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The Best Avantgarde / Experimental Metal Album - Metal Storm Awards 2021





At first glance it would be easy to see Ad Nauseam as just another one of the bands who can trace their lineage to Gorguts and Ulcerate. For the most part, that is true, but then you would find Imperative Imperceptible Impulse nominated in death, like the latest Ulcerate was. There's something at play here that does move the sound forward, and it all lies in its intricacies and dead-serious take on songwriting. Ad Nauseam take influence from 20th-century composers like Stravinsky and Penderecki, coming up with a new tuning system specifically to create a new harmonic vocabulary that allows the dissonance and the disharmony to speak new music. And all of it in the shape of tech death that feels more intricate than suffocating.

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Only one year after an intriguing and auspicious debut, Bríi celebrates its second nomination in the Metal Storm Awards with another trance-inducing work of black metal fermented in solutions of ambient and electronic music. Sem Propósito comprises two tracks of equal length, entitled simply “A” and “B” – plain packaging considering the constantly progressing genre pastiches contained within, but fair enough considering how difficult it would be to summarize each massive composition with any kind of more descriptive moniker. “A” and “B” alike journey through an endless crescendo/decrescendo of soft techno, whirring beats of anxious ambience, and multilayered menageries of meloblack magic, each somehow always at its own fixed pace despite the infinite catalogue of moods, densities, and styles they explore. Bríi shares some lo-fi and vaguely folkish aesthetics of its sibling project Kaatayra, with an overall flavor reminiscent of Thy Catafalque or a lower-key Progenie Terrestre Pura, but it’s a project with a unique feeling all its own, gliding through a wide array of styles with effortless fluidity and an unbroken feeling of complete immersion.

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There're a lot of categories in the Metal Storm Awards that are defined more by sound than by ethos. Avant-garde isn't one of them, hence why a lot of the stuff nominated here could have ended up in any of the other categories. Dola's previous album was nominated last year in Extreme Doom - but it was already an album whose mix of doom, black metal, and ambient felt alien, and Czasy dives only deeper into the formlessness of it all. Much less extreme than its predecessor, Czasy dials everything down. Doom and post-metal and black all get washed into a hazy psychedelic dream of an album, easily moving from ambient interludes to post-rock grooves and from jazzy drumming to blackened doom explosions, all to create a daunting atmosphere that is hard to grasp, and even harder not to get lost in.

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Sounding like a calmer version of Oranssi Pazuzu or a more structured version of Dark Buddha Rising, Five The Hierophant is another member of this nebulous sphere of dark psychedelic metal that is growing with each passing year. The sinister dark ambience of Through Aureate Void is merged with oriental music and jazz, with saxophone a persistent presence throughout these extended, meandering soundscapes. With no harsh vocals (or any vocals at all) to add extremity to the music, Five The Hierophant instead apply tone, tension, and atmosphere to take listeners on a subtly malevolent meditative journey.

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Kayo Dot call the album avant-garde doom, but there's way more to it than that. On their latest album, the band are at their heaviest since Hubardo, while even managing to stay relatively accessible at times. This is still Kayo Dot, so there is no shortage of eclectic and contrasting elements, but it is all set to a backdrop of heavy metal and progressive rock. Clean vocals trade lines with guttural growls and piercing screams, complex guitar rhythms and intricate drums dare you to tap your foot without needing a calculator, and buzzing, droning synths top off the surreal atmospheres. Just when you think you've got a good grasp of this album, new layers unveil themselves even after a dozen listens, and that's why we love Kayo Dot.

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If you’ve been to visit Bríi a few stories up and you still want more, we have another album comprising two substantial tracks of equal length that shift through numerous styles and atmospheres. Compared to Bríi, though, this one’s not quite as, hm, unified, we’ll say – Muyubyosha have made a name for themselves as a band capable of capturing the sound of dreams, and dreams are nothing if not extremely sensitive to slight variations in thought. The weirdly distorted and intangible moods of Noč Na Krayu Sveta have only one constant, and that’s the mysterious noisiness that stalks every instant of doomy, blackened, industrial, proggy, ambient, jazzy, thrashy, psychedelic somnambulance. Even if you can grasp what the band is doing for a few short seconds, it’ll never last longer than that; Muyubyosha courts the unknowable.

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It takes a certain skill to mix a truckload of musical styles without making a mess of it all, but Brazilian Papangu's impressive debut album shows exactly how to do just that. Holoceno's approach is like that of King Crimson and Kayo Dot, irreverent to anything but music itself. Fusion jazz, extreme doom, space rock, and ambient electronica are welded to a frame of melodic, progressive sludge, so seamlessly that the final construct defies definitions. Describing this album is best done in how it feels to listen to it: it's a cerebral, soulful, and wildly entertaining voodoo dance at the edge of a world that might just end any minute now.

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The name of the album means "nothing is enough". The title also reflects your words once you find yourself replaying this vile and addictive album over and over again. Plebeian Grandstand’s fourth album opens up a new chapter for the band. Their avant-garde take on black metal was already highly volatile, with the influences of hardcore and mathcore, but now these flavours have been somewhat subdued by the abrasive walls of noise and death industrial. Rien Ne Suffit is their most diverse and abstract work yet; here we hear testosterone-filled black/sludge metal riffs colliding with frightful drumming, alarming electronic bursts, and one of the most distressing vocal performances of the year. The wheels of extreme music keep on spinning. Plebeian Grandstand prove that it's never enough. Nothing is.

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Last year’s champion in this category, Thy Catafalque swiftly returns with an album that is arguably superior to its victorious predecessor, Naïv. Taking a darker and heavier approach than Naïv, Vadak nevertheless retains the genre-hopping and adventurous writing for which Thy Catafalque is known, with the album featuring folk, jazz, and electronics across its run time. Vadak can be melancholic and delicate at its tenderest (aided in no small part by the returning guest vocals of Martina Veronika Horváth), but fierce and emphatic at its heaviest.

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Moody, weird, heavy, confusing, and impressive black metal that would make Beethoven proud. Wreche does away with guitars and opts for driving his black metal with spellbinding piano, terrifically performed in a style as much classical as jazz as metal. Backed by drums, synths, and screams, Wreche's piano at times adds a very classical touch, at other times a crushingly heavy doom vibe, and frequently drops off the grid so he can roam his keys in free form. Even better, this "piano black metal" approach sounds so effortless and authentic that it never comes off as a gimmick; All My Dreams Came True sounds like an album that was just waiting to be made, and it's waiting for you to listen to it.

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