Neaera - The Rising Tide Of Oblivion - Metal Blade Records 2005
13 Songs
Running Time: 42:41

Metal Blade might've shot itself in the foot with this one. Releasing albums by Winter Solstice, The red death, and now Neaera within two months of each other wouldn't seem like the best decision to me, in that something's bound to get overlooked. While obvious differences reveal themselves upon first listen, I'm not sure your average music fan is going to be willing to lay out their hard-earned ducats just to stay current. Strangely enough, though, the most overtly American-sounding of the bunch comes from Munster, Germany in the form of Neaera. Think of Shadows Fall if they dropped most of the clean vocals, or Lamb Of God if they sped up by about a third.

The first wave of classic thrash metal riffing swells to tidal proportions in opener 'The World Devourers', and quickl establishes The Rising Tide Of Oblivion as easily the most historically metallic of the past albums mentioned. Hammered power chords and surgical precision are the order of the day here, with (thankfully) nary a hardcore breakdown within earshot. Neaera remember well (despite their age) when the phrase "switching time signatures" didn't mean "Insert Breakdown Here", double-bass fills and skillful fretwork recalling early Testament in their mostly treble delivery.

'Walls Instead Of Bridges' bleeds hectic dual leads, while the vocals of Benjamin Hilleke screech across the scars left by the music like the bastard vocal progeny of Coma Of Souls-era Mille Petrozza and The Agony Scene's Michael Williams. While laudable in their conviction and confrontational in their sheer metalness, Hilleke would do well to vary his approach a bit more regularly. This isn't to say that it's "caterwaul and howl" the whole way through the album, though. Very occasionally more death-influenced growls (likely done by a background vocalist) will roll up from the caverns, and more rarely than that, a slightly more clean voice can be heard in the mix. Mostly, though, this guy just does not fucking let up. For me, it works to his credit, sick as I am of hearing vocalists making like Howard Jones (Killswitch Engage) just because they think they have the pipes for it. I can see where it would get a bit "samey" for someone else, though. After the barrage of the past five songs, a short respite appears in the mellow instrumental of 'From Grief...'. Don't hold your breath, because the attack of '...To Oblivion' and 'Hibernating Reason' blast past your ears almost before you notice. 'Definition Of Love' piles harsh and justified invective on those who commit rape of the body, while 'Save The Drowning Child' sets its sights on a more cerebral form of violation (that of personal freedoms being stripped away). A guest vocal appearance by Claus Ulka of Misery Speaks adds a much more death-based tone to the latter, and works as a good counterbalance to Hilleke's more dry and raspy style. The Rising Tide Of Oblivion recedes with an unexpected calm, 'The Last Silence' using cello and violin to wordlessly send us on our way.

Neaera have potential in spades. There's potential to grow as musicians, as songwriters, and to make bigger waves with future albums. As it stands, The Rising Tide Of Oblivion is an album I'll surely visit again when I'm looking for quality metal devoid of the all-too-prevalent hardcore influence found in much of today's music. I just hope this one doesn't get lost in the glut of quasi-similar releases this year.

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