The Best Death Metal Album - Metal Storm Awards 2018


1.  Slugdge - Esoteric Malacology 203
2.  Sulphur Aeon - The Scythe Of Cosmic Chaos 115
3.  Chapel Of Disease - ...And As We Have Seen The Storm, We Have Embraced The Eye 90
4.  1914 - The Blind Leading The Blind 88
5.  Horrendous - Idol 51
6.  Tomb Mold - Manor Of Infinite Forms 34
7.  Guðveiki - Vængför 14
8.  Autokrator - Hammer Of The Heretics 13
9.  Vanhelgd - Deimos Sanktuarium 11
  Bloodbath - The Arrow Of Satan Is Drawn (write-in vote) 11
11.  Obscura - Diluvium (write-in vote) 10
12.  Behemoth - I Loved You At Your Darkest (write-in vote) 9
  Deicide - Overtures Of Blasphemy (write-in vote) 9
14.  Hate Eternal - Upon Desolate Sands (write-in vote) 8
15.  Jungle Rot - Jungle Rot (write-in vote) 5
  Exlimitir - It Weighed Itself In Silver 5
Total votes:
743



At the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the guns went silent... and 1914 stepped in to fill the void. This Ukrainian quintet was not the only metal band to observe the centenary of the Great War's end (nor the only Metal Storm Awards nominee), but it does have its own peculiar way of tackling the subject. Like Bolt Thrower or Hail Of Bullets, 1914 sounds not so much like a death metal band writing songs as a machine of noise recreating the atmosphere of the battlefield - though in a rather different way from those artists, more focused on the convergence of death, doom, post-metal, and other extreme metal styles and how they can communicate the dread of enduring artillery barrages in the trenches, the sanity-depleting carnage of No Man's Land, and the war's surreal, apocalyptic monotony. The Blind Leading The Blind is ugly, horrific, and brutal... as it should be.

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Autokrator first appeared on our radar as a result of its uniquely filthy industrial-smothered death metal, so hearing that the aural environment has gotten a makeover might be cause for worry, but instituting a partial lift of that veil of mechanistic drudgery has only made Hammer Of The Heretics heavier than its predecessors. Now Autokrator's death metal side is front and center, all its viscerally horrifying riffs and gut-ripping growls lurching and grinding with unstoppable menace - and with much of that infernal shroud of oppressive, spine-crushing distortion still in place, Hammer Of The Heretics is one of the heaviest albums you'll experience in this or any year.

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A lot of melodic death metal bands like Hypocrisy or At The Gates started out as straightforward death metal bands, and surprisingly, it seems to be the case with Chapel Of Disease as well. They're no longer afraid to make their music lighter and more confident, making it strangely engaging and fun in quite a challenging way. From sections that still feel like death metal to hearing cavernous growls over psychedelic, jammy guitars and a solo that seems taken out of a Dire Straits live performance, The Storm feels like hard rock for people who don't like hard rock and death metal for people who don't like death metal.

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There have been a good number of death metal bands over the years who have attempted to become spiritual successors of sorts to the legendary Demilich. Exlimitir succeed at just that and more where many others have failed. On It Weighed Itself In Silver, these Canadians are hitting the scene hard with a powerful debut of dissonant, bouncy, and altogether eerie technical death metal, far more puzzling and immersive than those bands with the Monster-chugging guitarists on 7-strings that we've become more accustomed to. Alluding to several other bands while also having a distinct flair all its own, this album is an interesting twist on the more typical tech death sound and a worthy omen for things to come.

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The sky is crashing down and Heaven itself is rent asunder. The latest creation from the shadowy collective known as Mystískaos, Guðveiki is a vile beast of blackened death metal displaying nothing less than the sound of demons clawing their way up from some grotesque, ethereal underworld. Featuring HV Lyngdal and Alex Poole of Wormlust and Skáphe note, as well as some other madmen of extreme metal weirdness, Vængför may very well be the most aurally intense album from this bunch yet: dense, suffocating, and downright bludgeoning.

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A lot of death metal is either ultra-polished technical wankery or derivative old-school worship. And then there's Horrendous, which is a bit of both but without the downsides. If the band's past progression from album to album is to be taken into account, we wouldn't be wrong to guess that Idol would take a deep dive further into progressive and technical songwriting. And indeed it does; songs on Idol are crammed with riffs and intricate arrangements, but never drowned in them. Idol has just as much noodling as it needs to have and it never shies away from just going into a more straightforward and rawer sound. Everything feels organic and never too chaotic.

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Slugdge have been writing mollusk-themed tech death with endless song title puns for a while now, but they've always made sure to go beyond the gimmick and write some killer music to match it. Esoteric Malacology finds Slugdge at their most technical and intricate, with the album twisting and turning in unexpected ways all throughout its hour of run time. The dirtier sludge undertones have been cut back, leaving behind a more death metal sound with certain black and prog overtones. And obviously the puns are as slimy as ever.

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Sulphur Aeon gave us their new offering so late in the year that we barely had enough time to reconsider our year-end lists. Their music has always been interesting beyond merely the Lovecraftian themes, mostly due to the black and melodic influences within their death metal core. With far less oppressive production and the addition of previously live-only members, The Scythe Of Cosmic Terror puts a bit more emphasis on the melodic branch, without making their sound softer; instead the twin-guitar riffs and esoteric clean chants create a much more focused sound that's more fun to listen to.

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So soon after a debut that knocked over all the competition in its way, Tomb Mold's second swing demonstrates further mastery over the death metal genre. Eerie riffs drone over cavernous growls while gross spillage of percussion pushes the tempo and brutality into the sonic equivalent of what you see on the album cover. With its frantic pace and unsettling riffs, Manor Of Infinite Forms sounds like the experience of being chased by a serial killer; when it slows down, you know something wicked is about to happen (such as your throat getting slit, or maybe a really cool guitar solo).

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It was always going to be difficult for Vanhelgd to offer an equally engaging follow-up to the magnificent Temple Of Phobos, but it seems that they succeeded to a large extent. In Deimos Sanktuarium their doom/black-laden death metal compositions, enhanced by deep vocals that ooze pain and suffering, form a black cloud of emptiness that swallows all light, and "Profaned Is The Blood Of The Covenant" will surely make an appropriate soundtrack to accompany your worst fears.

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