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The Best Grindcore Album - Metal Storm Awards 2020

1.  Anaal Nathrakh - Endarkenment 290
2.  Napalm Death - Throes Of Joy In The Jaws Of Defeatism 153
3.  Benighted - Obscene Repressed 33
4.  Contrastic - Mamun 22
5.  Caustic Wound - Death Posture 14
6.  Chepang - Chatta 10
7.  Dephosphorus - Sublimation 6
8.  WVRM - Colony Collapse 5
  Internal Rot - Grieving Birth (write-in vote) 5
10.  Tithe - Penance 4
11.  Fuck The Facts - Pleine Noirceur (write-in vote) 3
  Meth Leppard - Woke 3
Total votes:

2020 is over. The decline of humanity is not, so you'd better stop deluding yourself into thinking that we are somehow out of the woods. Endarkenment is the sprawling acid inferno of black, bubbling vitriol destined to carve the evidence of our failures into our memories. Though different production techniques and an abundance of concessions to catchiness have reeled Anaal Nathrakh into more accessible climes since their early days, their ferocity and misanthropy have not been diluted by the increasingly profound uses of clean vocals and synthesis with electronic and metalcore elements. For the first time, the band wants you to know what they're singing about, and if that's not a sign of the end times, we don't know what is - but you'd goddamn better pay attention.

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Though Benighted is primarily known as a brutal death metal band - and indeed all four of their previous MSA nominations were in the death metal category - elements of punkier styles have long been detectable in their music. And the song structures on Obscene Repressed are a little more complex than the typical grind and hardcore fare, certainly evocative of death metal and even black metal sometimes, the raging aggression and borderline-chaotic forward momentum cannot be swept away. By now, the chunky riffs and musclehead slams are beginning to occupy the central place in Benighted's sound, with the blast beats and double bass finally pushing past the BDM sound barrier and into the ranks of grindcore. The regular core category might have been an equally fitting placement and there is still a great deal of death metal brutality lurking on Obscene Repressed, so it's a bit of a split hair, but your whole head will be split by the time it's done anyway.

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Real life grotesque cover art? Check. Gurgles so low they seem taken from the bowels of hell? Check. OSDM riffs played over the speed limit but crushingly slow, too? Check. It's grind time! Caustic Wound's instrumental branch is 1/4 Magrudergrind and 3/4 Mortiferum, with the Cerebral Rot and Fetid vocalist behind the mic. And with 4/5 of the band coming from a primarily death metal background, it ain't no wonder how much this sounds like death metal. The production is filthy, the vocals gurgly, the tracks short, the pace alternating between breakneck grind and crushing doom death, the moments never wasted.

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Chepang play grindcore for the three people out there who can't quite decide what shared qualities of Melt-Banana, Psudoku, and Naked City they want extrapolated into a whole new entity. At only 17 minutes in length, Chatta is slim even compared to the other grind contenders, but you'd be surprised by the amount of psychic damage that can be dealt in 17 minutes. The songs are written as they're played, the instruments are in a continuous state of being retuned, and you'd sure as hell better believe that there's a saxophone involved - how else could we in good conscience refer to this as jazzgrind? Labels mean very little to Chepang, though, and what Chatta really sounds like is a series of the world's shortest jam sessions, a violent and unhinged band practice into which all kinds of genres, time signatures, and textures have been crammed with far more aplomb than should be feasible.

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Those who dive deep into the underground grindcore scene of Czechia know full well about the bizarre and unique group of bands that emerged in the dawn of the new millennium. Contrastic was one of those bands with its self-titled debut from two decades ago. Now they are back and have no problems in showing everybody how their insane sound remained intact throughout the years, albeit with more mature and cohesive songwriting. Mamum is weird, quirky, and filled with outside influences like groovy electronica and jazz. To fully explain their style is almost irrelevant as one has to endure these 25 minutes of charismatic, catchy deathgrind madness to truly believe it.

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Riding the ridge between grindcore and death metal, Dephosphorus can deliver groovy death metal riffs (replete with added horn blasts) as well as frantic grindcore blasting. The blackened touches (from the guitars to the pained, high-pitched shrieks) further flesh out the extreme metal CV of Sublimation; the death metal grooves and unexpected electronic effects provide plenty of satisfaction between the grind assaults that Dephosphorus inevitably return to, which hit just as hard as one would hope. Hinting at potential for Dephosphorus to undergo a similar maturation in the future as the likes of fellow grindsters Wake have achieved in recent years, Sublimation is an impressively diverse blast of extremity.

You don't need more than two people, 17 minutes, and a pun on Def Leppard to make great grindcore. Woke is pretty much just that. No bullshit. No sound effects. Just comedy grind where the comedy is more obvious in the lyrics than in the sound. Songs like "Dead Kardashians", "Sixty Nine Feet Under", "Boomer", or "Thrash Sucks" might sound silly on the surface, but Meth Leppard cut through them like through cheese. Certainly better than anything Def Leppard did in 30 years.

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The wonderfully titled Throes Of Joy In The Jaws Of Defeatism follows the pattern of Napalm Death's last two full-lengths, heading into more experimental territories while, even at its most brutal, coming across as fairly melodic. The Brummie grindcore pioneers are once more promoting rational thought and the drive to make this world a better place for everyone, while expanding the genre's boundaries without renouncing their ferocious blueprint. This album proves that age hasn't made their sound less extreme but maturity has helped them continue to challenge and bludgeon with more weapons than merely hyperspeed grind.

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Grindcore goes very, very fast. Doom metal goes very, very slow. These are two basic truths of the universe. But what if... Is such a combination possible? Well, that's what Tithe is here to explore with Penance, an album that no priest is likely to prescribe from the confessional but that might nonetheless relieve some of your suffering. The time shifts and demented thrash riffs of OSDM surface on numerous occasions, which already puts Tithe in a position to outmaneuver the limitations of pure grind, but for lack of any more precise chemical breakdown it does indeed seem that this American trio has managed to squeeze the agonizingly down-tempo lamentations of extreme doom into the feedback frenzy of grindcore. That's one thing, though; the smart riff-crafting is another. Penance is certainly curious as an experiment, and a successful one at that, but it's also a ripping album of raw noise, and you'd do well to brace your ears.

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Technically, just about every album last year was released in the throes of lockdown, but Colony Collapse really seems to capture the infuriating contradiction of being trapped inside with your thoughts and watching everybody else through the window as they cause the damn colony to collapse. Even in such short tracks, WVRM still find time to squeeze in murderous breakdowns and rapid gear changes, and no matter how much trampling chaos the rhythm section stampedes into, the production manages to buoy it with precision. The vocals run the gamut of nasty noise, from deep, belching gutturals to even deeper, belching-er pig squeals to searing hardcore screams, and the riffs can be dissonant and doomy when so inclined (but you know they'll always have time for those little bursts of feedbacks that every grindcore band is contractually obligated to start their songs with). This year's grindcore category is probably the most experimental and unorthodox that it has ever been, which is great for the genre, but every now and then you just need to be punched in the face repeatedly. That's what WVRM is here for.

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