As obscure as underground metal culture often appears to be, it frequently adheres to similar principles the mainstream culture does, especially when it comes to the occasional mandatory itch to find something to hype that obviously no culture is immune to. Indeed, if they show up in the right time and at the right place, figuratively speaking, some bands will get praise and admiration that aren’t necessarily justified or deserved, and more often than not the qualities based on which those accolades are awarded will represent the very antithesis of everything that is considered essential or at least desirable in the said culture.
It is Gaerea from Portugal that inspired this train of thought with their latest album Limbo, that has been regarded by many as the next big thing in the extreme metal. Of course, that fact alone, that contentious aspiration to make the audience perceive something as the next big thing, is what should immediately indicate that something could very well be rotten about this band and this album, which also raises the inevitable question of the futility of the whole the next big thing concept. Why some bands, given that they possess sufficient amount of distinguishable features to separate them from the pack, get to be regarded in a cheesy, pompous way as the next big thing, while others that are equally gifted are content to dwell in quiet dignity, let their music do the heavy lifting and express their superiority in a delicate yet authoritative manner? It is because of the conscious effort, or lack thereof, to influence the way the audience perceives them and manipulate the audience into seeing them the way they wish and hope to be seen. And that effort, to embellish sonic fundamentals with unnecessary clutter in order to establish some kind of desirable, flamboyant identity, is the very point at which a band becomes more of a product than an artistic entity.
When it comes to Gaerea, that clutter is manifested through glaring disproportion between the presentation and the substance, as their too polished production, impeccably fashionable promo photographs and an eye-candy front cover by Eliran Kantor don’t quite do the justice to the actual music, that comes across as massive and potent sound-wise, but somewhat one-dimensional, bland and uneventful substance-wise. Ultimately, although overall decent, when stripped to the bare bones, Limbo doesn’t offer too much memorable music, that sticks with a listener once he’s done with it and off to other things. Gaerea relies strongly on melodies that are often neither melancholic, spooky nor evocative, but just plain ear-friendly, and not in a good way. At times, it feels as if they are following in Behemoth footsteps, and even though they certainly aren’t there yet, not even close in fact, they could probably get to that dreadful spot where pop meets extreme metal, eventually. Sure, this notion may sound way too excessive and pessimistic at this point in their career, but the intuition says that a healthy dose of success could do a miracle in their case. One thing is for sure, success is what they are after.
All this being said, one shouldn’t want rain on anyone’s parade, so may the band harvest the fruits of their labour and do everything they set their minds on doing, even if that might result in the structure of their audience getting younger as they are getting older.
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