October 28, 2010

Album Review: "Forging the Eclipse" by Neaera

Neaera has been one of the best and most consistent bands in the new wave of German metal during the past decade. After two albums of tough and brutal metalcore, the band really found their stride on 2008's Armamentarium, an extremely strong melodic death metal album with a vast number of standout tracks. Armamentarium was the album that put Neaera in the top echelon of Germany's new metal scene, leading the pack alongside Heaven Shall Burn and Caliban. And although 2009's Omnicide - Creation Unleashed didn't quite match the quality of Armamentarium, it was still a solid album with a great overall tone. Maintaining their unbelievably fast production speed with their fifth album in six years, Neaera is back with Forging the Eclipse, an album that keeps them at the top of the heap with impressive new styles and overall performance.

"The Forging" marks the first time Neaera has opened an album with an instrumental, and is counted as only the third instrumental of the band's career. However, that and the inclusion of a second instrumental, "Certitude", are the only major changes in the structuring of the album from its two predecessors. Forging the Eclipse has the same excellent structural flow as Armamentarium, with each song's ending creating the right atmosphere and tone for the beginning of the next song. Similarly, it maintains an even pace and a consistent energy level from one song to the next, slowly building up to a huge climax towards the end of the album. This is very similar to the arrangement of Omnicide - Creation Unleashed, which had the same level of consistency and stability pervading the entire album. These two factors are concrete proof of Neaera's desire to maintain their level of skill and improve their technique from one album to the next. Forging the Eclipse shows their ability to remain at the same high level without dropping off, which is a definite step on the desired path.

Forging the Eclipse moves blindingly fast, so much so that it establishes itself as Neaera's fastest album before reaching the halfway point. Sebastian Heldt's drumming is unbelievably precise once again, and although he continues to abuse the double bass pedal, it works in his favor on most of the songs. The compositions are much crisper and more defined than on Omnicide - Creation Unleashed, with the different parts within each song having clearer transitions. Benny Hilleke continues to show off his vocal versatility, swinging back and forth between his high-pitched scream and his basement-level growl even more easily and frequently than he has before. In fact, the only drawback (if you can call it that) of this album is that there are no tracks that immediately stick out in the mind as being more excellent than others. The whole album is consistently good from beginning to end, maintaining a high level of quality throughout.

Forging the Eclipse falls somewhere in between Armamentarium and Omnicide - Creation Unleashed among the hierarchy of Neaera's discography. It doesn't have the superb standout tracks of the former album, but its overall composition and production improvements push it ahead of the latter. More importantly, though, the fact that Forging the Eclipse stays at the high level of quality expected by fans is a sign that Neaera isn't slowing down at all. This group has been together for over seven years without any lineup changes, while maintaining a slow and steady evolution of sound and staying true to their roots. These are the basics that most fans ask of metal bands, and Neaera is one of the few bands that deliver in every area. Forging the Eclipse is a statement of intent: Neaera is here to stay, and they intend to dominate the scene they're in before all is said and done.

Score: 8 out of 10

Track Listing

1. The Forging
2. Heaven's Descent
3. In Defiance
4. Eight Thousand Sorrows Deep
5. Arise Black Vengeance
6. Rubikon
7. Sirens of Black
8. Certitude
9. Exaltation
10. Tyranny of Want
11. The Prophecy
12. And to Posterity a Plague

Album Personnel

Benny Hilleke - Vocals
Tobias Buck - Guitar
Stefan Keller - Guitar
Benjamin Donath - Bass guitar
Sebastian Heldt - Drums

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