Gaerea emerged from Portugal in 2016, releasing an eponymous EP that year and following it up with their full-length debut, 2018’s Unsettling Whispers. A criminally underrated affair, that album became a crucible in which they forged a fiery amalgam of black and death metal, along with elements of hardcore and doom. Practically nothing is known (or offered by the band) of the musicians, who appear hooded in photos and who don’t even offer dramatic aliases for beleaguered music journos to reference in reviews. Nonetheless, while their enigmatic lack of identity and hyperbolic promotional bio approach heroic levels of self-parody, their music does not fuck around. And with the release of their latest album, Gaerea have established themselves as one of the newest visionaries in metal.
Limbo is hyper-aggressive and sharply compelling throughout. The cryptic quintet lean heavily on waves of gritty, viscerally arresting black metal to which they add corrosive death metal tempos and utterly stunning melodic interludes. To Ain opens the album with surging waves of blackened riffage, spidery fretwork and the baleful howl of the unknown vocalist, sharpened into an ice pick of pure hostility. Conspiranoia is raw and provocative, stunning in its unrelenting intensity, with its grim opening lulling the listener into a doomy, downtempo haze before erupting into a maelstrom of fractured guitars and propulsive blastbeats.
There’s a razorwire tension between Limbo’s unmitigated barbarity and the gorgeous melodic overtones that paint its tracks with a powerful sense of melancholy. This is best exemplified in the majestic, 13-minute closer, Mare, and also on Urge – a relatively brief but devastating cavalcade of punishing tempos and mournfully arresting fretwork.
With their sophomore outing, Gaerea have gone from strength to strength and there’s no reason not to look for even bigger things ahead. Astonishingly well-produced and bristling with ambition, brute force and a total absence of hope, Limbo is the quintessential soundtrack to 2020.
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