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The Best Death Metal Album - Metal Storm Awards 2020


1.  Ulcerate - Stare Into Death And Be Still 316
2.  Vredehammer - Viperous 80
3.  Cytotoxin - Nuklearth 50
4.  Azarath - Saint Desecration 45
5.  Black Curse - Endless Wound 30
6.  Wake - Devouring Ruin 24
  Afterbirth - Four Dimensional Flesh 24
8.  Earth Rot - Black Tides Of Obscurity 23
9.  Benediction - Scriptures (write-in vote) 20
10.  Defeated Sanity - The Sanguinary Impetus 18
11.  Vader - Solitude In Madness (write-in vote) 17
12.  Xibalba - Años En Infierno 15
13.  Necrot - Mortal (write-in vote) 11
Total votes:
740



Other brutal death metal bands are still trying to figure out how to make slams sound even slammier than other slams, and Afterbirth is out here playing songs in four dimensions. Although this New York quartet didn't release its first full-length until 2017, Afterbirth dates back to the '90s, a time when Atheist, Gorguts, Death, Cynic, Quo Vadis, and others were transforming death metal into highbrow art, and that taste for sophistication clearly stuck with Afterbirth. Four Dimensional Flesh ranges far heavier than a lot of inquisitive death metal and is more eccentrically bizarre than simply prog-influenced, but if all of those names mean anything to you and you're looking for death metal that's more than caveman riffs and dime-a-dozen Swedeath revivalists, Afterbirth are your new heroes.

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Saint Desecration is another blistering assault of blackened death metal from Polish group Azarath, arguably best-known for being the secondary project of Behemoth drummer Inferno. Inferno gets another chance to showcase his talents here, blasting for victory throughout these slabs of relentless extremity. Yes, there's slower sections where unrepentant fury is sacrificed in favor of some blackened atmosphere, but they're rather in the minority, as the conveyer belt of riffs delivers punch after punch, with technicality and brutality from the death metal riffs and ear-catching hooks from the more blackened guitar work.

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Pounding blastbeats. Grinding, slow, down-tempo sections. Riffing. Solos that sound like cats getting their tails yanked. Gurgling, shrieking, and howled vocals that sound like they were recorded inside an empty bank vault. All played with reckless abandon and an absolute wanton disregard for human life. Listen and get rekt. If you don't like this album, fuck you. Simple as.

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Technical and brutal in equal measure, Cytotoxin sacrifice neither aspect on Nuklearth, a jackhammer of a listen that also delivers frenetic and, at times, melodic guitar wizardry. The influence of acts such as Cattle Decapitation comes through in their sound, but whether they're entering bludgeoning breakdown territory, unleashing bass drum barrages, or serving up memorable riffs with satisfying groove, they stand on their own feet as masters of delivering ballistic assaults. With Nuklearth, Cytotoxin serve up a textbook example of how to nail a brutal technical death metal sound, employing melody, groove, technicality, and extremity as needed to blow listeners away.

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How does Defeated Sanity follow up an album in which they deconstructed their sound into a progressive side and a brutal side? By taking their sound to the utmost limit of both technicality and brutality. The Sanguinary Impetus is the result of years of exercises in controlled brutality, finally having it calculated and optimized for maximum effect down to the smallest of decimals. The muddy production of past releases being now pristine and equally meticulous makes it feel even colder. Its 35 minutes feel like what the technical brutal death metal sound has been building up to for 30 years based purely on those two factors.

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This Australian blackened death metal outfit tackles the difficult third album without missing a beat, unleashing an onslaught of sharp-edged, powerful, and hooky riffs throughout Black Tides Of Obscurity. The riffing alternates between old-school death metal buzzsaw and blackened tremolo, shifting gears with regularity with great smoothness while still managing to throw out an oddball from time to time, whether it's a triplet chug, a disco beat, or a glam rock throwback riff. Whilst listeners will come for the irresistible riffs, Earth Rot still manages to develop a potent atmosphere surrounding these hooks to deliver a listening experience that works on multiple levels.

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In a world that's becoming ever more polarized and divided, one of the more strongly shared opinions to come out of 2020 was that Ulcerate crushed all before them with Stare Into Death And Be Still. By toning down the intensity just a notch, Ulcerate take their unique brand of dissonant and suffocating yet expansive death metal to another level, using subtle hints of melody and a more dynamic approach to create something densely atmospheric. Aided in no small part by the extraordinary efforts of Jamie Saint Merat on the drums, Stare Into Death And Be Still further cements Ulcerate as one of the leading lights in 21st-century extreme metal.

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Vredehammer offers the description "'80s horror keyboards" for the recent addition to its blackened death sound, and that they certainly are, but only sometimes - when not channeling John Carpenter, those keys pull Viperous into a hypnotic techno synthesis, strobing and oscillating at a severe rhythm alongside the frantic tremolo-picking. Vredehammer hasn't gone full Servants Of The Apocalyptic Goat Rave - Viperous still owes most of its identity to its bone-breaking death-and-black skeleton - but more than just the keys, the atomically precise jackhammer drums and certain guitar lines often create an electronic death metal sound that practically explodes off the disc from the energy. Vredehammer's progressive tendencies have led Viperous into an unusual yet perfectly natural flavor, and without exchanging its gravel-shredding speed or insane aggression.

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Wake may have started as a grindcore band, but they have been expanding their sound with every release to the point where, on Devouring Ruin, the grind element is far from being the dominant one on display. In around 45 minutes of runtime it comes across as a fairly expansive and modern death metal record that touches on various extreme styles with great success. It's not a unique sound, but it is certainly unexpected for a former grindcore band to have evolved so much that their longer compositions are now their most riveting ones.

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With its plodding, pessimistic riffs, portentous leads, and slower passages that feel a little more beaten-down than beatdown, Xibalba's Años En Infierno sports quite the doom varnish. At the same time, the way the strings rumble and bend, the way those drums propel the more aggressive runs, Xibalba belongs to hardcore as well. And further still, that distinctive buzzsaw tone and the throat-shredding mids tell you just what kind of death metal Xibalba listens to. So hardcore and death metal have been thrown together often enough; so you're sick of all these reheated OSDM tribute bands; well, nobody's out there bringing hardcore to death quite the way Xibalba is, and certainly not with such palpable funeral doom influence. In the flesh, Años En Infierno reminds us that it is still possible to innovate even after years of repetition have supposedly caused the scene to exsanguinate.

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