The Best Black Metal Album - Metal Storm Awards 2018




Carpe Noctem's 2013 album, while good, was more or less standard fare for the Deathspell Omega-influenced sound Icelandic black metal has become known for. On the sophomore Vitrun, however, these guys have really upped the ante, with a sound that's every bit as cold and hypnotizing as earlier, but now much more atmospheric, better paced, and borderline psychedelic at points as well. A considerable step up from their debut that features a hearty dose of creativity, Vitrun is a real grower of a listen that sees Carpe Noctem taking on a new identity that is ultimately a lot more nuanced and stimulating than earlier.

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You'll probably be seeing the phrase "best album in a decade" a lot of places this Awards season. We're sorry to be so repetitive (hey, it was a great year, what can we say?), but before we retire the sentiment, Drudkh must have their time in the sun... or their time in the fading embers of melting summer skies, one final respite before their gradual envelopment by creeping shadows that herald autumnal despair. Yes, it's all about the intense atmosphere with Drudkh: thick quilts of riffs upon riffs insinuate landscapes as artfully as pure ambient music, despite the harshness of black metal. It has been a while since we heard something so expressive and melodically inspired from Drudkh, and it's great to hear them return to form.

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Hekatomb is wihout a doubt one of the least expected comebacks in black metal during the last decade. Do not let the long hiatus fool you, though; Arioch, a.k.a. Mortuus, demonstrates that utmost respect still must be given to Funeral Mist. The raw and haunting melodic riffs elevate this blood-chilling album to infernal heights while Arioch pukes blasphemy like a possessed preacher. Funeral Mist's third opus is not only a grand exercise in demonic art, but also proof that no other black metal act can quite match or imitate its ceremonial style.

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If you want your black metal to be good, its sound should make people think the world is ending. Gaerea are doing exactly that while presenting their sludgy, melancholic, melodic and sometimes even post-metal- or hardcore-ish version of black metal in a thoroughly artistic way. On Unsettling Whispers, the story of a lost society is told in the third person and the listener is a wanderer, someone who watches, feels, and touches the pale streets he roams but is never seen by others. What this voyeur discovers is the shy will of dying from others as the repeated line "Suicide is part of your life" of the second track suggests. Totally immersive stuff.

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After a 20-year+ absence due to acute tendinopathy, Demonaz returned to showcase his Immortal Technique, wielding both the axe (pun intended) and mic for the Boys from Blashyrkh. Northern Chaos Gods is a mash of both the frenetic tremolo work of the early epoch and the more epic riffing from the Abbath-at-the-Axe years. It's a Darker Of Worlds now that Demonaz has been Called To Ice.

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Stemming from the Prava Kollektiv, along with Voidsphere, this is that good kind of atmospheric black metal. You know, the kind that actually creates an atmosphere. Or, in the case of this void-focused one, sucks the atmosphere, I guess. Taking further the sound that Darkspace popularized, the music is cold and suffocating. The music is so effective in its ambiance both because the production quality has improved in the collective and also because the percussion and the keyboards create both a dynamic and static feeling at the same time, if that makes sense. Couple that with the drowned-out vocals with its occasional bloodcurdling shrieks and the reverb-soaked guitars and the 40-minute ride towards intergalactic doom is so much more compelling.

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Spawned out of Norway's Nidriosian scene, Mare certainly didn't rush out Ebony Tower, as they've gone 15 active years without releasing a full-length. Their latest EP release was eight years ago. And with the cult following they've made since, they made sure Ebony Tower would be a grandiose album. With most of the songs breaking the 8-minute mark, it's quite obvious that the album leans more towards creating atmosphere, mostly revolving the songs around a few mid-paced riffs. The vocals are less of the shrieky kind and more of the cleaner and chant-y kind, which, along with the occasional supporting keyboard and the punchy bass, really helps build the esoteric and ritualistic feel of the album.

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Heavy on the DS, really light on the bm. They don't seek to overwhelm or crush the listener. Instead, it's an Ahab-like lulling, only sans tsunami. The entire album envelopes you like a warm bath. It never goes off, even when distorted riffs are being summoned forth and the drummer is playing more than two beats per minute. It's peaceful and serene. Naked and (be) afraid. It is vulnerable, and using the transitive property of infinity (and if thou gaze long into an abyss the abyss will gaze into thee) you are as well.

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Since Behemoth decided to experiment with the darker and more gothic aspect of black metal this year, fellow countrymen Outre stepped up to restore Poland's death/black dignity. This is an album to be played in a mental asylum; the aural discord, the sheer brutality, and the technical precision of these Poles, combined with some very engaging songwriting that does not go in too many different directions, make Hollow Earth a very unsettling and often nightmarish mind-trip.

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Voidsphere play black metal of the smothering, slowly creeping, psychedelic variety that has been on a steady rise this decade. Featuring two mammoth tracks both clocking in well over the 20-minute mark, To Await | To Expect is an ensnaring journey through a well-paced, delicate balance between the more hypnotizing and more aggressive auras that black metal has to offer. A colossal voyage to the great void at the center of all existence, this album is your 2018 soundtrack for crossing the event horizon and dissolving beyond.

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Write-in votes

1914 - Blind Leading The Blind
Acathexis - Acathexis
Allfather - And All Will Be Desolation
Altar Of Perversion - Intra Naos
Ancst - Ghosts of the Timeless Void
Aorlhac - L'esprit Des Vents
Ars Magna Umbrae - Lunar Ascension
Ascension - Under Ether
Behemoth - I Loved You At Your Darkest
Candelabrum - Portals
Cor Scorpii - Ruin
Death Karma - The History of Death & Burial Rituals Part II
Dimmu Borgir - Eonian
Djevel - Blant Svarte Graner
Esoctrilihum - Inhüma
Funerary Bell - Undead Revelations
Gevurah - Sulphur Soul
Gorycz - Piach
Harakiri for the Sky - Arson
Helrunar - Vanitas Vanitatvm
Hoth - Astral Necromancy
Hoth - Vengeance
Human Serpent - For I, The Misanthropist
Imperialist - Cipher
ION - A Path Unknown
Kriegsmaschine - Apocalypticists
Lil Pump & Kanye West - I Love It
Marduk - Viktoria
Masters Hammer - Fascinator
Moonreich - Fugue
Nirnaeth - From shadow to flesh
Panphage - Jord
Sear Bliss - Letters From The Edge
Selvans - Faunalia
Shylmagoghnar - Transcience
Shylmagoghnar - Transience
Sojourner - The Shadowed Road
Spectral Wound - Infernal Decadence
Summoning - With Doom We Come
Svartidauði - Revelations of the Red Sword
Svartidaudi - Revelations of the Red Sword
Ungfell - Mythen, Mären, Pestilenz
Valdrin - Two Carrion Talismans
Vallendusk - Fortress of primal grace
Varathron - Patriarchs Of Evil
Vermilia - Kätkyt
Vermilia - Kitkat
Void Ritual - Death is Peace
Voidhanger - Dark Days Of The Soul
W.A.I.L. - W.A.I.L. II
Wallfahrer - Anthologie Der Abkehr
Warkvlt - Horde
Watain - Trident Wolf Eclipse
Wiegedood - De doden hebben het goed III
Wilds Forlorn - Sapiens