Gaerea – Limbo – Album Review

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Artist: Gaerea

Album Title: Limbo

Label: Season Of Mist

Date of Release: 24 July 2020

There has to be something in the water in Portugal. For a country that is probably most known as a holiday destination thanks to its warm Mediterranean climate, it seems to also be an expert in creating some pretty dark and heavy music. Naturally, one’s first thought will be Moonspell, arguably Portugal’s most famous metal export. But I’d also mention the likes of Oblique Rain to illustrate my point even further. However, neither of these even comes close to creating the kind of torturous, bleak and morose music that Gaerea unleash upon the Earth.

Despite forming around 2016 and having released an EP and a debut album, ‘Unsettling Whispers’, this is my first taste of Gaerea. And I will admit to being both impressed and drained by the experience. ‘Limbo’ is not the kind of music you play to lighten the mood, or to get a party started. It is a relentless barrage of black metal that’s cold, morose, emotionally challenging and extreme. And yet, it is also incredibly magnetic, thanks to an insertion of just the right amount of melody and subtle sophistication to keep you coming back for repeated listens.

To add to the intrigue of the music, the band remain deliberately anonymous, literally shrouded in mystery as their press photos ably demonstrate. And so I can’t give due credit to each member individually by name, although I suspect they prefer it that way.

In the press release, the quintet refers somewhat obliquely to “the tale of the Fallen Society and the journey to the vast Void, the only good in Life”. However, without knowing the true meaning behind all of the lyrics and the album as a whole, it seems fitting and entirely in keeping with the tone of the record. The six tracks that comprise ‘Limbo’ are laced with frustration, tempered violence, and suffocating, hopeless melancholy, borne out and underlined by the incredibly striking and uncomfortable artwork that adorns the record.

‘Limbo’ begins with one of the best tracks on the expertly-produced album. It lurches from the speakers with a slow, churning dissonance, a lumbering hulk of a song that builds in intensity and pace in deliberate fashion. When the faster drumming enters the fray, it remains shy of a full-on black metal blastbeat until the musicians dictate that it is necessary for the composition. The tortured, moaning gurns of the vocalist call to mind Deinonychus at points, whilst carefully-injected melody creeps into the song, a counterpoint to the well-honed violence that encompasses it. It makes it all the more rewarding then when, at the halfway point, an elegant melody emerges as the focal point, only to give way to a post-rock-meets-ambient section of gorgeous minimalism. The haunting lead guitar that emerges is simply beautiful and offers a whole new listening experience, before being swept aside by another wave of thunderous malevolence, albeit this time, laced liberally with melody that sticks in the mind.

‘Null’ is a shorter composition in comparison, but as you’d expect from this outfit, it packs no less of a punch for it. Featuring less twists and turns, instead it opts for an altogether faster pace for the most part, where the drumming hits warp speed in places, to carry the icy riffs along in a blaze of ferocity. But again, there’s some arresting melody buried within the track, melody that’s further enhanced by the sound of deep and ominous choral vocal effects. If anything, the vocals are even more tortured than before, conveying that sense of hopelessness so well.

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‘Conspiranoia’ is also worthy of mention, as it’s another arresting song. I really like the way in which the drums are allowed to come to the fore during moments of relative calm, as well as the way in which the track builds so well across its nine-minute length. The changes in pace are really well done, whilst a reprise of those haunting male choral effects adds a greater sense of unease and malevolence, whilst adding gravitas too.

The final track is simply-titled ‘Mare’ and at 13 minutes, it is the longest track on the entire record. And yet, it doesn’t feel that way, because it holds your attention throughout. More chant-like effects tap into the theatrical side of black metal, before the song literally explodes from a ponderous opening, into a blaze of sharp, frosty riffs and blastbeats. The melody this time is much more mournful in tone, but it is still arresting and irresistible, especially as it is allowed to weave in and out of various soundscapes from all-out attack, to more nuanced and poignant. It is most definitely a fittingly elegant conclusion to a super album.

