Neaera // Ours Is the Storm
Rating: 2.5/5.0 — Heaven Shall Burn 0.9
Label: Metal Blade
Websites: naera.com | facebook.com/neaeraofficial | myspace.com/naera
Release Date: EU: 2013.03.04 | NA: 03.05.2013
If you mow the lawn to Heaven Shall Burn like Happy Metal Guy—which is supposed to be a good thing—you would kinda do the job almost as well with Neaera. Ours Is the Storm is this band’s sixth studio album and it serves as nice filler for HSB fans to feast on until the next HSB album drops like a giant pile of bird poop all over the world from mid to late April (← also supposed to be a good thing).
Neaera is one of those bands that started out playing metalcore before evolving into one of those fusion groups that annoy reviewers to no end: dafuq do we type for their ‘Genre’ in iTunes?? Technical death-ening thrashing metallic hardcore? Some people call post-metalcore Neaera a melodic death metal band, but that is actually misleading, because this German quintet has not completely abandoned their metalcore roots. It would be more accurate to describe Neaera as playing metalcore-influenced death metal, just like the mighty Heaven Shall Burn (only that HSB does it better).
Everything about this band is pretty sterile. From the polished production to the album artwork (which looks “fake”, like, poor-CGI-fake), Neaera is a modern whatever-genre band through and through. First and foremost, the mastering on this record is bad. Neaera is one of those extreme metal bands still partaking in the “Loudness War”, and the tacit, general consensus on how extreme metal should sound like this most of the time needs to be subverted by Classical music sensibilities. [To be fair, it’s often not the band that decides this, largely this is a consequence of labels desire for ‘competitively loud’ records and happens in the mastering phase. – AMG] Throughout Ours Is the Storm, you are overwhelmed by a continual torrent of sonic murk, which is punctuated by grooves that sound repetitious after just a few songs into the album.
Next, the band sounds tight, but individual instruments could afford to display their individual personalities more. Neaera does a great job at spewing technical riffage that tears through your ear canals like a pack of Houndooms on a sickly Stantler. Crashing cymbals and steady percussive thuds frequently intermingle with frantic tremolo riffing to concoct lethal sonic shots. While the two guitars work with the team well and sound capable of doing all sorts of technical wizardry, they do not have any audibly obvious contrapuntal passages to showcase their distinctive characters. Instead, they get sucked right into the whole sonic murk and become just two other musical lines.
With that said, there are certain catchy opening riffs, but they are kinda like trying to meet Exeggcutes in the Safari Zone: neither very common nor very rare. Trek through all 12 songs—with bait, rock and Safari balls in tow—and expect to have 5 of such encounters: “Ascend to Chaos”, “Walk With Fire”, “My Night Is Starless”, “Back To The Soul” and “Guardian Of Ashes”. They are great examples of Neaera’s penchant for managing to sound technically aggressive yet simultaneously melancholic. Having more of such motifs would have been nice.
From guttural growls to throat-rending screeches, there is something for everyone that everyone might say is not necessarily for anyone unless anyone fancies the wide range of harsh vocals often explored in deathcore and hahaha screw you journalism prof Happy Metal Guy just constructed a run-on sentence with impunity. This is probably the best part about Neaera on this album, and in this respect, they easily hold their own against Heaven Shall Burn.
The bass guitar booms like an invisible tectonic pulsor and reminds you of its existence only when you accidentally turn up the volume and see graboids invading your home from the ground. In other words, it is redundant other than providing obligatory accompaniment. And the drums? What can Happy Metal Guy say? It is fantastically creative in dishing out plenty of blast beats and double-bass kicks, but extremely uncreative when it exercises restraint during certain passages. Surely we don’t want to hear the guy behind the kit exercise more restraint? Deal out more damn blast beats and double-bass kicks, you fool!
To those who still stubbornly insist that Neaera is a “melodic death metal band”, yes, there are discernible guitar melodies amidst all the pummeling grooves. But so what? Any band has to have some kind of melody to even be called a “band” in the first place. Happy Metal Guy has previewed the upcoming HSB album, and it is WAY more melodic than Neaera could ever hope to be (and HSB still manages to retain its metalcore essence).
Angry and adrenaline-pumping as it is, Ours Is the Storm won’t hold one’s attention longer than 44 minutes and 28 seconds. There is only so much that aggression can accomplish, and Neaera needs to realize this if it wants to evolve into something greater. Don’t settle for being a mere Scyther; Metamorphose into Scizor! Even Heaven Shall Burn has started experimenting with more melodious instruments and unconventional arrangements in metalcore-influenced death metal music. If they can do it, you can do it too.