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Gaerea - Limbo Award winner

by Justin "Witty City" Wittenmeier at 25 July 2020, 12:20 AM

GAEREA is a Black Metal band from Portugal, formed in 2016.  They have been rather busy since their inception, already releasing one prior full length and an EP. Something tells me GAEREA doesn’t care anything about being wealthy or famous but I’ll be damned if I didn’t say they deserve to be next big thing in metal, blackened or otherwise.  How many albums over the years have been hyped up only to be underwhelming or just barely meet those lofty expectations? Not only is GAEREA’s “Limbo” worth the hype but it also succeeds in such a rare way, a way that so few bands this year will achieve.

Over the years as my writing has (hopefully) improved, so has the way I listen to the albums that I review.  My ear has become more discerning and I have trained myself to pick apart the sound of an album.  Sometime that means giving a high review to something I normally wouldn’t listen to on my own.  Other times, that means giving a low score to something that I personally would enjoy.  And still other times, it means giving a perfect score to an album that hits all the marks.  As such, that doesn’t always mean that 10’s across the board equals the album to be a masterpiece or a classic.

But in the case of “Limbo,” that is exactly what it means. This album is a bench mark release for extreme metal in general and black metal in particular.   I spent hours upon hours (and enjoying every second) listening to the six tracks that make up the album’s 51:44 run time.  In that time, I never did find anything wrong with this album.  There are so few truths in this world that when a person sees it, the feelings within burst free with force.   In the case of GAEREA, the band truly feels and understands what they play and say is the truth and it explodes outward with violent emotion.

Obviously members of this band listen to black metal and I’ve no doubt they like many other forms of music as well but “Limbo” goes beyond a band just making a product they like or playing a certain genre they enjoy.  This is a labor of love, a statement from deep within them all.  The very things the band speaks about, such as human existence being pain from which we need to escape, are hard subjects that may be viewed to be on the fringes of pretentious insanity by most people.

But nothing could be further from the truth; if anything GAEREA, and thus “Limbo,” force us to face the realities we so often ignore and to open up our eyes to the world that we are so blind to see.  Life isn’t being rich, popular, or being successful.  Those are things in life and perhaps goals that a person can achieve.  But that isn’t what life or existence about—the void doesn’t care about these things.  Pain, sorrow, failure, and trying so hard yet never succeeding are the real elements that make the human race an existential nightmare unto itself.   In essence, we are trapped in this “Limbo”, swirling around with emotions and our own self made horrors that have no real meaning yet keep us in chains….that we can bring if we face our truths.

But what about the music?  In the end, any band’s message doesn’t mean a damn thing if it isn’t conveyed correctly in the first place.  “Limbo” displays a clear progression from their previous two releases, upping the intensity while bringing in new ideas from their dark dimension. Every member of the band has upped their presence and each individual instrument is its own highlight.  With that being said, the drums are particularity merciless and a large part of the album’s  fury.  It doesn’t matter what is going on in the song, the drums are ever present but it isn’t based on nonstop raging like so many other blackened bands do.  Though the drums are definitely of a heavy handed nature, they also control a large part of the songs flow by providing a strong foundation that moves everything on top it and is presses ever forward.  The album’s impeccable production gives the snare a hard hitting sound but not overly crisp.  The bass parts sound like cannon explosions but never overpower their surroundings.

The bass and guitars have their own way of twisting their presence into the soundscape, especially when it comes to including melody.  Ah, melody!  That word can bring great joy to some lovers of extreme metal or bring great fear.  There isn’t much need to worry because melody to GAEREA is a tool they use with deft precision.  When experiencing “Limbo” thoughts of “I can definitely tell they went more melodic this time around,” or “all the atmosphere sucks out the aggression,” will never enter your head.  Melody and atmosphere are melded into to their electric craft so well that they are nothing more, or less, than the piece of their overall dark labyrinth.

Vocals are an instrument too and that is something many people forget but has not been lost on GAEREA.   Their vocalist continues to prove how emotional an extreme front man can be without compromising one iota of the pained aggression needed to pull off songs like these.   I’m not sure writes the lyrics for the band but by the sounds of his voice, I can tell their vocalist straight up believes everything he is screaming and growling.  Those who don’t understand this style are quick to dismiss it but he puts on a performance throughout the six tracks worthy of even the best singers in metal right now.   To pour his very essence into his talent, his beliefs, and his music requires no less talent than the most beautiful and powerful of clean vocalists.

This review wouldn’t be complete without talking about the album’s flow.  It is bookend by two long tracks:  The eleven minute and fifteen second long “To Ain,” opens the album and “Mare,” ends it all with a run time of thirteen minutes and eleven seconds.  Neither of these tracks feel like their  run time but they are appropriately epic and have much to offer. “To Ain,” begins with the guitars dropping crushing riffs over the bombastic yet tightly controlled drums before settling into a groove.  Bits of melody break up the sonic barrier as the tortured vocals rip open wide all before them.  A ting of sorrow highlights the screams around the six minute mark before the song takes a more clean, ambient approach but loses none of its weight.  The gentle roll of drums and the harrowing screams make for an interesting approach to a section that other bands would simply leave empty.

Mare,” is perhaps my favorite of the lot. The riffs are immediately sinister and their purpose is backed up with a startling heavy low end from the bass.  The music in the first minute and a half hangs over the air like the rotting stench of decayed uncertainty.  The bass guitar and drums are like earthquakes, shaking the ground to its core while also ripping up all the paths around it, allowing the guitars new paths to take their dark melodies through. The four remaining tracks play off these two, providing nature extensions of first track but the understanding of what the last one wants to accomplish.  “Null,” wastes little time getting started, the drums peppering the ever growing riffs into action.  The section at the two minute mark is some of the most desperate and immediate combinations of the guitars and vocals coming together as one.

Glare,” has brief seconds of anxious energy before the pummeling fury of the drums and the whirlwind riffs break through mental barriers go for the physical plain.  The drums give one of the most intense performances on the album and they get more intense after jumping off the end of each screamed lyrics.  The song’s middle portion is very murky and yet a certain clarity exists within its viciousness.  The last two minutes are a sweltering, towering wall of a sound that stands tall over the rubble left behind to build it.

Conspiranoia,” builds up, collecting more instruments and intensity as it crawls along.  By the time the vocals appear, the song has long since been captivating and intimidating but the song doesn’t let up and by the song’s end, a sense of world ending implosions rocks the senses. “Urge,” is one of the more intense songs and doesn’t leave much time for anything other than broken necks and blistered faces.  The song just gets heavier, faster, and more frantic as it reaches its zenith.

GAEREA pulled out all the stops for “Limbo” and the payoff is incredible.  They have now cemented their place in the annals of extreme metal while also setting the stage for whatever they decide to do in the future. If you only have the time/money to hear one extreme metal album this year, blackened or otherwise, it must be “Limbo.”  As far as I’m concerned, all other releases are playing catch up this year.

Songwriting: 10
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 10
Production: 10

5 Star Rating

1. To Ain
2. Null
3. Glare
4. Conspiranoia
5. Urge
6. Mare
Record Label: Season Of Mist


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Edited 04 February 2023

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