The coastal port city of Oporto, Portugal – with its mild year-round climate, narrow cobbled streets, and colorful façades of hill-nestled dwellings and cafes –wouldn’t normally be the first place you’d look to find a highly talented, intellectually-inspired, anonymity-craving black metal band with a keen eye for misanthropy, but so it is that the masked, fast-rising troupe known as Gaerea call this quaint, seaside town home.
Formed in 2016, Gaerea have stepped proper all along the path of their meteoric ascent. Starting off with an independently released, self-titled EP in 2016, this eremitic Portuguese quintet caught the ear of India’s plucky mid-major label, Transcending Obscurity Records, who championed the act’s initial full-length in 2018, Unsettling Whispers, to much fanfare and critical acclaim.
And thus, upon the strength of Whispers, Gaerea signed with one of the strongest, most well-established international metal labels out there, France’s Season of Mist, who have backed the recent release of Limbo, Gaerea’s second full-length, studio effort.
Arguably the boldest and obviously the most widely distributed of any Gaerea release to date, Limbo represents not only these rising stars’ greatest achievement, but also appears to be the catalyst that will propel these otherwise reclusive black metallers into the stratospheres of international success and fame.
Hated One Metal Reviews is proud to allow Gaerea’s anonymous founding member’s full and cogent answers speak for themselves in the following interview, and while normally abhorred around Hated One HQ, the more it was read in the “Q and A” style, the more it just made sense to present it in its natural form, “as is”, and with only as much editing as was necessary. So, without further ado, please enjoy Hated One Metal Reviews and Interviews’ exclusive interview with Season of Mist artist, Gaerea!
Let's talk about the formation of Gaerea and its enigmatic members... Are all or most of the members from Portugal, or is it more of an international collaboration? Either way, how long have you all known each other? And what were the motivating factors for forming an act with your individual sound, feel, and message?
We are all based in Portugal and fortunately we don't live very far from each other. That makes our lives super easy when it comes to rehearsing, planning or simply meeting for all other band related stuff. We have a very strong bond when working together and mostly when we perform these songs live but we do not know each other much outside the band world. I simply prefer it like that and I think the other guys understand it the same way as I do. We do care for the personal matters of each other but we try to not be the closest friends in the world because that ruins bands and since we are very different individuals with different life experiences, tastes and interests, it's safer if we all understand what truly [keeps] us together, taking the most out of what this band brings to our life without messing with all the other things that make us totally different individuals. I formed this band back in 2016 out of the inner stress of creating something of my own and [to] let my deepest thoughts emerge under a new musical form. Then, as time passed, the band was born as we all know it.
With Limbo dropping during this unprecedented pandemic, one must assume that most of the writing and recording was done before the shit truly hit the fan worldwide, but now that it has been released during this, the summer of our discontent, do you feel as though it is a fitting soundtrack for these heady, plague-addled days?
I feel like we released this album in the [exact perfect] moment and that’s what brought people together to listen [to it] and embrace such a personal and intimate album as their own. I'm ready to let this music be taken [up] by others who are struggling with depression, financial problems, abusive relationships, and loss. These are very bleak and awful times, and every day after the release of the record wakes me up to someone writing emotional words on how this music is helping them through a rough time in this life. We never intended to write an apocalyptic soundscape, but I'm very emotionally struck to know that the world needs intimate, painful and liberating music such as Limbo is in my opinion.
How do you feel Limbo compares to Unsettling Whispers in your own perspective? And, most importantly, why so?
Different. I've said it many times and I will do so again. The Unsettling Whispers album introduced us to a whole new society of lost creatures who thought themselves to be perfect even though life had been erased from their soul. We acted as reporters who walked among these appalling humans and deciphered what kept them going. In the end we discovered their only purpose in life was to find an individual way to die. Limbo has taken us by surprise in letting us know [that] we are now part of this world. We spent so much time praising the Void’s words we have been sealed into it. We are now wandering humans seeking the same goal. With a totally new perspective we now tell the tale of the Grinning Martyrs, the Wandering Souls of the Vortex Society with such more passion and emotion. We are part of this world. As the last text of this album says: “We were finally allowed to die”. Not as lost individuals, but as a mass suicide where millions of souls stand firm in the waters of time and let their souls slide away from their rotten bodies.
Who are some artists that you hold in high regard? How about your influences? What bands would the collective members of Gaerea unanimously list as influences?
We’re mostly driven by artists who have found the most beautiful purpose in their creation method and artistic expression: freedom. In cinema: Dennis Villeneuve, Wim Wenders, Christopher Nolan, Scorcese. In music: Watain, Shining, Selbst, Obsidian Kingdom, Johnny Cash. In literature: Thomas Ligotti.
