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The Best Gothic Metal Album - Metal Storm Awards 2021


1.  Swallow The Sun - Moonflowers 308
2.  Unto Others - Strength 146
3.  Tribulation - Where The Gloom Becomes Sound 140
4.  Moonspell - Hermitage 126
5.  Lake Of Tears - Ominous 46
6.  Evadne - The Pale Light Of Fireflies 26
7.  Hanging Garden - Skeleton Lake 22
8.  Dark The Suns - Suru Raivosi Sydämeni Pimeydessä 15
9.  Cradle Of Filth - Existence Is Futile (write-in vote) 9
10.  Light Of The Morning Star - Charnel Noir 7
11.  Opera Diabolicus - Death On A Pale Horse (write-in vote) 5
12.  Fragment Soul - Axiom Of Choice 4
Total votes:
862



After over a decade of silence, Dark The Suns return as a duo, weaving melancholic, doomy melodeath with growling, catchy gothic metal into a very Finnish tapestry of sound. Their '00s-nostalgic tunes contain symphonic elements reminiscent of Eternal Tears Of Sorrow, female-led doomier passages bringing to mind Draconian, and an upbeat, keyboard-driven vibe soaring above the riffs gluing together these influences into a recognisable and individual sound. Much has been said about gothic metal's "beauty and the beast" approach to music, and while it is apt also here, it is not so much due to any interplay between male and female vocals, but due to how the beautiful keyboards contrast against the crunchy riffs and subdued death growls, and it's all very prone to getting stuck in your head after listening.

Bandcamp / YouTube (full album)
Evadne’s sense of melancholy is the kind that expresses itself in pairs: breathy clean vocals and grand, cavernous growls; delicate piano interjections and light, opaque synths; persistently percussive acoustic guitars and aching electric leads. Like previous albums, The Pale Light Of Fireflies dwells largely in doom, which can mean the lamplit alt rock introspection of less heavy Katatonia or the subterranean ruminations of Swallow The Sun, and there are also plenty of opportunities for the band to rev up its engine and chug through some melodeath. Whether vast and enveloping or clam and reflective, Evadne can deliver all of the flavors that the best gothic metal demands of its practitioners, and it can be as extreme or as calm as your mood desires. Whatever suits your depression best.

Bandcamp / YouTube (full album)
You just can’t keep Heike Langhans out of this category, can you? Following two nominations last year with Draconian and Light Field Reverie, she’s back with Fragment Soul, a Greek progressive gothic metal band that credits her as a ‘special’ member. As unusual as that billing may be, it is a coup for Fragment Soul to recruit the talents of Langhans for their debut record, Axiom Of Choice, an album that channels the emotions and vibes of the more evocative Steven Wilson/Opeth material (think Damnation or The Raven That Refused To Sing), draped in a subdued gothic package. With long, predominantly clean songs acting as backdrops for the overlapping vocals of Langhans and Nick Argyriou, Axiom Of Choice is a touchingly melancholic first outing for Fragment Soul.

Bandcamp / YouTube (full album)
The bleak, melancholic charm of Skeleton Lake lies partly in the unexpectedly accessible songwriting; though never exactly jaunty, Hanging Garden can move along at a good clip, and they have a knack for spinning memorable hooks out of doleful dirges. Beyond that, Hanging Garden also have a lot of potential for variety: a mixture of harsh and clean vocals from several different vocalists creates a rich, dense method of delivery for those gloomy choruses, and Skeleton Lake often lingers on the threshold of indulging many brief digressions. Though conventional gothic doom remains the favorite resting place, some tunes find a bluesy swing, others low-key electronic flirtations reminiscent of 2000s alt metal, and still others a post-metal-esque desire to expand and fill space with atmospheric layers. We all expect Finnish doom to sound a certain way by now, but Hanging Garden are not interested in following anyone’s path but their own.

