Black metal is formulaic in nature. The tropes of the genre have been recycled and reused on an endless spectrum. Bands have been integrating strange things into the style for a long time, yearning to breathe life into the cold and desolate sound beyond the standard helping of meat and potatoes. More bands still, prefer the cold and have no interest in deviation. However, the narrative persists that bands have distanced themselves from the basic formula of tremolo picking and blast beats. The sub-genre has become a playground for atmospheric, avant-garde and hybrid genres. With so much ground covered, and plenty of fresh new looks for black metal do we need more of the basics?
In the scope of the entire subgenre, it’s probably better to have more music than less, even if it is formulaic in nature. Gaerea, in particular, are a Portuguese quintet with a penchant for a straightforward and harrowing sound. The vocals are raspy and guttural. The guitars range from atmospheric leads to a sort low-gain crusty type of sound. But the real treat here are the blast beats. Absolutely punishing and very fast. The kind of blast beats that remind you why you ever liked the genre in the first place. Often, they steal the show. Gaerea find themselves threading the needle a lot of the time between being a low effort first wave of black metal worship type band and an overproduced, dime a dozen token band. They tow the line with sheer technical ability creating a sound distinct in its execution and familiar in its components.
Aesthetically, Gaerea have pursued a very neutral theme. Air. Brisk clifftop breezes and just open, overcast skies come to mind. A very fitting and simple theme. Void of seasons, winter and the occult. Something about this choice allows the music to be a bit more compelling. The music pursues a sort of neutral ground between the old guard, it’s razor sharp second and third wave contemporaries, and the evolved genre we experience today. The voidless aesthetic of a band just playing black metal is a nice touch to an album as basic as this one.
Unsettling Whispers is a linear experience, but it’s a decent one. The band is good. Their performances are tight and their sound is cohesive. And as much as we would all love every single black metal band to push the envelope, sometimes it’s healthy to just sit back and enjoy the simple things. You should put this album on and let it run in the background and let those blast beats remind you that sometimes you just need to listen to the genre done right.
Unsettling Whispers is available 6/22 via Transcending Obscurity Records and can be purchased via the Bandcamp link above.