Behind black shrouds of obscurity and desolation, the men of GAEREA deliver their odes in cascading maelstroms of aggression and beauty. Emerging from the age of pandemic to whatever awaits humanity next, the Portuguese horde remains on the frontlines of the next generation of extreme metal. With an EP and two albums to their name, GAEREA has rapidly distinguished themselves from the thousands of bands toiling away in the underground. Brewing their cauldron of sound from a recipe of pounding black-metal blast mixed with a touch of harrowed, reflective longing, many devotees of the darkened arts have flocked to their banner. With the emergence of third full-length album Mirage, those numbers are sure to grow.
Underground metal itself is a strange and cyclical beast. Trends come and trends go. But at no point in the genre’s history have we borne witness to what happened to the world in 2020. GAEREA met this challenge by releasing their second album, the aptly titled Limbo, to excellent world reception. In the meantime, they found the total suspension of interactive life as it was previously known to be the perfect breeding ground for further creation and making. As the troupe’s main songwriter elaborates, “I lost two precious years of my life, years that I would rather have spent touring and growing as an artist. But they were crucial for us, these years, because not too many bands stayed relevant and productive. The pandemic gave us the time to make the best release we could. All the promo-shoots, interviews, videos, we all had time to prepare for everything. Mirage was the product of a sudden inspiration. The basic parts were written over about two weeks.”
Such a stunning admission goes to show that art is fickle, and the artist is merely a vessel through which the sweet sorcery we call music may flow. It can mute itself to frustrating silence – or it can explode into being regardless of all consideration. For this band on the rise, it is most certainly the latter. Sizzling with ambition from day one, GAEREA may present one unique face to their audience, masked and enshrouded, but the truth is they have not remained changeless. “We are not the same band who recorded Limbo,” he insists. “We are more eager to take on the world. If the pandemic taught us anything it is that nothing is certain.”
This lack of certainty plays heavily into newest creation Mirage. As its name suggests, the inability to trust what our senses are telling us could be construed as one of the album’s central themes. Rather than constrict their art to mythological references or anti-religious tropes, GAEREA instead plumb the depths of the human experiences of isolation and suffering. “The concept, the subject, of each song is everyone, you, me . . . if people were alone together in Limbo, in Mirage they are truly alone. Nobody is truly real until they are alone.”
If existential dread could be turned into sound, GAEREA have carved their own philosophical path through its stygian tunnels. It isn’t Satan, demons, death, or even suicide that is waiting for us there. “What if people finally reached their goal,” he posits, “to end their suffering, and instead of dying they find themselves in a new reality, lost in a big city they were once a part of – they don’t know if anyone else is still alive. They are alone inside their own world.” This theme of being alone in a world full of familiar scenes, unable to end things and unable to reach anyone else, might well terrify the listener more effectively than any glimpse into the imagined hellscapes of our nightmares. Being isolated in your own world is the real nightmare, and GAEREA strum the chords of this horror with nuance and a miserable grace.
Boasting a superior production that threads the needle between clarity and causticness, GAEREA unwaveringly admit their loyalty to countryman and producer Miguel Tereso of Demigod Recordings. “Miguel is fantastic,” enthuses the band’s primary composer. “He comes from a brutal death metal background. I thought if this guy can pull off a punchy, modern, but still authentic production with a slam / death metal band, I wonder what he can do with a band like GAEREA. He has a vision for a sound, and that is what I really like. He is not a black metal fan, but it’s this very external set of ears and eyes from a guy who really knows his craft, and he brings all of that to our sound.” The fruits of this union are quite evident, as the turbulent moods of the title track are so wonderfully tossed between tension-building moments, and the explosive payoffs which set GAEREA apart from so many who try but come up short.
Tormented leads and building riffs sit atop some seriously explosive drumming, waxing and waning, on “Arson,” a tempest of moods and one of the album’s centrepieces. Emotion, at times sounding triumphant in brilliantly wrought guitar leads, is skewered by vocals that bustle with shattering despair. The dichotomy is magnificent to behold. GAEREA’s composer makes no mistake. “I want to hear the throat on the album, and if we are a vocals-driven band, I don’t want to over-process them during the recording. Striking that balance is one of the beauties for me in this record.”
In a world that increasingly elevates the shallow and the narcissistic, GAEREA pursues an artistic struggle of inward isolation, honest self-examination, and a dogged refusal to bow to the void that awaits. Thus, the persistence of their shadowed visages, draped in the masks which codify their anonymity while also creating a reliable extreme metal brand that fans can appreciate, especially in the live setting. “GAEREA are truly ourselves when we put these masks on, and we transcend into something different, and primitive,” he asserts. “It still makes total sense, and this band would not be a band anymore if we ever dropped the masks.”
As GAEREA prepares the release of Mirage, the world has resumed functioning, and as it lurches onward into its bleak future, one could stipulate that the pressure may be on to continue its rise amid the clamor of this renewal of activity. Does this challenge intimidate GAEREA? “We want to do better, but I don’t feel any pressure because we are in very good hands with the people we work with. We are building a strong team that really cares for us, stage-wise, promotional-wise, website and sales-wise. We are building a very structured confident teams that aims for the same goals we do. What I truly care about is continuing our ever-growing concept of the band GAEREA, and not becoming sterile, and I would not want people to be unaffected by our music. In the end we’re trying to express something within ourselves, and I don’t want it to be too complicated.”
The beauty of GAEREA lies in the directness and simplicity found within their florid tapestry of extremity and aggression. Whether it is in the less-polished aural dynamite of their self-titled EP, or in the lustrous textures of Mirage, GAEREA is building a mighty edifice of underground metal. With talons dipped in the inky blood of black metal and scraped across the flesh of human suffering, GAEREA is leading a charge into the future of darkness, and all those who find beauty and power in the dark side of existence would do well to take heed.