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Album Review: CARA NEIR Portals To A Better, Dead World

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When bands try and fuse the frantic energy of hardcore punk with the nihilism and darkness of heavy metal the results are frequently disappointing. There are exceptions of course. The Misfits birthed the style with Earth A.D., Integrity was and continues to be a paragon of metallic hardcore, and AFI released a trinity of fantastic Danzig-worshipping hardcore punk albums in the late 90's/early 00's before beginning the slow transformation into gothic dandies. Lately, the pickins for fans of sinister punk have been slim, though. Fortunately, Texas's Cara Neir just dropped an album full of blackened melodic hardcore just in time for the holiday season, and it's a doozy.

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Portals To A Better, Dead World is only Cara Neir's second full length album since 2009, but you wouldn't know it just by listening. For a relatively new band, this album sounds amazingly focused – especially considering the band utilizes elements of black metal, progressive rock, and hardcore punk. It's easy to imagine that Portals To A Better Dead World could have wound up a disaster. Instead, Cara Neir has crafted an album that's furiosity is matched only by its complexity.

Right from the album opener, "Peridot," Cara Neir assault listeners with blackened punk nihilism and they don't let up until the final track, "3,380 Pounds", grinds to a halt like a derailed freight train. Cara Neir's music has always been violent and abrasive, but Portals is down right exhausting to listen to. The first three tracks on the album, the aforementioned "Peridot," "Closing Doors," and "Red Moon Foreboding" relentlessly attack listeners like a maniac with a straight razor. It's not until the fourth track, "Dust Collector," that a chance to breathe is given, and the break only lasts about a minute and a half before the pummeling begins again.

Although Portals To A Better Dead World sustains a break-neck pace the entire length of the album, "Dust Collector" represents a dividing line in the album. The first three songs are fairly straight-ahead blackened hardcore, but things change a bit starting with "Forlorn Love."  At this point in the album Cara Neir begin incorporating progressive flourishes into their music. It's not a lot, but the added complexity keeps the album from getting too exhausting or repetitive following the twenty minute long rage tornado of the first half of the album.

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In the heavy metal community of the 21st  century, there's no shortage of bands that blur genre lines through stylistic cross-pollination. But few are as successful at it as Cara Neir. It's really rare to find a band that blends genres as disparate as prog, black metal, and hardcore punk as well as Cara Neir do on this album. Fans of extreme music need to take note of this band; they get better with each album or EP they release, and they were pretty great to begin with.

Portals To A Better, Dead World is out now on Broken Limbs Recordings. Head over to Cara Neir's  Bandcamp page to buy the album on vinyl or digital download. Check out the band's back catalogue while you're there as well. A lot of their releases are Pay What You Want,  which is an amazing bargain considering what you're getting .

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