The Best Progressive Metal Album - Metal Storm Awards 2018

1.  Riverside - Wasteland 260
2.  Voivod - The Wake 109
3.  Oceans Of Slumber - The Banished Heart 93
4.  In The Woods... - Cease The Day 92
5.  Conception - My Dark Symphony [EP] 75
6.  Seventh Wonder - Tiara 66
7.  Haken - Vector (write-in vote) 23
8.  Michael Romeo - War Of The Worlds, Pt. 1 (write-in vote) 17
9.  Heir Apparent - The View From Below 16
10.  Hypno5e - Alba - Les Ombres Errantes 14
11.  Keor - Petrichor 10
12.  Them Moose Rush - Don't Pick Your Noise 7
Total votes:

Conception's reunion did not take place with a triumphant press release or a bombardment of promotional videos. This doesn't change the fact that the band responsible for some of the best progressive/power metal ever recorded is back after 20 years, Roy Khan's heavenly voice has returned after 8 years, and we can all rejoice because My Dark Symphony is totally worthy of their legacy. With a softer sound that sometimes is not even metal, but still melodic, classy, and transcendent, Conception have delivered a fabulous EP whose only flaw is that "Feather Moves" is not featured in the track list.

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If you are either a plebeian or a n00b who does not know who Heir Apparent are, The View From Below is a good enough way to get to know them. Almost 30 years after their last record, the heavy/power progressive metal legends released a gem of an album pretty much completely unexpectedly. Warm-sounding and full of hooks, it gently brings memories of early Queensrÿche and Fates Warning and proves that progressive metal doesn't have to be over-polished and sterile.

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This is less an album and more a multimedia project - for Alba - Les Ombres Errantes the album is, in fact, the soundtrack to the film of the same name, directed by vocalist and guitarist Emmanuel Jessua. As befits the ambitious venture, Alba is a departure for Hypno5e, who keep things pretty low-key this time and focus more time on building atmosphere, drawing out enchanting and haunting melodies from layered vocals and acoustic instruments. That's not to say the heaviness or the edge are entirely gone, and the exacting drive of mathematical metal surfaces on occasion; but like any album you'll find in the progressive category, Alba has better things to worry about than sticking to one particular genre.

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After a reunion and their first album in 16 years, In The Woods... was close to a break-up again, everybody but the original drummer and the Pure vocalist having left. So they added another guitarist and persevered. Bringing back harsh vocals for the first time in 20 years, Cease The Day becomes the perfect blend of Nordic black metal and progressive rock with a slight tinge of doom metal for good taste. Contrasting intricacy and memorability, Cease The Day earns its right to exist as a follow-up to Pure; whether or not it should have been released under another name is a discussion for another time.

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Most one-man prog bands are usually more in the guitar-driven, djenty sounds; meanwhile, Keor is somewhat closer to the darker and more acoustic-focused sides of 2000s prog bands like Opeth, Riverside, and (most of all) Steven Wilson, mixed with a slight dash of Kayo Dot for good measure; but somehow it doesn't feel all that much like a rehash because of how well-executed it is. With the album divided into four songs, it's quite clear that Keor focused more on the larger-scale songwriting and mood-building than the simple complex-structured riff and odd time signatures. Most of the album is indeed quite restrained and acoustic, but the impact and the blending of the dark and the light atmospheres are immense.

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The band's previous album, Winter, was great, but it did have its shortcomings; now, however, the band has released The Banished Heart, and it seems like they've overcome their flaws. Oceans Of Slumber were already flirting with extreme metal influences on previous records, but on The Banished Heart they are brought more to the forefront and better executed. We get to hear many more growls and blast beats as a consequence. All throughout the album, both the songwriting and the performances are much more effective at conveying the album's emotional journey through the contrast between the instruments and Cammie Gilbert's sultry vocal performance.

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Albums about death are always hard to talk about. And not just albums about conceptual death; those are all right. Albums about one death. Riverside were struck by tragedy two years ago, when founding member and guitarist Piotr Grudziński died suddenly. Despite the abundance of musical moments, Wasteland does indeed often feel like what it is: an album about death and loss. And the change and grief is also obvious in the sound, though it's not crushingly in-your-face or even omnipresent. This is still a prog rock album and the album doesn't get overwhelmed with grief and still puts musicianship and songwriting as main priorities, but everything is more subdued and low-key.

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"Tiara" - such a dainty name for such a triumphant return. Eight years it had been since Seventh Wonder pulled a great escape with The Great Escape - but now they are back, and Tommy Karevik's clarion voice is a soulful beacon that shines over these immersive melodies. Seventh Wonder leans on the symphonic sound in its strong piano presence and lofty, ethereal sound, straying closer to traditional power as it indulges in operatic choruses and the occasional heavy break; Tiara is not an album for pointless bombast, however. The technical instrumental portions and grandiose nature are very much played in earnest. It isn't necessary after all this time, but Seventh Wonder are clearly still interested in proving that they are worthy of their name.

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This Croatian band sounds like the lovechild of The Mars Volta and Mr. Bungle, while still maintaining a unique approach. Them Moose Rush are mostly progressive rock, but don't think of long epics and rehashes of the '70s here, as they drench their music in heavy post-hardcore and noise rock seasonings and a healthy dose of offbeat humour. So what we find here is quite absolute insanity - not really avant-garde insanity but insanity nonetheless. The band oozes confidence all over the record, and you're gonna feel it, damn it.

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Mesmerizing lounge thrash, off-kilter future prog that's abstractly chill like an arthouse film, conducted by Snake's slightly nasal vocals - that's The Wake. The hazy feeling and subtlety with which these riffs slide underneath your notice make it easy to get lost in the world of The Wake, cleverly disguising how unorthodox and technical these compositions are. The instrumentation is versatile, yet highly consistent in the mood built across the album. It's been a long time since Voivod were this Voivod.

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