Cara Neir – Phase Out [Things You Might Have Missed 2021]

Ofttimes, “experimental” is just a nicer way of saying “incomprehensible” or “long-winded”, “avant-garde” a tidier “sucked up its own ass.” Metal is at its best when it’s truly different, not just strange. Cara Neir has previously received high praise around here, but I didn’t get it. Until now, very little from the Texans intrigued me, nothing I couldn’t swap for some Warheads at the lunch table. Until now. Phase Out pushed my boundaries more than any album I’ve heard this year, all the while a damn nice spin.

If you haven’t guessed from that album cover, Phase Out is Cara Neir’s answer to a classic JRPG soundtrack, and rarely have I heard a band as fully committed to a concept. “The Trimjrtle Sanction” wastes little time in mashing up its punchy blackened/post-hardcore with 8-bit effects and electronic fuckery. This album is all about production, the amount of thought and effort there on par with synthwave or hip-hop. The constant dribbles of clever sampling, chiptune bleep-bloops, and mixing trickeration give the band a convincing video game aura. Their sound strives to please in the way a Megahit album might more than any metal record I’ve ever heard. Even when Chris Francis’ static-fried vocals lead the charge into the fray the way you expect from Ghost Bath or Bosse-de-Nage, you’re never far from a Sega Genesis-inspired bridge or a spoken-word overlay teasing the RPG depths behind the concept. It’s that willingness to imagine that powers this album up, complemented by bright, exciting ideas that offer checkpoint after checkpoint as you hack and slash through the half-hour spin.

Just as essential to this success is Cara Neir’s clear presentation and cohesive writing. It loads each already-busy track full of semi-sweet riffs and atomic-bomb energy à la Beaten to Death. Phase Out could easily lose the plot and spiral into a mess. Instead, the album remains centered on its electrified core, regardless of whether it’s jacking up the bass on “Floodgates of Doom,” taking a breather with some Fairy’s Fountain beats on “Four Season in a Day,” or going straight-up hip-hop on “Phasers Set to Relax.”1 The end result produces an album that’s never explicitly… anything. It’s certainly not metal, not electronic, but not not those things as well. It’s a record in defiance of cataloging.

Interestingly enough, the one area Phase Out stands to improve is simply its overall quality. The music tilts your worldview without shattering it. The 8-bit can come off more as a surface sheen than anything impactful, and the post directions rely on the electronic extracurriculars to spruce them up. And yet, I live for this shit. I’ve been dying for any sort of meaningful turn of phrase from metal writ large for years, with acts like Abstract Void and Mitochodrial Sun throwing me a lifeline as my interest in my standard genres has waned. Cara Neir, if they press start on this adventure again, are set to be another act doing more than just playing the story missions. With Phase Out, they broke the damn game.

Tracks to Check Out: “The Trimjrtle Sanction,” “Shady Blades,” “Phases Set to Relax,” “Legacy of Gnax

Show 1 footnote

  1. And they did it better than that VOLA track too.
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