Through the years we have seen three waves of black metal, with each entry representing a more modern approach to the genre. Today’s record represents one of the most modern sounding entries in this list while grasping at orthodox black metal roots. Gaerea is a Portuguese band that sounds colder than their home country could ever be. They’re album Unsettling Whispers will be out on the June 22.
Unsettling Whispers begins with an ambient intro that segues into a chorus laden guitar riff with distant screaming over it. Everything seems to be lo-fi and far away but this is merely an introduction of what’s to come. “Absent” is the first full track on the record and man does it sound evil. With chugs breaking up arpeggiated riffs and visceral screaming this track comes off as a modern classic. Soon, heavy tremolo picked riffs are introduced and the drum blasts away manically while being very controlled in regulating the groove of the track. It is very clear to see that the influences of the band are that of the first wave of black metal while giving the concept a modern layout. At the end of the track we’re introduced to a last malevolent sounding riff before everything slowly fades out.
While I was a bit sad that the band couldn’t hold the experimental attitude from the first track up, it clearly wasn’t what they went for. Though a bit more confidence in their own style would’ve done the band some good, as sometimes the songwriting can come off as flat due to its reminiscence to other works.
Moving on, “Whispers” we’re introduced to a new face of the band here. A more doomy approach is chosen for the track, with mid-tempo, bass laden guitars roaring like hellhounds. The band sounds more evil than on previous tracks and they manage to get some dynamic in the mix by changing to the old reliable tremolo picked notes. Of course the gloomy feeling creeps back and with it the slow riffs. After two thirds of the track the drum and the guitars battle for the dominance over the track by going all out in their technical effort. Sadly this eight minute track couldn’t catch my attention as it cycles through its own passages two often and establishes a numbing repetitiveness.
I think Unsettling Whispers is an effort that shows potential but ultimately fails in being its own work of art, rather than feeling reminiscent of so many others. While it is by no means a bad album, in fact it’s quite decent and enjoyable for many, it feels like the band could’ve come more into their own. They try to incorporate a lot of influences from doom and black metal and even a bit of melodic metal at some point but through rare use and bad placement it fails to catch my ear. This is especially sad because the production and the vocals on this LP are pretty amazing. I hope Gaerea will find their voice in the future.
Notable Tracks: “Whispers”, “Absent”
FFO: Martröð, Sheidim