By Lord Randall

It worried me when I saw that Portugal’s GAEREA had not-one-not-two-but-three (count ‘em) songs past the nine minute mark on its sophomore release “Limbo”. Now I’m all for exploration, sonic and otherwise, but I’d truly enjoyed the 40-odd minutes of “Unsettling Whispers” in 2018, and it’s been my considered opinion that genre-wide, black metal slips most easily into wandering tangents when it should stay right where it is and stop trying to be so fancy. I’m looking at you, UADA.

Hence, when GAEREA pulled not one single punch in getting down to the monolithic tower of fuckoff that is the beginning of “To Ain”, with nary an intro in earshot, I literally grinned in anticipation of what was to come. Rhythms shift and throb like hearts in contortion, riffs convulse and fling themselves against one other in a valiant and yet ultimately unsuccessful effort to drown out the vocal hysterics shrieking from multiple throats. TOOL-esque, subdued dynamics come into play just over halfway through, going supernova after a couple of minutes, managing not to come off as contrived—nay, vital to the song.

It’s hard to go song by song here, truly, as there’s simply so much happening within the suffocating pummel of “Null”--imagine being forcibly wrapped in a soaked blanket, then having the ever-loving Hell beaten out of you—and the binge n’ purge of “Conspiranoia” that each tune warrants its own paragraph.

“Urge” is poetry in caustic motion, scathing riffs that approach METALTM at moments and—at less than 5 minutes long—the “hit single” if an album such as “Limbo” could boast such a thing. Lyrically, GAEREA is as impressive as its ever been, veering wide of such self-pleasuring wankery as BOSSE-DE-NAGE, because this...this is self-displeasure, the death of the ego writ large, scrawling in sputum and black bile.

I’m going to leave the finale “Mare” as a gift for you. Let’s just say that not one second of her is wasted, despite taking up ¼ of the album’s playing time. Incendiary as NEUROSIS at its most flammable, horizonless as ULVER when it has a mind to be, you could listen to any song off “Limbo” and have a portrait of how important this album could be if it gets the attention it deserves.