Gaerea has become a force to be reckoned with in the past few years in the black metal scene. Their debut full-length Unsettling Whispers took the underground scene by storm and saw the band immediately make a leap from Transcending Obscurity Records to Season of Mist for their 2020 follow up full-length Limbo. Fast forward two years and Gaerea is back with a new offering of “cathartic black metal” called Mirage. If you are not familiar with Gaerea, they are from Portugal and play a style of black metal similar to UADA, Mgla, and Groza. Not much is known about the identities of the band outside of front man Guilherme Henriques and drummer Diogo Mota, as all the members wear black hooded masks to disguise their identity.
Opening track “Memoir” opens up much like the Unsettling Whispers album, with a few minutes of soft guitar and drums with Guilherme softly singing before the song roars to life with rapid fire blast beats, wailing guitars, rumbling bass and the screams of anguish from Guilherme. If anything, this band and their music will make you feel their pain. The onslaught lasts for a several minutes before slowing down to let you catch your breath before launching back into full gear to end the track. The next track Salve starts off on absolute fire, with riffs circling around you as the drums pummel you with a nonstop barrage of blast beats. The way they get every drum and cymbal hit in this album is superb. Nothing is drowned out in the mix, all instruments have their voice and accent each other wonderfully. About half way through the track, an earth shattering breakdown hits out of nowhere that absolutely crushes. Just when you think the track is over, Henriques lets out a sinister bellow and the band follows suit with upping the tempo to 11 to close out the track. Next track “Deluge” sees the band slow things down a bit for the first few minutes before the aural assault takes hold and sucks you back into the Gaerea vortex, spinning you around and around with their riffs. “Arson” continues to burn everything down around you but the guitars create a bit of a brighter atmosphere throughout most of the track, giving the listener a bit of a break from the heaviness. “Ebb” does exactly as the title implies, it pulls the listener back under the surface and holds them there with the razor sharp riffs and pulsating drumming of Mota. The title track starts off quietly until exploding out at the listener but only intermittently, as they pause for a second a few times. These quick little bursts were a really cool addition, kept me guessing at what was coming next. The brightness returns in the track in the middle, with a single guitar aided by the bass and well timed drum strikes and cymbal work. These guys know when to pull back and show their softer side before they pull you back down, just like in the last minute of “Mirage”. They lull you into a false sense of security before berating you again. “Mantle” and “Laude” round out the album with some more fantastic black metal, the latter full of amazing melodies and well timed tempo changes. One thing this band knows how to do is keep you guessing what is around every corner of their albums. This album was a roller coaster of emotions: deep and dark at times and at others full of brightness and hope. This was a huge step forward for this band after Limbo and I know they will continue to age beautifully, no matter how sinister their music may be!
- The Metal Architect