Neaera – Neaera Review

No matter how hard you try, you can never really escape your past. By day I’m the kvltest of the kvlt, blasting the blakkened fukkin death while wearing a shirt that depicts Jesus getting flogged by a horde of goat demons. But when I curl up at night with my plesiosaurus plush, I know at heart I’m still the same mid-aughts core kid who got his start in the metal world with Killswitch Engage and their ilk. Even today, when the promo teat runs dry, sometimes I find myself returning to where it all began: core.

Admittedly, Neaera aren’t metalcore in the typical sense. Rather, the German quintet plays a core-adjacent melodic death metal that has earned them more than a few comparisons to countrymates Heaven Shall Burn. Even in my younger days I never got into Neaera and always considered them the Pepsi to Heaven Shall Burn’s Coke.1 Now after six albums and a brief hiatus from 2015 to 2018, the group is back with Neaera, a record that begs the question: “Why?”

I have a theory that if a band releases a self-titled album late in their career, that album probably isn’t very good. Neaera largely proves this true. If anyone has heard this band or style before, there are no surprises here. These 44 minutes thrive on blunt chugs interspersed with basic melodeath riffs and a few breakdowns, all topped off by capable (if somewhat monotonous) high-register rasps. Nothing here will surprise you and nothing here will challenge you. Even when the riffs drift into more brutal territory, as with the tremolos and marching chugs on first proper track “Catalyst,” the music just ends up feeling like a Fisher-Price version of death metal for those still clinging to their As I Lay Dying shirts.2

To be fair, there are some decent moments here. “Resurrection of Wrath” kicks in with a frantic melodic riff worthy of The Black Dahlia Murder before incorporating some epic layered chords and concluding with a segment that almost sounds like black metal. These blackened moments creep up in other songs as well, with “Eruption in Reverse” featuring passages that bring to mind fellow Germans Downfall of Gaia. “Carriers” stands out for having the biggest breakdown I’ve heard since Harm’s Way, while “Sunset of Mankind” features cool twirling melodies that are far from innovative but at least offer some welcome variety.

Yet while Neaera clearly know how to avoid making a “bad” album, that hardly means they’ve made a good one. So much of the material here feels utterly pedestrian, the sound of “modern metal” distilled to its inoffensive essence. There are no clean vocals, no guitar solos, no risky experiments. Though a few decent riffs crop up, many of the ideas here are more like the basic melodic riffs on “False Shepherds,” the type of riffs you swear you’ve heard before even if you can’t quite remember where. The production is just as nondescript, with a sound that’s loud (but not too loud) and clean (but not too clean). It doesn’t help that things end on a pretty shrug-worthy note, with closer “Deathless” being a rather dull sendoff.

Neaera is the type of album you listen to once, shrug, and write it off as pretty average. Yet the more I’ve been exposed to it, the more frustrated I’ve been. This album is so banal, so basic, so inoffensive, that it’s almost infuriating. Hell, Neaera isn’t even an album. This is an eyeball glazed over, a broken toy left abandoned, a limp-dick handjob in the backseat of a ’05 Honda Civic. There’s no reason to listen to Neaera because you’ve heard this album before and you’re guaranteed to hear it again. While it’s not the worst thing out there and some decent ideas do crop up now and then, that hardly makes this something worth checking out. “Pedestrian” is the word I keep coming back to. Because when I listen to Neaera, all I want to do is walk far, far away.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: v0 mp3
Label: Metal Blade Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: February 28th, 2020

Show 2 footnotes

  1. It didn’t help that the title track from 2007’s Armamentarium lifts a riff directly from Heaven Shall Burn’s “Profane Believers,” which came out the previous year.
  2. Which includes me, for full disclosure.
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