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The Best Melodic Black Metal Album - Metal Storm Awards 2021





Trisagion is the final album from Ethereal Shroud (at least for now), and anyone who discovered the project through this album can agree that this is a crying shame. The rapturous reception that Trisagion has received is completely warranted; how else, apart from with awe, can one react to a record as utterly epic as this? Three gargantuan tracks of atmospheric black metal take every good element from folky atmoblack whilst somehow avoiding all the pitfalls; each song on the record pushes the limits of how much one can drag out these stirring folk melodies, almost ambient waves of blackened guitars, and densely distorted and buried vocals whilst never crossing the line. The hype is real: Trisagion is immense.

Bandcamp / YouTube (full album)

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Ever since their 2015 debut, Grima has graced us with a new album every other year, and with the momentum built, 2019's Will Of The Primordial landed a nomination in the same category of its year. Now the momentum keeps taking them further, as Rotten Garden perfects their brand of pagan atmospheric black metal. The oak-masked brothers, whom you may also know from Ultar and Second To Sun, combine the forest-like atmospheres of cold winds and strange woods with a passionate melancholy. There are a lot of merges in Grima's sound. The piercing shrieks with the lumbering growls. The cold atmosphere and the somber melodies. Black metal and accordion. For a band hailing from the largest country on Earth, they do make the natural atmosphere feel fittingly grand.

Bandcamp / YouTube (full album)

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Fresh off the insane 2-hour collaboration album with Spectral Lore, Mare Cognitum is back working solo on Solar Paroxysm, unleashing 10-minute juggernauts of delightfully melodic black metal. Each song is solid riff after solid riff, strung together in an unstoppable sequence, and often capped off with a spellbinding solo. With some doomy detours, there’s enough range across Solar Paroxysm to avoid this approach becoming stale, instead offering frenzied pleasure throughout.

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Massen from Belarus emerged in 2019 from the ashes of Massenhinrichtung, and their debut album blends melodic black/death metal with folk, symphonic, and progressive elements, not shying away from acoustic, rocky passages and even incorporating d-beat rhythms and hardcore punk influences. Nevertheless, the result never sounds imposed or forced, but always surprising and spontaneous, and the pure joy of playing and the sextet's passion show in each of the seven tracks. A special feature is the vocal performance held in the band's mother tongue, because not just two or three but four singers share deep death metal growls, clean (female) vocals, gang shouts, and bloodcurdling black metal screams, providing a refreshing variety to the furious mix. The fact that the violin, which is never used as a gimmick but as a full-fledged instrument, is not lost in the dense hustle and bustle is just another reason to let the 35 incredibly entertaining minutes of Contraesthetic pelt down on you.

Bandcamp / YouTube (full album)
Does Dan Simmons even know that his Hyperion Cantos book series has inspired three freaky Frenchmen to create a hybrid of melodic black metal and industrial, refined with bits and pieces of synthwave? Hyperion is the aptly chosen title of Sol Draconi Septem's debut album, and although their members hide behind pseudonyms, it's safe to assume that the musicians involved have several years of experience under their belt - this blackened sci-fi movie soundtrack sounds just too mature and professional for the work of a bunch of rookies. Three guest musicians are on board: Sven Vinat (Paydretz, bass), Adrastis Korgan (Decline Of The I, vocals) and Sergio "Bornyhake" Da Silva (Borgne, vocals) complete the crew of the spaceship trundling back and forth between the destroyed old Earth and Tau Ceti Center. What makes Hyperion so extraterrestrially interesting is not only the Frenchmen's instinct for slightly wacky and unusual yet catchy compositions, but also the sound of a jazzy saxophone, which perfectly complements the mysterious, spacy atmosphere. Because there's one thing Dan Simmons knows for sure: only sex in space is better than sax in space.

Bandcamp / YouTube (full album playlist)
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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Let the print media and Boomer radio talk up Greta Van Fleet; the cool kids know that Thulcandra is the band to beat when it comes to pitch-perfect tributes to a legendary trailblazer. In Thulcandra’s case, of course, it’s not Led Zeppelin but Dissection that is the center of all admiration, and their distinctive brand of death metal-adjacent melodic black metal is perfectly reproduced on A Dying Wish as on the three succeeding releases of this German aspirant. The riffs, the rhythms, the tones, the progressions – all the quirks are there, meticulously studied and reproduced. Maybe such a spot-on imitation of an older act isn’t to your liking, but, you know, ripping black metal riffs are ripping black metal riffs, and at some point we all need to know what would have happened if Dissection’s legend hadn’t ended with Storm Of The Light’s Bane.

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The party of brave adventurers crests a hilltop and gazes into the vast green expanses of rugged nomad country, seeking to espy some sign of their quarry.

"Legolas, what do your elf eyes see?"

Legolas squints down the barrel of his Winchester Model 1873. A tumbleweed blows past. Gimli pulls out his harmonica to pass the time.

"I see that no-good sumbitch Jesse James and his gang," says Legolas, spitting tobacco juice. "Let's string 'em up, boys."


Picture Summoning, but all the orcs carry Peacemakers. Picture Emyn Muil, but the Nazgûl all have names like "Sixgun Steve" and "Zebediah the Cow-Wrassler." Picture Ennio Morricone, but he got an Emperor tattoo across his stomach and answers only to "Blakkvald, Demon ov the Forest."

Bandcamp / YouTube (single 1) / YouTube (single 2) / YouTube (single 3)

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A lot of times the distinction between melodic black metal and black metal proper is pretty hard to make, which makes this category a bit harder to curate than death metal and melodic death metal. But if a lot of stuff here is basically atmospheric black metal with extra steps, Wormwood's Arkivet lives and breathes melody. And not even in a ridiculous way, but in a way that takes some cues from folk metal, maintaining this somberness all throughout. Taking as a theme a document wherein one settles their affairs before their death, Wormwood extend that concept to the entire dying world. The music, as melodic as it is, perfectly fits the melancholy, rage, and resignation that come with such a bleak concept.

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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.

Bandcamp / YouTube (full album)

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