The Best Folk / Pagan / Viking Metal Album - Metal Storm Awards 2016





E-an-na's first entry into what will hopefully prove to be a gargantuan and fruitful discography is strung together with mystical harmonies and instrumental tag teams that give E-an-na a presence far too ancient and mature for such a young band. Aflame with electrifying rhythms and an overwhelming energy, Jiana toils ceaselessly to balance whimsical melodies and serious themes, hybridizing modern and traditional elements in such a way that neither side overpowers the other; rather they weave together into a strong fiber possessed of uncommon subtlety. The musical legacy of Romania is in good hands with E-an-na.

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The uproarious German ensemble Equilibrium adds some extreme power metal flavor to its favored folk formula on Armageddon, an album touched by a little more boundary-pushing than fans might be used to. The tempos, attitudes, and influences are different from what we've learned to expect from Equilibrium (in one case, wildly different), but Armageddon is no less an honored part of the German folk metal fraternity. Equilibrium always brings a lot of energy and a many-layered sound to disperse it all, and Armageddon, too, will prove a great soundtrack to any hunting party (or LAN party, as the case may be).

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After what felt like an eternity, the Finns came back stronger than ever with yet another true-to-form masterpiece. With Jumalten Aika, Moonsorrow threw everything they have done thus far into a pot, stirred it, added even more atmosphere, and delivered a stunning album. Ville Sorvali's vocals are phenomenal, and combining them with the progressive, symphonic black metal vibe, once again Moonsorrow takes us on a diverse, enthralling, and emotional listening journey.

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There is no bigger name in Romanian folk metal than Negură Bunget, and even with stiff competition from Bucovina last year and E-an-na this year, ZI demonstrates like Tău before it that Negură Bunget has no intention of fading into the background any time soon. ZI is calm and monastic until partway through "Grădina Stelelor," when it becomes dizzying and monastic; the flurry of blackened fury harmonizes with the meditative folk elements, which feel like the soundtrack to a sunrise. This album is a little more passive and low-key than some of our other entries here, but is no less deserving of your time and appreciation.

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Saor's raison d'être is breathing into existence the enthralling atmosphere of Andy Marshall's backyard. Atmosphere, atmosphere, and atmosphere - those are the three words most important to any description of this album. Guardians is incredibly immersive, filled with rich textures and unending squalls of melody balanced between impassioned black metal and smatterings of Scottish tradition. Aura turned some heads and Roots met a fair amount of acclaim, but Guardians will be the album to immortalize Saor.

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Blessed with a keen ear for riffs and a wide range of vocal capabilities, Skálmöld had no choice but to succeed with Vögguvísur Yggdrasils, the fourth entry into this Icelandic folk metal saga. Whether galloping along to Amon Amarth-style melodeath, layering clean vocals into Týr-style choruses, tossing out NWOBHM-inspired riff bonanzas, or breaking out the folk instrumentation for a taste o' the real stuff, Skálmöld is constantly engaged in making gripping, heavy, and distinct-sounding metal. You might have trouble remembering the name, but the sound of Vögguvísur Yggdrasils will stick with you for a long time to come.
From two of the minds behind Enslaved and Wardruna comes Skuggsjá, a shrouded, eerie, and unsettling purveyor of Scandinavian folk. A Piece For Mind & Mirror falls more heavily on the Wardruna side than the Enslaved side, running through a cavalcade of instruments and melodies utterly alien to most listeners; Skuggsjá's acoustic-electric neofolk blend has so many facets it's impossible to grasp the full measure of this album in a single listen. Its ominous presence also makes it rather prohibitive for the faint of heart, but A Piece For Mind & Mirror is just as creative as the pedigrees of its artificers warrant.

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It was obvious from the moment Thrawsunblat catapulted into our hearts with its stellar debut that this Canadian trio would become a leading name in folk metal and meloblack circles, and Metachthonia reaches even greater heights than its predecessor. Packed to the breaking point with soul-stirring melodies and a dark sobriety carried forward from Woods Of Ypres (with some occasional violin to tug at your heart even more vigorously), Metachthonia is an emotionally, atmospherically, and sonically heavy album. Electrifying leads cascade over meloblack skeletons in six lengthy tracks of melancholy genius that will make you want first to sing along and then to lay down and die.

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Klechdy ('the tales' in English) is a concept double album. Each of the 12 tracks refers to a specific month in the year, and just like our own life, it has many flavours and tempo changes. Sadness, aggression and death are the main themes of this epic ethnic epos. Can you survive it?

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Though still in their somewhat provocative style of pagan metal, with Das Ende Aller Lügen the Wolfsrudel took a different approach from their prior albums and delivered an all-out fabulous sonic experience. Their newest release not only convinces with perfect songwriting and precise production, but also engages the listener from start to finish.

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