Released: 2005, Metal Blade Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
As a reviewer, I tend to get a backlog of CDs. While getting too many CDs is hardly a bad thing, it can run into problems when publicists get antsy and start nudging around, wondering where their product is. Sometimes, writer’s block kicks in or things (ie. “real life”) come up. Other times, you would rather gouge your eyes out than have to suffer through listening to another minute, let alone waste a few precious hours picking it apart for a review. But occasionally, one just slips through the cracks and gets lost in the shuffle—an honest mistake! Such is the case with Neaera’s THE RISING TIDE OF OBLIVION, a title which came out in April 2005, and is just now getting its proper treatment by this reviewer a year later. Sorry chaps… In any case, what reminded me of this oversight was the fact that despite only being out for 12 months, Neaera is ready to drop its next long-player, LET THE TEMPEST COME, already! How could I review the new CD when the old one still hasn’t gotten a proper plug at Metal Rules, right? So, after that lengthy preamble about my own tardiness, let’s get to the task at hand...
THE RISING TIDE OF OBLIVION swoops in courtesy of Munster, Germany’s oddly-monikered Neaera (in truth, Neaera was a Greek goddess, sold into slavery at a young age, and later forced to “buy” her way out). Combining elements of The Black Dahlia Murder-flecked death metal with Swedish melodic death, Neaera instantly demand a listen. The twin guitar attack of Tobias Buck and Stefan Keller slice through with exacting precision and really steal the show. Benjamin Hilleke’s vocals are a solid mix of high screams and low growls (think Tomas Lindberg) to keep things interesting and clean vocals are barely found. The rhythm section of Benjamin Donath and Sebastian Heldt provide a rigid backbone to the music, with Heldt’s drums being especially powerful. The occasional shade of metalcore creeps in (4/5 of the band started out playing hardcore in 2003) but the usual ham-handed clichés are avoided for the most part. If anything, Neaera approaches the harder sounds of fellow countrymen Fear My Thoughts and Heaven Shall Burn than the eyeliner and hair gel-mongers in Caliban. The music on this CD is pretty straight-forward in its approach but there is a bit of sameness that seems to plague things. There isn’t a big variety in either structure or vocals, which causes one song to bleed into the next. The melodic death market is a crowded one and it takes some real finesse to stand out. Neaera is only in their second year of existence and certainly have room to grow as songwriters but THE RISING TIDE OF OBLIVION is certainly a good starting point and hopefully gaining some more experience will benefit them on their next release.
The now-typical album lead-in of growing riff followed by a clicking snap to the drums sets “The World Devourers” in motion. Sebastian Heldt never lets up on the double bass and Benjamin Hilleke sounds as if he is going to have an aneurysm through much of the song before breaking into a brief clean vocal that leads to the mantra-like “Let the pen be mightier than the sword” echoing over a breakdown. The riffs on “Broken Spine” saw through the track with the usual crispness and the jackhammer-like blasting from Heldt juxtapose the more melodic verses in this quick burst of a song. “Anthem of Despair,” an expose of the Rwandan genocide, is equally as punishing, as Hilleke stretches from a guttural death metal growl in the first few seconds and alternates between that and a shrieking bellow through the verses. The Buck/Keller guitar tandem really shines on “Where Submission Reigns,” where an excellent trade-off lead is flawlessly executed in a similar vein to classic Dark Tranquillity. After a subdued instrumental, some good old-fashioned blastbeats open “…To Oblivion” that are simply ravaging. The brutal death growls and venomous pained wails of Hilleke found on “Definition of Love” seethe with rage under the subject matter of a rape victim’s torment.
Based on what I hear on THE RISING TIDE OF OBLIVION, Neaera seem to have what it takes to separate them from the glut of melodic death on the market right now. Musically, the band has some definite chops and the sweet-sounding guitars are a real standout that get the adrenaline pumping. The vocals are also dynamic enough to run the death metal course of highs and lows and never break into fluffy clean choruses. Fans of bands like Shadows Fall and even Lamb of God as well as the metalcore contingent will find much to like on this CD. The only albatross around the band’s collective neck—besides the confusing choice of names—is the lack of truly engaging songwriting. I have certainly heard worse from better bands but Neaera definitely need to step it up for people to take notice. Time may not be on Neaera’s side since metal is an ever-evolving beast but these guys are just starting out and should still have several more trips to the well left in them. Can’t wait to hear what they do on album #2.
KILLER KUTS: “Broken Spine,” “Anthem of Despair,” “Where Submission Reigns,” “Definition of Love”