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Shows progression, but not quite as strong - 73%

Bloodstone, May 3rd, 2009

Sale at the metalcore surplus store again it seems, although this album sees the band toning down the hardcore elements of the debut a bit, logically resulting in more of a straight Gothenburg/melodeath sound (metalcore = melodeath + hardcore as a general rule of thumb, for those uninformed). Slaughter of the Soul influences reign supreme even more here than on the debut, At the Gates' swansong still being the closest point of reference for the majority of the disc (though there are other elements as well). Somewhat thrasy yet melodic riffage and screamed vocals (here, growling also shows up in places) over fast, Slayer-esque drumming, you know the drill. Nothing remotely original about this stuff, but as with The Rising Tide of Oblivion, few of its contemporaries get the job done as well as these guys.

To further compare it to the debut, one senses a greater level of ambition behind this; the songs are longer and more varied, simplistic breakdowns are scarcer and the lead guitar work is more epic, dramatic and frequent. The much-changed production works in this general direction as well and does a lot to change the tone of the music; whereas Rising Tide had somewhat of an urban teutonic thrash feel going for it, this album comes across as a great deal grander, fuller and more epic. Behind the knobs this time is Jacob Hansen, and his treatment is as ultra-sleek, ultra-modern and ultra-layered as usual - excellent, but in a very different way from the first album. Moreover, straight-up death metal sections appear more here than on the debut, and are often more technical as well. They're still not an integral part of Neaera's sound, but certainly a notable addition.

The added songwriting elements (longer and more involved songs, increased presence of lead guitar and DM sections, mainly) shows a willingness to evolve and push the envelope, which is admirable, but much of the time they unfortunately work against the band and also do little to change the fundamental design of the music enough to really make their sound stand out in the gigantic sea of similar melodeath/metalcore acts. The band's comfort zone is still clearly one of thrash-tinged generic melodeath riffs (interchangable as they may be, again not unlike the fast parts of ATG's 1995 full-length) alternating with simple breakdowns/slower chuggy bits. No complaint there, it's just what Neaera do best, and once again deliver with more passion, conviction and sheer competence than nearly everyone in business. For instance, the one-two punch that opens the album is pure brilliance and get some serious headbanging started, possibly outmatching anything on the debut. "Mechanisms of Standstill" brings Testament's "D.N.R." to mind as far as "steamroller doing 140 inside mall" crush and maim goes, while the more melodic but otherwise similar title track is SO stereotypically Gothencore almost to the point of unintentional (?) parody - you gotta hear it to believe it, just check out those little oh-so-cherished "Maiden harmonies" they throw in to vary up the main riff and that big, dumb and TOTALLY shoehorned-in breakdown that throws every little trace of subtlety there is to speak of right out the window. But fuck if it doesn't kick ass anyway.

As was the case on the debut, vocalist Benny Hilleke's high-pitched screaming is absolutely first-rate and truly works wonders for the band. On here, his delivery is less hardcore and more "extreme metal" and Tomas Lindberg-esque than on Oblivion, but he excels just as much at his game here and injects oomph aplenty into the songs. Again, no cleans to be found; just face ripping, rabid aggression all the way. Only complaint are the death growls that pop up from time to time, being rather flat and passionless, but fortunately they don't drag the music down in any major way. At any rate, he's by far one of Neaera's main assets and certainly their most important individual member, right up there with KsE's Jesse Leach when talking the best vocalists in metalcore.

In conclusion, while it stumbles a bit here and there, the good stuff makes Let the Tempest Come well worth checking out for believers in melodeath/metalcore. It's not as consistent as the debut, but still comes with a shit ton of catchy headbanging fun to be had. It's the epitome of "generic, but well done"; when the album's on, it's refined and well-executed enough to push the boundaries for how good it can possibly get with such a narrow, meat-and-potatoes base. Final verdict: solid follow-up, but check out the debut first.