The Best Sludge / Stoner Metal Album - Metal Storm Awards 2018





I Live Inside A Burning House is an excruciating morass of fuzz, demented doom with such a thick crust on it that you'll need to wear a helmet just to get through the first proper song. The vocals are pain-wracked and disgusting, as much harsh noise as human singing. The pace is so slow it almost doesn't exist; it's more like an occasional smattering of percussion that suggests a tempo amidst feedback and crunchy, droning guitars. Only rarely is there a burst of speed that rekindles some of the hardcore spirit we associate with sludge. Body Void, whose existence is couched in grisly metaphor for gender dysphoria, are not about to make their music easy for you... but you didn't want easy music anyway. That's why you're here.

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The progressive doom resurrection lately has been more focused on stoner than the sludgy sound, so Boss Keloid come to fix that. If they're in any way the British response to Mastodon, then Melted On The Inch is their version of Crack The Skye. But it's still different in the larger-than-life and gruff voice that sits, confident and commanding, over both gigantic riffs and quieter moments, and in the introduction of the keyboard, and making full use of it without it sounding invasive and gimmicky. Its progressiveness stems less from technically complex structures and more from the surprising ways they manage to fill the spaces in between the riffs and the more unconventional track structures.

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So another entry from The Year Of The Pike made our short-list. Named in tribute to Lemmy, Electric Messiah sees High On Fire doing what they do best: thundering riffs, pounding the drum kit, and spewing forth ugly, stony, sludgy delights. Don the Pallid Mask and pay tribute to the Electric Messiah.

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Lurk's musical palette of nasty and swamp-loving sludgy doom blended with touches of death and black metal is at its creative peak in the Finns' third full-length. Fringe plods along at an overall slow pace, frequently exchanging dirge-like, colossal riffs and squealing leads, and with its haunting, disdain-filled, and terrifying vocals, it creates a suffocating and claustrophobic atmosphere that shrouds your very existence.

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It may be hard to believe, but there can be such a thing as TOO aggressive even when it comes to extreme music; Walk Through Exits Only, the 2013 debut of Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals, stumbled at times while trying to find footing for all of the animalistic hostility issuing from Phil's every pore. Choosing Mental Illness As A Virtue manages to ride the bull, harnessing that wild, aimless fury into something that's still a brutal, disgusting, sludgy, hardcore mess, but more of an accessible mess. This album is an atonal, ugly whirlwind of anger, rage, fury, and other things that are basically just synonyms for Phil Anselmo - if you need an album to utterly annihilate something to, this should be your first choice. Just don't kick your speakers in. You need those.

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We all knew this was coming. But announcing it one day before its release date, which is also fucking 4/20 - that only Sleep can do. Things have changed a bit for Sleep since their break-up. New drummer, influence on sound brought by the projects that they've been working on in the meantime, like Shrinebuilder, Om, and High On Fire, but other than that: long, meditative, mountain-leveling, distorted, drawn-out epics. Even the six-minute-long songs feel like epics, giving the album the feeling of a journey, albeit a really slow, slothful, and dreamy one. And not only are the performances on this album likely seeing Sleep in their peak, but also the production is likely the reason why The Sciences could be everything that was ever great about Sleep but even better.

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Somali Yacht Club's The Sea combines many elements and courses throughout the whole musical journey. Their stoner core is loaded with instrumental parts of post-rock alienated atmosphere and infused with a splashing dose of psychedelia this time. This more complex, layered, and heavy-sounding release will take you through a very impulsive, diverse listening experience where you can easily drown.

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As good of a blend as they ever had, four albums in, The Atlas Moth's nuanced, melodic take on barreling sludge has only gotten better. Coma Noir is a heavy beast, but as usual The Atlas Moth show here that they know how to turn down the knob and bring out its more epic and atmospheric elements at exactly the right moments as well. If you're looking for something a little deeper than just catchy riffs-type sludge here, the Moth guys have got you covered.

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It was a huge year for the Baton Rouge masters of the sludge, doom, drone, grunge and ambient realm. Three EPs exploring other outlets of metal subgenres and one titan LP to rule them all: Magus. 70 minutes of lacerating euphony guide us through the celestial and back via crystalline auras and sonorous waves. Voracious and abrasive riffs fill the album from beginning to end, accompanied by hazy and filthy production. These coordinates mark this surreal journey, exploring the depths of an agonizing and reprehensible environment.

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Boasting some of the best cover artwork of 2018, Heavy Dreamer by Vanishing Kids is exactly what its title suggests. The band lists itself as metal / heavy psych / acid rock / dream goth, but in all fairness the last thing anyone can do (or should want to do for that matter) is pigeonhole them. Heavy Dreamer is trippy and fuzzy, ethereal and introspective, soothing and hypnotic, heavily layered and full of weird ideas, yet extraordinarily catchy and captivating. Bass-heavy and mostly lazy, it will make you feel like you are floating in space and it's so good that you don't have to be stoned one bit to fully enjoy it.

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