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Review: Gaerea - Mirage

Label: Season of Mist
Year released: 2022
Duration: 1:00:46
Tracks: 9
Genre: Black Metal


Review online: March 20, 2023
Reviewed by: Mjölnir
Readers' Rating
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Rated 4.29/5 (85.71%) (7 Votes)

Gaerea have become one of my favorite bands in metal in a very short amount of time. Ever since I found their debut, the masterful Unsettling Whispers, in a cheap bin somewhere and wound up being blown away by their violent and often brilliant distillation of modern black metal styles, I’ve been following them very closely in the hopes they would release more music that would match it. They came damn close with Limbo, which saw them adding serious density to their sound while only sacrificing a little aggression, so I was anticipating this release more last year than any other. Despite that, I’ve sat on it for some time now, initially being gravely disappointed and from then on changing my opinion with almost every relisten. I think I finally have a grasp on this album, and while I can now say that Mirage is a strong album, it is definitely a step down.

If you’ve heard their previous albums, you already have the basic foundation of their sound in mind: winding, dissonant guitar work, blazing, complex drumming, violent howls of fury and despair, and a mood of desolation and anguish that exemplifies modern black metal. The big difference here is that the band has added a good bit of post to their sound with more thrilling tremolo sections and even some somber acoustic sections, which makes the compositions more expansive and light in the past while typically serving as a solid contrast for the blasting aggression that has always defined their sound.

Sadly, I think they added a little too much on here, which results in the band losing some of their feral bite and the songs losing some of their identity with compositions that all have a similar approach. That’s not to say they have dumbed down their sound or become more commercial—if anything, this is their most demanding release so far and will come across as featureless on cursory listens because of it—but I do think that in their attempt to expand and refine their individual sound, they actually lose some of their identity and sound closer to their contemporaries than before.

That sounds like harsh criticism, and if you asked me a month or two ago it would have been, but I’ve come to get past my reservations and really enjoy the album. While not as intense or novel as before, the music is still composed of the winding misanthropy I have come to love from this band, and they still manage some real first-rate songs like the opener "Memoir" and the massive bonfire that is "Arson". The rest of the songs don’t stand out as much, but they are still filled with strong musicianship and sometimes gorgeous melodies, and each one is an uncompromising assault of hatred and nihilism that can only really be described as Gaerea. Something of a noble misstep for the band, but lesser ones could only dream of making anything this good.

More about Gaerea...
Review: Gaerea (reviewed by Mjölnir)
Review: Limbo (reviewed by Mjölnir)
Review: Unsettling Whispers (reviewed by Mjölnir)
Interview with Gaerea on September 5, 2020 (Interviewed by Mjölnir)
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