The Best Alternative Metal Album - Metal Storm Awards 2018

Coming close to having about as much post-reunion material as pre-break-up, Alice In Chains have returned to the grunge Mecca of Seattle to record this new album. The result has most of Alice In Chains's instantly recognizable characteristics, such as the omnipresence of the Cantrell/DuVall vocal harmonies and droning guitars, but Rainier Fog makes a little effort to stand out from its predecessors by shedding some lightness and increasing the doom metal undertones that Alice In Chains have always had.

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Antimatter frontman Mick Moss wrote all the lyrics and music on Black Market Enlightenment, the dark mood and esoteric atmosphere created from his personal trials and tribulations. The melancholic and arcane aspect is enhanced through prodigious balance between guitar, vocals, and subwoofer-shaking bass. Guest musicians and brilliantly placed assorted synthetic devilries accentuate the emotions. In the end the multiplicity of ideas ping menacingly enigmatic surroundings blurred into light and shadows. Feels people, the feels.

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Jonathan Davis has been gallivanting on his own since 2007, but it's only now that we get to hear how he sounds in the studio when separated from Korn; the result isn't completely out of left field, but it's a more melodic and low-key sound than we might have anticipated. Black Labyrinth is a very curious album, blending mesmerizing electronic atmospheres with catchy alternative rock tunes in a chilled-out, crunched-up, still-heavy package. Though his characteristic snarl dominates his delivery, Davis exercises his pipes with more conventional singing than he's used to in Korn, while the up-tempo tracks offer interesting bookends to the odd episode of staccato chugging and grunting. As atmospheric and reflective as it is aggressive and heavy, Black Labyrinth is a mature-sounding alt metal album from an artist who clearly still wants to explore new territory in spite of his already considerable success.

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Madder Mortem have never been easy to categorize. In 20 years of making music, they never really sounded like anyone else, despite their sound not being that outside-the-box, but their approach to writing music is so varied and multifaceted that it feels neither straightforward nor like a blend of other things. Marrow tries again to find that balance between heaviness and beauty through music, and while the latter is much more represented, Marrow is still likely Madder Mortem's heaviest album. Not extreme metal heavy, but rather a mix of sultry emotional vocal performance and progressive metal instrumentation.

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Ascend strikes with a harder edge, faster pace, and more sophisticated sound than Vôdûn's 2016 debut, Possession, which already stood out in our Hard Rock category as an unusual combination of psychedelia, soul, and distortion - what has been termed "voodoo rock". Frontwoman Oya's full-bodied wailing is an approach we seldom hear in heavy music already, and as Vôdûn grinds its heels into the darker end of its style with chunkier, stoner metal-style riffs, more unorthodox instrumentation, increasingly elaborate vocal lines, and a greater dose of power, the singular nature of Vôdûn becomes more and more pronounced. They've made a jump in one album that takes a lot of bands years to achieve; the name Ascend evidently was not chosen lightly.

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Write-in votes

Amaranthe - Helix
Black Veil Brides - Vale
Daron Malakian and Scars on Broadway - Dictator
Dir en Grey - The Insulated World
Godsmack - When Legends Rise
Halestorm - Vicious
Idles - Joy as an Act of Resistance
Kontinuum - No Need To Reason
Lil Pump & Kanye West - I Love It
Machine Head - Catharsis
Scars On Broadway - Dictator
Stoned Jesus - Pilgrims