The Best Avantgarde / Experimental Metal Album - Metal Storm Awards 2018

Imperial Triumphant hail from New York City, a realm that is simultaneously one of the most beautiful and one of the most disgusting to live in on the planet. Taking influence from this odd paradox, the bands translates it directly into music, crafting an intimidating, multifaceted blend of death metal, black metal, drone, jazz, and neoclassical influences. At times brutal and smothering, at other times more relaxed and trance-inducing, Vile Luxury is a dense avant-garde journey that's enjoyable from many different angles and that rewards multiple listens.

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Muyubyosha, whom you may know as Sleepwalker or 夢遊病者, is an oddball trio from Japan whose sophomore album, 一期一会, may only be 24 minutes in length, but it would take about twice as long to explain it adequately. Lurching, bluesy bass lines, eerie shrieks distorted into mere noise, percussion that wanders from swinging stoner to thrash fury... the elements combined on this album have no business sitting next to each other, but Muyubyosha sprints from four seconds of cool jazz to Melt-Banana-style feedback-based electro-grind to weirdly chilled-out tribal prog as if it were all as natural as breathing. When we talk about "dreamy" music, you probably have a certain kind of relaxed, soundscape-y feeling in mind... but this is "dreamy" like Švankmajer's Alice: amoral, freakish, and filled with sawdust.

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Heir To Despair, like any other Sigh album, doesn't sound like any other Sigh album. This album has the strongest Japanese identity of any in the band's catalogue, and that extends to Japanese lyrics, traditional singing techniques, and the use of instruments such as the shamisen and taishōgoto; Mirai Kawashima's recent mastery of the flute adds yet one more new dimension to this album. Combining Sigh's characteristic psych-horror keys, blackened rock riffs, and bizarre song structures that borrow from every genre on the books, Heir To Despair is the greatest work of ambient symphonic electro-folk death prog you'll ever hear... until the next Sigh album.

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Geometria is quite likely Thy Catafalque's least metal album. Yes, there is metal in here, but the metal tracks are relatively isolated from the nonmetal ones, with little interplay between the two. This gives Thy Catafalque plenty of room to explore the jazzier and dancier aspects of its music without having to compromise by blending it with something aggressive. Among other sounds, you will find saxophone and fretless bass and trumpets and electronics and layered synths and female vocals and violins and jazzy drums and songs relatively shorter than expected.

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You may remember Devil Is Fine and the waves it made with its combination of black metal and black spirituals. Stranger Fruit expands that sound first by making Zeal & Ardor more than just a bedroom project; then by making the songs feel more like actual songs instead of just sketches and ideas; and last but not least by having a production that's polished but still sounds incredibly raw. The mastery of the blend of sounds is what's impactful here rather than the blend itself, proving that Zeal & Ardor is more than just a gimmick.

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Write-in votes

Entropia - Vacuum
Laibach - The Sound Of Music
Lil Pump & Kanye West - I Love It
Lychgate - The Contagion In Nine Steps
Manes - Slow Motion Death Sequence
Order - Lex Amenitae
Phlebotomized - Deformation Of Humanity
Portal - ION
Selvans - Faunalia
Super Unison - Stella