Formed in 2016 this Portuguese black metal project formed with great influence from the rising tide of occult black metal’s popularity goaded by Behemoth‘s ‘The Satanist’ and the ever escalating glory of Mgła. Perhaps more notably Gaerea‘s self-titled debut EP offered hints of modern doom alongside a halfway-point between the dissonant and melodic black metal of France and Poland at the time. Though they didn’t outshine their occultist brethren, Gaerea offered a professional but slight variation of a modern style. A couple of years later they’re back with a fully formed, and slightly tweaked, vision on ‘Unsettling Whispers’.
Gaerea‘s debut straddles a weary line between modern dark metal, melodic black metal, and occult black/death metal in a way that is accessible and easy to fall into but does not leave an incredibly deep impression. The over-arching dance between these styles is initially exhilarating as the ringing gloom of “Svn” serves as basically a 6-7 minute build-up for the spiral towards the precise melodies of “Absent”. There are hints of melodic death/doom in this build of ringing guitar chords but, I don’t think I could have made it more than 10 minutes into ‘Unsettling Whispers’ if they hadn’t suddenly shifted towards melodic black metal riffs. From this point the dynamic of the record is set and it’s value is in riffs and textural guitar work with few surprises to follow.
Seeing folks on databases describing Gaerea‘s music as a mix of Dark Fortress and The Ominous Circle felt quite misleading at first as ‘Unsettling Whispers’ is neither dissonant or melodic to either extreme and features little to no death metal aspect, and if they did the project might resemble a group like Hate more. With “Lifeless Immortality” the album picks up after the 8+ minute slog of “Whispers” and really reaffirms that their strength lies in faster, melodic black metal style rather than the sluggish gloom the pads the experience unnecessarily. Luckily the pace stays fairly constant from that point forward.
I really do my best to never suggest any project’s hard work is ‘average’ but in re-listening to Gaerea‘s debut album I’ve found it’s ideas inspiring and the performances entirely flat. Vocal inflections seem fixated on the flatness of early 2000’s standards for performance and do little more than rasp plainly or growl unconvincingly. I realize this isn’t a huge problem, as any fan of Swedish melodic metal can attest to loving at least one album in this style, but it is worth mentioning. I would carry much of the same complaint for the guitar work but I ultimately enjoyed the arrangements and ‘modern’ affectation of the leads and flourishes. Generally speaking, the more melodic side of the riffing here is often brilliant. Perhaps not a ground-breaking or monumental release, but an appreciable and professional listen ‘Unsettling Whispers’ is a good in-betweener for fans of thier style of melodic occult black metal. I would highly recommend previewing “Absent” and “Cycle of Decay” to get an idea of Gaerea‘s approach and go from there.
|Released||June 22, 2018|
|BUY/LISTEN on Transcending Obscurity Records’ Bandcamp!||Follow Gaerea on Facebook|
Cover them in gold. 3.0/5.0
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