Shrouded in obscurity, Portuguese masked Black Metallers Gaerea return with their latest offering Mirage. Its predecessor Limbo, an anthem for the Covid-19 era, was released shortly after lockdown commenced, an offering that was as brutal and harrowing as it was hauntingly sublime and melancholically melodic, a superb listen.
Gaerea – Mirage (Season of Mist)
Release Date: 23 September 2022
Words: Jools Green
Mirage continues in that engagingly brutal vein, written in those ensuing long covid months of isolation. The band’s main songwriter explains, “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, and 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.”
Despite this ambitious drive and their ability to present a unique, shrouded face to their audience, they also have come out of this decidedly changed. “We are not the same band who recorded Limbo,” they insist. “We are more eager to take on the world. If the pandemic taught us anything, it is that nothing is certain.”
Regarding Mirage, as the title implies, it taps into the lack of certainty and the inability to trust what our senses are telling us. Looking into the human experiences of isolation and suffering as a core lyrical inspiration, they expand this, saying, “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. What if people finally reach their goal, 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.”
A deep and harrowing thought, of which, if you think of it deeply, you could envisage your worst nightmare. But a superb subject for a Black Metal album, and it is reflected wholly in the creation and delivery of this release.
Mirage is a weighty offering in every respect imaginable, with nine tracks spanning an hour, delivering a whole range of emotions. Opener Memoir builds and escalates from hauntingly reflective to brutally bleak in the first two minutes of its eight-minute duration. It’s an impressive shock to the system as that wall of pummelling drums, intense riffing, and harrowingly raw vocals surge at you in an unavoidable wave. Then, amidst this comes haunting melodic bursts. A track that is a magnificently powerful sensory overload.
Salve starts as it intends to continue, as an intense, dark and driving beast of a track with harrowingly tortuous vocals and a superb backing choral appearing from midway onwards.
Deluge boasts a haunting, suspenseful opener with pounding drum rhythms building with sultry dark riffs and cavernous and acerbic vocals, developing into an insane frenzy towards the close.
Arson takes the pace back with its reflective opener, a gentle meld of clean, sparse guitars and subtle keyboards, building in subtle increments, but as the title suggests, once the spark kindles, the track bursts forth in a dark frenzy of intense riffs, pummelling drum work and harrowingly acerbic vocals. There is also a good ebb and build to the track. You get a strong feel of flames and engulfment. It’s as harrowing as it is brilliant.
Ebb arrives like a wave of searing riffs and pummelling drums that manifest, not surprisingly, as an engaging ebb and build beneath the scathing vocal delivery. Further in, the pace drops back around midway, making space for some superb bouncy bass lines and intense leadwork, building back up towards the close.
Title track Mirage is initially dark, haunting and heavy to open. There’s a sinister unnerving undercurrent, too, emphasised by the regular pauses in the sound. But there is also a haunting melodic element that partners with the tortuous vocal delivery and the quieter segment in the second half has a bleak unnerving feel. A superbly complex track with a disquieting beauty to its construct.
The brutal onslaught continues with Mantle, predominantly an intense driver but with no shortage of well-placed ebbs and pauses for dramatic effect, with the tortuous screams of the vocals cutting right through you.
Laude continues to drive through with waves of undulating riffs, but it also has subtly bouncy, groovy moments that emphasise further the tortuous vocals.
The final track, Dormant, a bonus track, with its precise pounding drum work, hauntingly sinister repeat and tortuous vocals, brings Mirage to a dramatic close.
There is also an interesting twist when it comes to production, mixing and mastering. Rather than use a producer with a Black Metal background, they went with Miguel Tereso of Demigod Recordings, who has a brutal Death Metal background. I think this is a genius idea because he doesn’t have preconceived ideas of how he feels the sound should be, instead focusing on just maximising the Gaerea sound, making it as powerful as possible.
Mirage is an end-to-end superb listen, powerful, evocative and unnerving but utterly irresistible.