The Best Doom Metal Album - Metal Storm Awards 2020


1.  Fires In The Distance - Echoes From Deep November 97
2.  Clouds - Durere 76
3.  Soliloquium - Things We Leave Behind 57
4.  Poema Arcanus - Stardust Solitude 56
5.  Godthrymm - Reflections 51
6.  Shores Of Null - Beyond The Shores (On Death And Dying) 32
  Ixion - L'Adieu Aux Etoiles 32
8.  Stygian Crown - Stygian Crown 27
  Völur - Death Cult 27
10.  My Dying Bride - The Ghost Of Orion (write-in vote) 26
11.  Pallbearer - Forgotten Days (write-in vote) 17
12.  Göden - Beyond Darkness 14
13.  Sorcerer - Lamenting Of The Innocent (write-in vote) 11
Total votes:
560



Clouds is familiarly situated with regard to its doom proclivities; there are the slow, semi-acoustic passages of hushed clean vocals and smears of piano and violin, and then there are the slower passages of cavernous growls and crushing riffs that call to mind some of Daniel Neagoe's past doom work. Altogether it is a funereally paced album of despondent doom, ranging from wrenching lows to bitter highs. Musically, Durere is a nostalgic kind of sorrow, but Neagoe's expressions of grief and loss are empowered by eloquence and resonance; the album's name means "pain" and so does its sound.

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An emphatic debut effort by American group Fires In The Distance, Echoes From Deep November features a melodic doom sound combined with death growls and striking use of electronics/keyboards, resulting in something that sounds like a midway point between Enshine and Omnium Gatherum. Although mostly residing in the background, the electronics, which have a bounce and ring to them that is more commonly associated with space-themed black metal bands, are probably the element of Echoes From Deep November's sound that most immediately stands out. However, listeners that come for the electronics will stay for the reliably memorable and uplifting guitar melodies, as well as the warm atmospheres otherwise crafted by the band and the successful detours into melodeath territory ("Elusive Light").

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The year 1990 brought us Winter's Into Darkness, the musical rendering of a post-nuclear apocalypse and one the most influential milestones of the then-still-young-and-emerging death-doom genre. The third track of this epochal masterpiece of minimalistic and extremely slow, but no less crushing, aural art happened to be titled "Goden". Three decades later and, as it were, out of nowhere, the previously unheard-of band Göden unveils its debut Beyond Darkness, a 76-minute long musical implementation of a cosmic journey between the rise, decline, and rebirth of worlds, and the album closes with the song "Winter". Is all of this just a chain of coincidences, or is Göden the spiritual successor to Winter and Beyond Darkness the conceptual continuation of Winter's musical legacy? You've got to find that out for yourself by diving into the yet-unexplored spheres beyond darkness.

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With two of its members having previously played in both My Dying Bride and Solstice, they bring forward a legacy of doom that lives on in Godthrymm. Though Reflections is the band's debut, it's also the debut of Hamish as a vocalist, since he never took that role with any of his previous bands, which is surprising given how much of a tour-de-force his vocals on this record are. With the drums and the bass doing a damn good job supporting the guitars and vocals, even though it is clear that it is the latter two that really sustain this record, along with its olden sound, both in composition and production. It's like it spent the last 30 years in a cellar and it only caught more flavor despite being completely unaware of the developments of doom since.

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A three-note dirge carries Ixion into its fourth album, a truly bittersweet work that combines the atmospheric qualities of doom and ambient music. It is an odd combination, but an evocative one, creating a sound like a glacier floating through outer space (which actually wouldn't make any sound, you're right, but you're supposed to use your imagination). The movement of L'Adieu Aux Etoiles is like standing on the threshold between life and death, lamenting the warmth of happy memories fading as you stare into the maw of formless cold - or perhaps leaning forward into deliverance from the suffering you leave, if the album's title is to be taken at face value. The spacey electronic sounds work well with the crushing doom metal in eliciting these frequent temperature changes. It's a good thing that in space no one can hear you cry.

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One of South America's most venerable doom acts, if not the most so, Poema Arcanus returns after a seven-year absence to publish more of their arcane poetry. The throaty, ominous clean vocals and somber proclamations betray some epic doom aspirations, but the super fuzzy bass and somewhat laidback demeanor are all stoner, and the severe guitar tone pushes more for death or black metal, depending on the part of the song. The fluidity of Stardust Solitude's constituent elements within the context of doom keeps it on its toes, with slightly raw production and appropriately downtrodden tunes giving Poema Arcanus a sense of danger even after so many years out of the game and so many years in it before then, and on occasion they even prove themselves capable of digging into the weird side of doom to hold their own against the genre's many modern digressions.

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The single-song album is always an ambitious strategy, but slower genres like doom may be more suited to this approach. Italy's Shores Of Null, whose vocalist Davide Straccione featured on Methadone Skies's album nominated in last year's stoner metal category, are the ones borrowing the talents of other vocalists this time around, with Mikko Kotamäki (Swallow The Sun) and Thomas Jensen (Saturnus) amongst others lending their talents to Beyond The Shores (On Death And Dying), a 40-minute odyssey of languid, melancholic doom worthy of their efforts. The growling guests add nice contrast to Straccione's smooth clean vocals and the other female guest vocalists appearing here, and the violin-infused, Gothic-tinged doom that forms the basis of the record is sufficiently well-written, well-paced, and diverse to avoid any fatigue setting in before the song is over, with the occasional flirtations with more extreme territory fitting in seamlessly alongside the generally more melodic instrumentation.

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Soliloquium play death-doom metal so well that they even have the rights to the domain name deathdoom.com. Or maybe they just thought about it first. Regardless, Soliloquium is Stefan Nordström's project, whose involvement in other projects includes The Ashen Tree, our 2018 Clandestine Cut Of The Year, as well as other death, death-doom, and doom bands. But Soliloquium is the one that feels most like a passion solo project, with Things We Leave Behind taking the sound of bands like October Tide and Katatonia, paying heritage to it, but also adding some progressive and gaze tweaks, just subtle enough to try and pull the sound forward.

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It isn't to be taken lightly when a band uses Candlemass and Bolt Thrower as reference points for their sound. The former makes more sense than the latter, considering that this is an epic doom metal record, not a death metal one, but their guitar tones and pummeling drumming do somehow manage to evoke the war machine as well. For an epic doom record that exclusively uses those commanding cleans that are trademarks of the genre, it sure manages to be heavy as hell in the instrumental department, but what's interesting besides that is how it incorporates sometimes-oriental-tinged melodies and grooves in the mix, never not feeling massive.

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"Inviolate Grove" kicks off with an inviolate groove built out of lethally distorted violin, the lead instrument preferred by Völur in place of guitars; the album's primary intention is to create doom - plodding rhythms, disconsolate melodies, heaviness in the seat of honor - but the groaning and creaking of strings from violin, viola, and double bass will draw comparison first to folk on account of their distinct timbres and second to the more esoteric forms of drone thanks to the creeping suspicion that they invite. It's an uncommon array of sounds that Völur has at its disposal, especially when paired with the jazzier tendencies in the songwriting, the shrieked vocals, and the generally existential feeling - and we haven't even mentioned what sounds like saxophone and bass clarinet, which show their faces at times. Death Cult has a distinctive and consistently intriguing presence: morose and muscular enough for the average doom enthusiast, entrancing and mystical enough for those who like a little more unsettling acidity in their background music.

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