Obviously, anonymity is incredibly important to Gaerea, but why so? What does the facelessness of the band represent and what do you think it adds to the band, it's image, and live show?
Aren't we all just mere fractions, reflections of what our imaginations truly are? Are we being truthful to ourselves and others amongst us all the time? We all wear masks in our daily lives. We need acceptance from others, and we will not hesitate to put our right face on for the right moment and to impress. Impress our boss, our peers, the love of our lives, our children, ourselves. In the end, no one is truly real, and if nothing is real and life is nothing but this intense way of lying in order to grow higher, we’d rather cover ourselves. We are no different from the audience.
How would you describe the sound of Gaerea to someone who's never heard your music before?
I'd say it is the sound of the very last breath before we [close our eyes] for the very last time. The last moment of liberation.
What is your favorite song on Limbo and why? Is there a special backstory behind its conception and composition?
“Mare” is the one which speaks to me the most. As I wrote in its texts:
"I heard it. A mysterious sounding Alarm which echoed through every Building, every Street, every House, every Store. A sound like Prophecy. The Great and Final Call had finally happened to all of us. And under the most notorious Trance we all left our duties of said redundant lives to gather in the endless Street. Like a blind Army of lost warriors, we walked towards the vast Nothingness, the endless Haze which never revealed nothing but bleak Memories and grey Halls. The Ancient waters appear at last under the last sunlight of that especially bright day. As the first ones stepped into those bluish waters, all who were lost had been found and all appalling had turned Cathartic. And so, Madness took over my body. This is the moment we all have been waiting for, the end of the Cycle, the only gateway to Salvation from this Pale Nightmare. For the very first time in my life, I heard the organic sound of Nature swallowing us, the Roar of the great Thunder which had to come to witness our Final Fall. And for the first and very last breath I was able to feel Joy. I was able to see all my fallen brothers singing down these waters with me. Each breath is so heavy. Why did we fall so low? Why does the Eternal Abyss taste like Rebirth? And so, it happened. Millions of us filled those Grand Rivers of time with Screams, Tears and Laughter. We were finally allowed to die."
The haunting cover art to Limbo, as conceptualized by Eliran Kantor
Post-Black Metal and Atmospheric Black Metal have seen a major swell in their ranks and a major uptick in popularity over the past few years...why do you think that is?
I think it's too early to study or even understand what's happening with this third wave of Black Metal art and it does not depend on us to wrap our heads about it since we are the ones crafting it among many other fantastic bands. I think we will only understand what happened with the scene in 2030 when the new generation dives into it and overtakes it. They will be ones defining what happened to bands like us.
As I see it, it was very unfair to judge 90’s Black Metal in the 90’s. History will demand quality moments and factual, interesting moments to study what happened back then and define it, contextualize it and write about it. Still, I think Black Metal has finally opened its doors to Human emotions, what makes us so vulnerable, so horrid, so unique, so unnecessary to this world. It's not about our imagination, magic, or our ancestors anymore. It's about the present, which is calling for our attention to get inspired by it and document it in the most contemporary way we know. Black Metal needed this to survive. Black Metal was everything about opposition, hate, and extremist behaviors. But for me, this is the genre that can portray Liberation, Freedom, Pain, and Love like no other genre can.
FILL IN THE BLANK: Live shows and tours will only really return when: we all understand it's not up to the government to tell us when to perform. It never was.
Speaking of playing live, are you doing like a lot of other acts out there and scheduling shows for 2021? Or are you just going to stoically wait for a return to more of a "true normal" like many others?
Yes, we are rescheduling and booking new shows for 2021 while being optimistic that they will happen. We cannot expect more than that.
TRUE or FALSE (AND WHY): The response to Limbo has been about what we expected…
True. We have worked and are still working very, very hard on this record. It's not fair to all that hard work to just be politically correct and say we were not expecting the insanely good reaction to the record.
Consequently, an “insanely good reaction” is precisely what Limbo has received, both from the public and critics alike. For a taste of its dark deliciousness, mash that play button below to listen to “Null”, and if you dig what you hear and see, be sure to support Gaerea by procuring yourself a copy of Limbo by following the links provided below!
Thank you to Gaerea for this excellent interview, and many thanks to all of you hallowed readers out there! Stay tuned for more reviews and interviews featuring many of today’s cutting-edge metal artists… if you keep reading them, Hated One will keep writing them! \m/
Rating: 96 / 100 (A)
Release Date: July 24th, 2020 (Season of Mist)
Genre: Melodic Black Metal
For Fans of: Watain, Shining, Selbst, Obsidian Kingdom, Uada, Katavasia, Glaciation, Winterfylleth, Serene Dark