Bandcamp / YouTube (single 1) / YouTube (single 2)
Ominous was made to reflect Daniel Brennare's feelings on his physical illness (he was diagnosed with leukaemia shortly before Illwill) as well as to describe the emotional turmoil triggered by that diagnosis and the battle against it. The album is very atmospheric and as far from a collection of hit songs as it can be. There is very little of that verse-chorus-verse-chorus motif, which makes it hard to digest at first. Its tone is really dark and it blends various styles, with the main elements being goth rock, doom, and post-rock. The spirit of David Bowie is also quite strong, as is the Pink Floyd influence. Most of the record flows in a slow and brooding way, sometimes heavy, sometimes lighter. Ominous is very cinematic and the songs bleed into each other in a way such that the album is best experienced as a whole rather than as the sum of its parts.

Bandcamp / YouTube (full album)

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A man, perhaps human, perhaps not, is staring at you in the darkness. Longer nails do betray some bloodlust. Perhaps he sleeps in a coffin. Perhaps he comes out only at night. Perhaps that's why your neck stings. But you know that he sings in old noire voices, metal with voices of deathrock and goth rock, a retro-gloom with a darkness that needed to creep up again. And everybody knows that vampires have deep, deep voices. How else could they be so chilling and so seductive at the same time? Light Of The Morning Star's Charnel Noir is "music for night hours and sanguine addictions" alright.

Bandcamp / YouTube (full album)
Hermitage is a bold step taken by a band with over 30 years under their belt and little left to prove. Moonspell welcomed a new drummer into the fold in the form of Hugo Ribeiro, whose prog-influenced performance goes swimmingly with the more mellow, atmospheric approach taken on this record in comparison to the immediacy of an album such as Extinct. There’s some beautiful, at times almost Floydian, lead guitar work on this record, and Fernando Ribeiro covers an impressive range of emotions, from hushed narration to impassioned cries. Less universally adored than the most recent albums from Draconian and Paradise Lost, Hermitage is just a strong as those records, and forms part of what is seemingly something of a golden age for some of the heavyweights in gothic metal.

Bandcamp / YouTube (single)

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After nearly two decades of goth doom gloom and melodic death-doom, Swallow The Sun are one of the biggest household names in the genre and master craftsmen of melancholy and woe. Moonflowers uses those harsher death moments even more sparingly, bringing the sound closer to a goth sound, one stricken by grief and ennui. There's some goth rock injections, the blackened explosion of the closer, a duet with Oceans Of Slumber's Cammie Gilbert, and plenty of orchestral moments that also justified having a second disk in the deluxe edition of purely orchestral versions. It's dolor as you've come to want from Swallow The Sun.

YouTube (full album)

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Where The Gloom Becomes Sound can be described as Fields Of The Nephilim and Moonspell jamming '80s heavy metal songs in 2021. It is the logical continuation of what started with The Children Of The Night, evolved with Down Below, and now seems to have become the band's fixed style of choice. The record is roughly divided in two parts, with side A being the more atmospheric and cinematic one and side B being the more rocking one, where the band’s love for heavy metal becomes more apparent. Tribulation’s last release with Jonathan Hultén in the line-up is a monument of gothic darkness and electrifying heavy metal played by the creatures of the night.

YouTube (single)

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They say that Idle Hands are the devil's playthings. That's pretty cool. What's not pretty cool is a trademark dispute because somebody else wants your name. Thus we now have Unto Others, which may be legally distinct from Idle Hands, but it's the same band, the same style, just with a different half-aphoristic moniker and a horse on the cover. ...or is it? Strength is noticeably darker, heavier, grittier, and angrier than Mana, and the infinite nighttime illustrated by Gabriel Franco's resonant baritone stretches further into the imperceptible horizon. Unto Others differs from the stereotypical gothic template of doom + vocal contrasts + sadness; although they’ve got plenty of sorrow to mope about, like all good goths, their laments are delivered with up-tempo punk rhythms and knife-edged choruses punctuated by lupine howling. “Fun” is probably the wrong word for this style, so we’ll just say that Strength will give you a real workout while you contemplate all your failures.

Bandcamp / YouTube (full album playlist)

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