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The Best Djent / Math Metal - Metal Storm Awards 2021





If, instead of pursuing an atmospheric prog direction, The Contortionist had followed up Language with something more djent-oriented, the outcome may have come out sounding similar to Necropolis. Cyderian Son exhibit the same eerie, unorthodox sense of melody and understated singing approach of The Contortionist, but implement them above a chunky polyrhythmic foundation, and as the relative complexities of the vocals, djent rhythms, and additional elements clash, a sense of sensory overload emerges, even as those subdued vocals suggest mellowness. Necropolis can be maddeningly complex yet subtly soothing and manages to weave in memorable hooks even when the technicality of the compositions makes that a seemingly daunting task.

Bandcamp / YouTube (single)
You know when you walk past a construction site and you find yourself thinking, “Damn, that jackhammer’s got a really sick tone”? You know when you absent-mindedly step in front of a jet engine and as you’re dealing with the inconvenience of being processed through its turbines you have to stop and wonder, “How can I get my guitar setup to feel like this”? You know when you go to cross the street and a police cruiser comes rocketing across the pavement at full blast and smears your shredded guts over 15 meters of city block and your only reaction is, “Golly, those blaring sirens sure do sound heavenly”? That’s the closest approximation to a description of Oxidized that we can manage. Frontierer is so brutal that there are no words to describe music this heavy – only slideshows of painful X-rays and large-scale avalanches set to looped audio samples of battleships smashing into each other can accurately convey the same effect. Sometimes you find an album that looks cool, you press “play,” and you immediately learn that the band in question wants to annihilate your entire place of residence down to the last brick. This is one of those times.

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

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Djent techniques are now seemingly such an integral part of modern metalcore that it can be hard to find metalcore without djent, and as such it can be difficult as an up-and-coming band to stand out against the volume of new records dropped within the genre. One way is to create such a record as part of a thesis project; another way is to make it as groovy, hooky, and distinctive as possible. Heliocentric, the one-man project of Jared Smith, accomplishes both; this interdisciplinary exploration of Abrahamic theology features a compact collection of songs that are instantly memorable, satisfyingly gnarly, and notable for the ways in which they experiment with world music and percussion.

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Placing the tones and technicality of djent within a melodic prog-metal context and mostly eschewing metalcore, Karmanjakah’s debut full-length, A Book About Itself, uses this texture and polyrhythmicity as an intensifier for the emotional melodic singing of Jonas Lundquist and as a weapon in the album’s heavier moments. Hearing music this melodically oriented driven by such persistent and hefty groove can be a lot to digest, but it becomes easier when the vocal hooks are this sharp, the grooves are this punchy, and the cleaner guitar work is so well-implemented. Bearing a clear resemblance to pre-implosion Corelia, Karmanjakah have enough of their own personality to make an impact on a bustling djent scene.

Bandcamp / YouTube (single)
Monosphere came to life in the aftermath of progressive deathcore band Lost Without Direction, but their debut record, The Puppeteer, eschews deathcore for a relatively unique combination of djent, metalcore, mathcore, and post-metal. Comprising an abundance of short songs that flow together into a greater whole, The Puppeteer features blasting, breakdowns, and ‘turn-on-a-dime’ shifts within songs, but also delves into more expansive songwriting, toying with dynamics and musical space in a manner not that unlike Cult Of Luna. The brevity of such moments on the album serves as an exciting prototype of how a post-metal/djent-core fusion could be fleshed out further, but the overall experience of this album does not feel undercooked, with the repeating motifs across the album and seamless flow between movements rendering The Puppeteer a well-rounded and complete affair.

Bandcamp / YouTube (single)

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A lot of people seem to think that mathcore started in the late '90s with Botch and The Dillinger Escape Plan, but mathcore actually started in 1929 when Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali made Un Chien Andalou, a short surrealist film that featured an iconic pupil slicing scene. Nearly a century later, Pupil Slicer don't really take more than their band name from that scene; instead, they create uneasy, angular noise, a mix of furious grind, amplifier worship, flirtations with Deftones-esque gaze injections, interludes that actually enhance the music rather than merely providing breathing room and palette cleansers, and just overall the experience of guitar playing so sharp it slices your pupils.

Bandcamp / YouTube (single)
Two EPs and a full-length for the Senpai series seems like an appropriate parallel to the two-seasons-and-a-movie treatment this would get if it were a real anime; as you might expect from that analogy, Senpai III is the most complete and thoroughly detailed work in the trilogy, getting a boost in production to accompany the boost in emotional resonance. The summery pop melodies, upbeat skip-along rhythms, feather-light piano accompaniment, and overall genki-ness owe a great debt to anime music, but you don't need to have any appreciation for the world of two dimensions to enjoy Sithu Aye's instrumental prog jams - there are plenty of calm, introspective interludes that pose a reflective counterpoint to those bright guitar gems, ruminating on the themes of graduation and growth. There's got to be a little bit of Kensuke Ushio influence in there, too. Maybe you won't have the patience to dive into the concept, but if you've got any appreciation for mathy, laidback prog metal, Senpai III is waiting for you to notice it.

Bandcamp / YouTube (full album)

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In our Metal Storm Awards, we group 'djent' and 'math metal' into a single category. Clearly there is some overlap in the rhythmicality of both styles, but they're not necessarily entwined; The Dillinger Escape Plan didn't use djent sounds in their chaos, and Periphery didn't have the frenetic abrasion of bands such as Dillinger. On Where Are We Still, the debut EP from Telomēre, both mathcore and djent can be found together; Telomēre range from a post-hardcore/math rock sound in their cleaner moments to a fiercer djent-y crunch when they want to turn up the intensity. Between the pleasant ear for melody, heft of the heavier instrumentation, solid clean vocals (which are reminiscent of Corelia, amongst others) and unpredictable song structures, there's a lot to dig into and enjoy on Where Are We Still.

Bandcamp / YouTube (full album playlist)
Given how much Vildhjarta's debut dominated discussions of djent back in those formative days when it was first being distinguished as a genre rather than a sound, it may be surprising that it took a full ten years to release a second album, but Vildhjarta has always prided itself on the careful sharpening of its sound to achieve the greatest effect; meticulous crafting is its own reward. And at 80 minutes in length, Måsstaden Under Vatten is really making up for lost time, teaching a whole new djeneration that this style is about more than just extended-range metalcore - the throbbing rockslides of percussion, bristling rhythmic shake-ups, high-gain dissonance, and complicated instrumental layers combine into a massive breakdown that hits like a bridge collapsing, and for all that immense heaviness, there’s no loss of that mysterious creeping feeling... Only once you surpass djent is it possible to thall.

YouTube (full album)

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Vola are amongst the most accessible bands within the djent scene, and their third album lies somewhere between the ethereal melodicism of Applause Of A Distant Crowd and the heaviness of Inmazes. However, Witness features experimentation for the band, whether it’s dabbling with nu metal or trying a chorus that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Coldplay record. The ear for evocative melody and tasteful implementation of crunching polyrhythms that have defined Vola’s sound to this point remain intact, and in combination with the new ambitions exhibited across the record, Witness is evidence of Vola evolving.

Bandcamp / YouTube (single)

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