In this day and age metal has no shortage of subgenres. This ensures a multitude of directions and new opportunities for artistry to grow. It also means polarization among fans. Traditionalists insist that the genre is no longer what was. This is certainly the case when it comes to black metal. In recent years, new acts have made the genre more accessible to many. New groups have implemented a wider range of musical styles and have reached more listeners than ever before. However, this hasn’t been to the satisfaction of everyone. Some claim the genre has run its course and now exists as nothing more than a commercialized commodity. Still, the (blast) beat marches on…
Gaerea is one such band. There’s no denying the level of perfection that the Portuguese black metal outfit strives for. Limbo, the groups' sophomore effort, doesn't exist in the realms of expectation. Referring to their sound as “cathartic black metal," Gaerea ignore existing labels in favor of existing within one of their own creation.
In describing the band’s sound, it’s almost impossible not to mention MGLA. As one of the most influential black metal acts of the last decade, several acts such as Groza and UADA have attempted to replicate their dissonant sound and hooded appearance. Like so many others, Gaerea chooses to favor anonymity. Their identities are obscured by hoods which bear sigils from the Goetia. (A form of ritual magic with ties to Hermeticism.) Occult imagery in extreme music is nothing new. Gaerea takes a more enlightened approach to the subject matter. They're not content to spew out typical diatribes of devil worship that have existed for decades.
Gaerea establishes this approach early on with “To Ain.” The eleven-minute opening track weaves an atmospheric spell over the listener with its multiple time changes and technical proficiency blended with atmosphere. The content hints at the philosophical approach Gaerea contains within their music. Ain (A Hebrew word for "nothing") refers to a philosophical ideal similar to that of purgatory. Even the album’s title and cover illustration seem to reinforce this aspect. The image of agony in an unfamiliar domain hints at the futility and hopelessness of being trapped in limbo.
Conceptual aspects aside. Gaerea offers up a variety of songs that don’t adhere to any specific formula. “Urge” implements galloping rhythms that are reminiscent of Viking metal. Maintaining a strong pace throughout, the vocals embody anguish and despair and accentuate the frenetic pace of the music.
No other song contained on Limbo better exemplifies this union of atmospheric musicianship and aggressive riffing than "Conspiranoia." Just as the words "conspiracy" and: "Paranoia" in the title, the slow beginning sets a forbidding tone as the song reaches a crescendo and breaks out into a rhythm that reinforces a feeling of madness within the human mind. "Mare", the albums thirteen-minute concluding track continues this theme, as we enter into a world where reality is subjective and futility is everything.
Fenriz of Darkthrone once remarked that black metal is rhythm and atmosphere. Gaerea not only understands this concept but have utilized it to its fullest potential with Limbo. In an age where repetition seems to be the norm and new ideas seem to be a rare occurrence, Gaerea offers us something that is otherworldly and worthy of praise.