Should you have been paying attention to what was going on in the vast land of black metal about three years ago, you would’ve gotten wind of something that caught people off guard. I don’t think anyone was ready for what Gaerea had to bring to the table with their incredibly cathartic sound that was just as vicious as it was satisfying to listen to, and so many of us were wondering how they could top such a top-tier album like what we got for “Unsettling Whispers”. It was such a unique sound that I hadn’t heard before and it still stands far apart from anything else that the entirety of black metal has been able to create to my knowledge, and I couldn’t help but feel that Gaerea was more than up to the challenge of topping themselves when they dropped the bombshell that was announcing “Limbo”. In no small way, they succeeded without fault.
What immediately stuck out to me about “Limbo” was the shorter tracklist in terms of the number of songs, but Gaerea instantly makes up for it with a longer runtime by ten minutes, and they take grand advantage of every single one of those minutes. It was the power that drew a lot of people into what Gaerea was throwing down when “Unsettling Whispers”, but it’s now with this overwhelmingly impressive successor that we get it again in virtually the same amount, but it feels like a different breed altogether. Gaerea has put a different kind of energy into the swirling typhoon of raw emotion that black metal can rarely capture this good, but that’s just the cusp of what “Limbo” accomplishes. Just by listening to the first song and nothing else, you can almost instantly tell that Gaerea has struck gold of an exceedingly rare variety with this effort.
When we aren’t getting absolutely bombarded with ungodly craftsmanship that the vast realm of black metal doesn’t often witness, Gaerea effortlessly introduces small moments of contrast through solemn yet intimate atmosphere that’s just as piercing as any of the fiery chaos that surrounds it all. It’s in these moments that “Limbo” shows us another side of itself that, despite only showing a few glimpses of over the entire course of the album, shows us that the record was created with true soul paired with a level of understanding of this craft the likes of which we just don’t often get. So much of it is practically overwhelming but yet, Gaerea manages to constantly surpass and defy expectations no matter what it comes in the form of, and no matter what that form is it’s always immensely rewarding to sit through it all. Should it be something like one of the grandiose bookends that are “To Ain” and “Mare” or the shortest offering like “Urge”, there’s no way to argue that “Limbo” hasn’t only just matched its predecessor in some areas but it’s surpassed “Unsettling Whispers” in every other department without a single sweat being broke. If that’s not damn impressive to you, then I don’t know what it’ll take.
Every year brings with it new albums that people are looking forward to whether new material has been anticipated for months, years, or decades. When 2020 began, Gaerea wasn’t something that I was expecting to see but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t ecstatic to see them deliver something. It has come in the form of “Limbo”, and, again much like its predecessor, it’s about to smack a lot of people right across the face who just aren’t ready for the grand raw power that Gaerea constantly displays in every instance. Six tracks are rarely a powerful listen, but that’s only the beginning of what’s to be found within the small piece of the endless Void that has taken up “Limbo” as its home.
“Limbo” releases on July 24th via Season of Mist! You can listen to singles as well as order the album via Bandcamp here.
1. To Ain