spellcaster we got Silver Talon, a band producing a heavy and progressive amalgam of the Sanctuary/Nevermore kind, with some Crimson Glory, King Diamond, and Judas Priest thrown in for good measure, and you can even hear some Protest The Hero in their compositions, too. The songwriting is very engaging, the performances are top-notch, there are three guitarists and it well bloody shows, and, finally, there is a vocalist who comes as close as it gets to the late Warrel Dane. What else do you need to be convinced?

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Picture Emperor, but they’re all riding the same motorcycle and blasting through the mountains of Norway to pick up Valfar so he doesn’t die in that blizzard. On the way, they decide to record their own soundtrack to those new Lord Of The Rings films that were just released, only instead of keyboards they take entire dungeon synth albums and speed them up to be nested comfortably within looping Mercyful Fate and Dissection riffs. After a few hours of crushing ice on the back of that snow-piercing chopper, they decide to kill time by cramming a few sessions of their favorite table-top RPG and, feeling a bit fay, they roll up characters who are functionally indistinguishable from the members of Blind Guardian. Eventually, they’re unable to find the right part of Norway to change the course of history, but they do swing by a few haunted castles, rescue some princesses, and get crowned the saviors of a realm or two.

…and then the first song ends.

Bandcamp / YouTube (single 1) / YouTube (single 2)

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Spearheaded by the founding members of Rotting Christ and Necromantia on bass and vocals, and further boosted by younger VIP members of the Greek extreme metal scene on guitar and drums, Yoth Iria is an old recipe delivered in a fresh and engaging package. Listening to As The Flame Withers feels like you are taking part in a process of initiation to the Hellenic black metal cult. This effect is achieved by both the production choice as well as the actual music itself, which is very ritualistic but also distinctly melodic and accessible. The sound is now more than 30 years old, but bands like Yoth Iria are sure to keep the fire aflame for a lot longer.

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