I won’t deny it. Listening to ‘Limbo’ is not an easy or simple exercise. It requires stamina and attention, and it is likely that by the end, you will be mentally exhausted, with your ears ringing and your head pounding. But it is so very worth it, because there’s something about this record that is so indescribably rewarding. You feel as if you’ve been beaten and bruised, but you also realise that you’ve been privy to something very powerful and, ultimately, incredibly entertaining. And, what’s more, give it a few minutes and you’ll be wanting to listen again. In ‘Limbo’, Gaerea have created an album that will most definitely make the black metal world sit up and take notice, and rightly so.

The Score of Much Metal: 91%

Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:

Buried Realm – Embodiment Of The Divine
Navian – Reset
Selenseas – The Outer Limits
Quantum – The Next Breath Of Air
Ensiferum – Thalassic
Long Distance Calling – How Do We Want To Live?
Airbag – A Day At The Beach
Re-Armed – Ignis Aeternum
Atavist – III: Absolution
Frost* – Others EP
Darker Half – If You Only Knew
Atavistia – The Winter Way
Astralborne – Eternity’s End
Centinex – Death In Pieces
Haken – Virus
Pile Of Priests – Pile Of Priests
Sorcerer – Lamenting Of The Innocent
Lesoir – Mosaic
Temnein – Tales: Of Humanity And Greed
Caligula’s Horse – Rise Radiant
…And Oceans – Cosmic World Mother
Vader – Solitude In Madness
Shrapnel – Palace For The Insane
Sinisthra – The Broad And Beaten Way
Paradise Lost – Obsidian
Naglfar – Cerecloth
Forgotten Tomb – Nihilistic Estrangement
Winterfylleth – The Reckoning Dawn
Firewind – Firewind
An Autumn For Crippled Children – All Fell Silent, Everything Went Quiet
Havok – V
Helfró – Helfró
Victoria K – Essentia
Cryptex – Once Upon A Time
Thy Despair – The Song Of Desolation
Cirith Ungol – Forever Black
Igorrr – Spirituality and Distortion
Nightwish – Human. II: Nature.
Katatonia – City Burials
Wolfheart – Wolves Of Karelia
Asenblut – Die Wilde Jagd
Nicumo – Inertia
The Black Dahlia Murder – Verminous
Omega Infinity – Solar Spectre
Symbolik – Emergence
Pure Reason Revolution – Eupnea
Irist – Order Of The Mind
Testament – Titans Of Creation
Ilium – Carcinogeist
Dawn Of Ouroboros – The Art Of Morphology
Torchia – The Coven
Novena – Eleventh Hour
Ashes Of Life – Seasons Within
Dynazty – The Dark Delight
Sutrah – Aletheia EP
Welicoruss – Siberian Heathen Horde
Myth Of I – Myth Of I
My Dying Bride – The Ghost Of Orion
Infirmum – Walls Of Sorrow
Inno – The Rain Under
Kvaen – The Funeral Pyre
Mindtech – Omnipresence
Dark Fortress – Spectres From The Old World
The Oneira – Injection
Night Crowned – Impius Viam
Dead Serenity – Beginnings EP
The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic
Deadrisen – Deadrisen
Blaze Of Perdition – The Harrowing Of Hearts
Godsticks – Inescapable
Isle Of The Cross – Excelsis
Demons & Wizards – III
Vredehammer – Viperous
H.E.A.T – H.E.A.T II
Psychotic Waltz – The God-Shaped Void
Into The Open – Destination Eternity
Lunarsea – Earthling/Terrestre
Pure Wrath – The Forlorn Soldier EP
Sylosis – Cycle of Suffering
Sepultura – Quadra
Dyscordia – Delete / Rewrite
Godthrymm – Reflections
On Thorns I Lay – Threnos
God Dethroned – Illuminati
Fragment Soul – A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies
Mariana Semkina – Sleepwalking
Mini Album Reviews: Moloken, The Driftwood Sign & Midnight
Serenity – The Last Knight
Ihsahn – Telemark EP
Temperance – Viridian
Blasphemer – The Sixth Hour
Deathwhite – Grave Image
Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart
SWMM – Trail Of The Fallen
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

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