Cathartic. We hear this term a lot when describing metal. It's often used to describe music that provides some type of psychological relief through the expression of strong emotions. There are a lot of bands that exemplify this in their art but only few express catharsis at the level of Portugal's Gaerea. Their third full-length, Mirage, is robust with vigorous and overflowing open emotion. These shrouded and mysterious artists may hide their faces and their identities but their feelings and passion is out for all the world to see, experience and fully embrace.
If you don't feel something when listening to Mirage you ought to contact your healthcare provider. Gaerea has crafted an emotional rollercoaster of a record that's going to sometimes make you feel sorrow, sometimes elation and lots of reflected longing. Perhaps Mirage is reticent of the locked down world we all experienced at the time of the record's writing… or maybe it's of an even darker origin. Whatever it is, Gaerea's music will unmistakably leave a mark on you.
One of the themes of the record that's rather clear is suffering. We hear this pretty clearly in tracks like "Deluge" which takes hold and doesn't let go. Similarly, "Arson" is both beautiful in its majestic leads on guitar yet quickly contrasted by the tormented vocals on top of some wicked blast beats.
Gaerea manages to pull off atmosphere, aggression and intensity so well because of how they craft their songs. There's nothing formulaic here. It's organic and comes off as quite natural, which is only makes you wonder exactly what these artists are going through in their own lives. It can be quite chilling. At the same time, the band can push the dark dynamics of their sound and build something that's almost uplifting… almost accessible… and this is most apparent in the bonus track "Dormant," which has actually become my favorite song on the record. I think it's because in all the bleakness, loneliness and solitude that this LP conveys, I seem to subsciously pick up a slight glimmer of hope in this final cut.
The band has released a number of striking videos, such as the one for the title track. Going beyond just the music, Gaerea uses the visual medium to really convey their art both in their stage presence and their videographic accompaniment. In this respect, Gaerea is something to experience and not just listen to. Of course, that's not to say that Mirage doesn't stand on its own just as a record.
There are so many things that work here on this record. It's the musicianship as well as the mix. I love how the blistering percussion comes through the speakers so clearly – a difficult feat. The tremolo guitars are solidly black metal but still sound unique and rather atypical in their tonality. This, in itself, is rather refreshing. Think of it as an evolution in tremolo that's occurred beyond the boundaries of the Nordic nations.