The huge influx of extreme metal bands has made it rather hard for new bands to truly stand out. While more established bands have continued releasing a string of high quality releases, newer bands tend to find it difficult to leave their mark on the genre – that is, until I heard Portuguese black metal band Gaerea and their excellent debut full length album, Unsettling Whispers.
Bands like Schammasch and Batushka had already taken lead in the aesthetics department, with the latter in particular looking to be a fun band to watch live with the entire ritualistic getup. Gaerea joins the ranks of these bands in terms of their visual appeal, though it seems that it is for the entire experience rather than anonymity that the band seeks.
Album opener Svn gives a hint towards the mood and atmosphere that the band leans towards, and while it is hardly heavy nor noisy, the ambient that the band manages to create is dark and disturbing, aided by the indecipherable, desolate shrieks and vocals at the background. Things take a much heavier turn the moment Absent kicks off, and it is here where comparisons to Schammasch and Batushka becomes obvious. Right from the get go, the riffs take on a black/death metal vibe that is similar to the works of Schammasch or Behemoth. Yet the music is constantly shrouded in a suffocating atmosphere, though not as primitive nor cavernous as the ones on Batushka‘s Litourgiya, remains equally dark and ominous.
On Unsettling Whispers, Gaerea explores the entire spectrum of negativity, and often swings between complete desperation and hopelessness, and anger and aggression. Each tracks is intense in its own right, and the band often alternates between an emotional riff, to one of utter destruction, backed by the relentless battery on the drums. This is accentuated by the stellar production on the album, where everything is extremely clear and the listener is constantly buried under a barrage of sound, making the entirety of Unsettling Whispers an engaging listen.
If one wants black metal that is devoid of hope or light, Unsettling Whispers is one album that comes highly recommended, with the coherent fusion of crushing aggression and melancholic, melodic sadness all in one album.