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Neaera > Neaera > Reviews
Neaera - Neaera

Everything I could have hoped for and more - 99%

Bloodstone, February 29th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, Digital, Metal Blade Records

The hardest to spell band on Metal Blade's roster is BACK, revitalized and out for fucking blood. These guys broke up for a few years after unfortunately ending on their worst album, 2013’s confused, directionless mess that was Ours Is the Storm. Well, some time away clearly did them good, because Neaera is a return to the straightforward melodeath/metalcore mastery of their prime and in hungrier, more savage form than ever. Now, I tend to avoid writing reviews so soon after hearing an album, yet here I am writing one on release day. But screw it, Neaera has always been one of those pet bands of mine that feel deserve more attention, and I want to do what I can to inform the world while the new product’s hot.

Besides, there isn’t a lot here to decipher, wrap my head around, let sink in or what have you, where I would feel the need to have more time to form a fair opinion. No, this album very quickly reveals itself to be the product of the band going back to 2007’s Armamentarium for inspiration, their best and most popular record, and not missing a single step in doing so. If you’re not familiar, Neaera’s style in general can be described as the German metalcore aesthetic of a band like Heaven Shall Burn, with Amon Amarth-styled melodic tremolo riffs added as a key component (big oversight on my part not to point out that latter influence in my earlier reviews, it’s pretty obvious). On Armamentarium, what they did was to downplay the metalcore, up the melodic death metal a lot, add some Bolt Thrower-ish bleak warlike atmosphere, and just make everything a ton heavier. Neaera is essentially that, but without denying the metalcore part that all their other albums have. The low death metal growling that they frankly never did any well has thankfully been replaced by deathcore styled lows (along with the more high-pitched screams that all their releases have), which vocalist Benjamin Hilleke is clearly more gifted at. Also, there’s lots of moshy single note breakdowns everywhere, some of which could be mistaken for Knocked Loose given the heavy-as-bricks production job. Speaking of which, Jacob Hansen is back doing mixing and mastering, resulting in a sound about as notably over the top as Armamentarium, although I would argue that the guitar sound here is more pleasantly crunchy and organic. At 44 minutes, it’s also nine minutes shorter than that album, which feels more bearable when dealing with a near-constant barrage of sound like this. The drum sound is another improvement, the snare being enjoyably snappy and each part of the kit having plenty of room to breathe in the mix. It’s the best the band has ever sounded.

I think what I appreciate most about this band is in the finer details of execution, and this album is no different. The way the middle break of “Catalyst” utterly stomps, how “Rid the Earth of the Human Virus” transitions from d-beat to full on double bass in a most intense sounding way, and the somber, introspective change of pace the shoegazy part in “Eruption in Reverse” provides. And so on – call me shallow if you will, but for someone like myself who’s very much about the craftsmanship of things, there’s so much to love here. Self-titled non-debut albums tend to signify a huge change (Metallica) or lack of inspiration (Killswitch Engage, the second one), but this is none of that. It’s the same five guys since the beginning, doing what they do best, except harder than ever before. The world is if nothing else a more worried place now than seven years ago, and given this is a very societally aware kind of band, it’s easy to imagine this having reflected heavily on them given the huge sense of urgency to this particular album, which I can’t stress enough – dudes are absolutely on fire here, delivering the goods like it’s the last thing they’ll do on this planet. Well, I like to think humanity’s total obliteration is not just around the corner or anything, but you never know what might happen and I do implore you to check this one out at your earliest convenience. I did not expect Neaera to come back after so long with their best work yet and what will surely be a personal top 5 of 2020, but there you have it.