I can’t remember how long it’s been since I last put on a Neaera record. Back in the metalcore heyday when the German scene was being dominated by bands like Heaven Shall Burn and Caliban, Neaera held an unyielding spot among my favourite bands. 2005’s ‘The Rising Tide of Oblivion’ and 2006’s ‘Let the Tempest Come’ had a huge impact on me as a teenager, and I still count them among some of the best records I’ve listened to. While I enjoyed the bigger names as well, I found Neaera‘s music to be far more interesting, as they usually gave it the ol’ death metal twist. Thanks to this, they played an important part in my evolution towards heavier stuff. So as a tribute I wanted to review their latest self-titled record – and first record since their reunion in 2018 – which came out February 28th on Metal Blade Records.
Neaera have always been a political band. Their hiatus hasn’t affected this in any way. If anything, global events of the past few years have given their lyrical content even more meaning. We find once more the band stick to their brutally honest volleys of socio-political criticism, directed at decision-making institutions and Joe Public alike. It seems they have noticed little to no change in humanity’s treatment of itself and the world since they first started in 2005.
‘False Shepherds‘ is a perfect example of this. In this song Neaera express heavy criticism at our handling of racial variety, the refugee situation and our overall xenophobia. I couldn’t help but recall their similarly-themed ‘Walls Instead of Bridges‘ off their first record. Who knew a fifteen-year-old track would hold so much literal foreshadowing? The album counts several songs tackling similar issues, such as ‘Carriers‘ and ‘Sunset of Mankind‘.
The most striking instance of lyrical craftsmanship can be found with two tracks in particular: ‘Lifeless‘ and ‘Deathless‘, which work back to back. In the former, singer Benjamin Donath points the finger at perpetrators of crimes through indirect involvement, whereas in the latter he calls the victims of those crimes to arms, wills them to open their eyes and revolt against their oppressors. It’s beautifully written and performed, and can’t help but stick with you.
I always thought Donath‘s voice stood out from other singers. It has that pitch in which you can hear his normal voice coming through. This isn’t for everyone, but I love it. Especially when we’re talking higher screams. He delivers them with a fiery passion and with lots of variation between lowers screams and death growls. While he sticks to simple enough lyric placements and singing rhythms, there are a few unexpected twists here and there.
Neaera‘s music stays fairly in line with their previous releases, but I’m giving it extra points for remaining more consistent with their earlier work. I’ve nothing against ‘Forging the Eclipse‘ or ‘Ours is the Storm‘, but they’re just a little weaker in my opinion. No, this is a return to old-school metalcore, where groovy melodies and breakdowns reign supreme. Death metal hooks are more present however and give the songs a much heavier tone. These often surge at unexpected moments: explosions of blast beats paired with raging riffs are plentiful. When the music dares to kick into melodeath drive, that’s when the music is a real treat. But on the whole there’s a nice balance between both styles. Check out ‘Carriers‘, ‘Resurrection of Wrath‘, ‘Eruption in Reverse‘ and ‘Torchbearer‘.
Favourite tracks: ‘Carriers‘, ‘Sunset of Mankind‘, ‘Torchbearer‘.
Release date: 28 February 2020
Label: Metal Blade Records
- False Shepherds
- Resurrection of Wrath
- Rid the Earth of the Human Virus
- Sunset of Mankind
- Eruption in Reverse