Clandestine Cut Of The Year - Metal Storm Awards 2016

Just the other day I was lamenting how Todesbonden had not released an album in far too long. Then, Beyond Forgiveness drops out of the sky playing a very similar style of equally beautiful metal. Ask and ye shall receive! Sweeping melodies sung by an angelically light and airy soprano voice are at the forefront of these rich orchestrations, supported strongly by metal music and some occasional growled vocals. The formula is certainly there, and this band is treading a path on which many before them have failed. But fail they do not! What has traditionally been dubbed "gothic symphonic" metal in the past is today given a lovely progeny with this debut. There is certainly room for growth and improvement, so join me in a ritual dance in which we ask the metal gods to summon an LP from this group, showing even more of what they can do.

Cairiss just released their debut EP, Fall, and it's a thing of beauty. The five-piece from Southampton, U.K., relies heavily on building a particular kind of ethereal atmosphere. The obvious stand-out aspect of their music is Freyja Brown's otherworldly voice, perfect for the spectacularly crafted clean sounds that emanate from the band. She also offers harsher vocals when the intensity of the music reaches its peak and Cairiss ventures into black metal and shoegaze territory. The orchestral arrangements give these three songs a full sound, overflowing with tasteful melodies. You just need to open this treasure chest and discover this diamond in the rough.

Cambrian Explosion play a groovy, multi-layered mix of stoner and psychedelic rock with oriental influences that's full to the brim with fuzzy, catchy riffs. Now while there is certainly a large number of bands with a similar sound, what makes Cambrian Explosion stand out from the crowd is its impeccable musicianship & brilliant sense of rhythm. Clocking in at just over 35 minutes, this ambitious EP could almost be considered a full-length, yet it leaves you wanting more. So sit back, relax, and let Cambrian Explosion fly you to the moon.

Formed in 2014, Birmingham, UK-based quartet Conjurer has been around for a couple of years now without actually having a physical release to its name, until now. Their debut EP, I, is a punishing yet captivating 34-minute journey into the world of heavy, intense, sludgy goodness. Conjurer's sound is actually an amalgamation of death, black, doom, post- & sludge, yet rather than allowing their eclectic mix of influences to result in an incoherent, directionless mess, the overall sound is focused, concise, coherent and heavy as hell.

This is kinda stating the obvious, but technical death metal is a hard genre for a band to master. There are so many bands out there filled with talented musicians who wield their instruments with technical wizardry & write impressive intricate songs with surgical precision, yet somehow the final product is left feeling sterile & soulless. Luckily for us, Equipoise avoid this pitfall & have provided us with a truly magnificent debut EP. All tracks on display here are executed with extreme technical proficiency, yet the intricate songwriting and variation in tempo, melody & aggression really make Birthing Homunculi stand out & live long in the memory. As an added bonus, the whole EP is available on Bandcamp for free; however, I would highly encourage anyone who enjoys this to throw a few dollars the band's way, as Equipoise are donating 100% of the proceeds made from this EP to Jason Becker's Foundation. So not only would you be buying a brilliant EP from a hugely talented & promising band, but you'd also be supporting a great cause.

"Iotunn plays a form of totality metal." The band's own decryption of their musical style just about sums up the what you will hear on The Wizard Falls. While the band is definitely on the progressive side of the spectrum, they are also staunch believers in great riffs and solos. Clocking in at just over 25 minutes, this five-song EP does a superb job of showcasing each individual style of their "totality metal," from upbeat Katatonia meets a restrained Symphony X all the way to the more traditional power metal sound infused with some great thrash and even black metal riffs. The production of The Wizard Falls is nothing but flawless and I foresee them going places with this release.

When listening to Lord Mountain's self-titled debut EP, you are instantly transported back in time to the early years of hard rock & doom Metal. Yet despite the heavy influence of bands such as Wishbone Ash & Black Sabbath in their sound, the retro '70s-styled doom vibe that permeates throughout this record is not just a nostalgic trip down memory lane, as the heaviness & unadulterated groove give this EP a fresh & contemporary feel. There are two main factors that set Lord Mountain aside from their peers & turn this EP from 'just another retro record' into something truly remarkable, and those are the brilliant twin lead guitar harmonies from the two guitarists and the remarkable clean vocals that complement the music perfectly.

If there were no vocals, I *might* be inclined to call this "spacey prog," "atmospheric prog with chill electronic elements," or something of that like. But whoa. Enter the (very well done) harsh, raspy, screeched black metal vocals and now we have an entirely new beast. Other black metal flairs are present in the music, but the style is only dominant in the vocals. A strange combo? Yes. And yet, not at all. Hail the explorers of metal who find new corners in which we may nest our ears, and new blends to tantalize our palates. This atmospheric record soars and glides through the evil backwoods of a tumultuous cosmos, yet without a care in the world. Mesarthim has released one of the better oxymorons of a metal record to grace my ears in recent time and space.

As I was loving the shit out of this incredible record, I was analyzing whether it was right for this article. Somewhere around the halfway mark I realized it was my patriotic duty to Metal Storm that I include it here, among the BEST new metal music. It's Eastern European folk music + metal + some proggy elements and electronic touches. The folk music is the foundation, with the heavy guitars sometimes absent, while other times entangling themselves expertly in either a beautifully supporting or dominating lead role. If you like anything chill that eventually lets loose, or, of course, top-shelf folk musics, then run as fast as you can to Sva Da Ra's Bandcamp for Istok (Исток). This Ukraine-based group, with this debut EP, put out some of the most mesmerizing, dark, and expertly crafted folk I've heard in ages, and lovingly coupled it with our beloved metal. Do not miss this, fans of textured and labyrinthine musical landscapes.

Before even hearing a note, many doom aficionados will have their interest immediately piqued to know that The Doomsday Kingdom is the solo project & brainchild of Candlemass founder Leif Edling, who has decided to release this low-key demo without any label backing. Featuring four tracks of classic mid-temp doom, this 26-minute EP is a solid & memorable effort that starts strong right from the first note, maintaining its quality throughout & capping off a with a hauntingly beautiful ballad to close out the EP. Hopefully it will not be long until we get to hear a full release, as 26 minutes is just too damn short.


Write-in votes

Avenged Sevenfold - The Stage
Botanist - EP3: Green Metal/Deterministic Chaos [Split]
Cardiac Arrest - Promo 2016
Convulsing - Errata
Countless Skies - New Dawn
Cvinger - Embodied In Incense
Disillusion - Alea
Djelmash - Crossroads
Fenrir - Loki's Slaughter
Forndom - Dauðra Dura
Ghost - Popestar
Hórmónar - Hórmónar
Insomnium - Winter's Gate
Katla. - Ferðalok
Logar's Diary - Book III: At the Crossroads
Lord Mountain - Lord Mountain
Protest the hero - Pacific mith
Protest The Hero - Pacific Myth
Pulse of Nebulae - Pulse of Nebulae
Second To Sun - Blackbound
Skeletonwitch - The Apothic Gloom
Skraeckoedlan - Pärlor
Thunderwar - Black Storm
Vulture - Victim To The Blade
Wolves Within - Interdependence