Cara Neir, Perpetual Despair is the Human Condition, Broken Limbs Recordings, BLR057, 12″ vinyl (2016)
Strange that Cara Neir’s discography has passed me by even though this duo has done split releases with Njiqahdda and Venowl, both of whom I’m familiar with. At last Cara Neir’s most recent album “Perpetual Despair is the Human Condition” gives me an opportunity to hear their work even though I’ve been led to believe it’s different from previous albums of theirs. The band’s style here is definitely streamlined black metal with plenty of melodic post-BM and some ambient and punk influences.
The album needs to be heard loudly for its ambient effects and nuances, and for many of the underlying melodies and rhythms beneath the grim BM over-layers to be appreciated. Riffs often have strong dissonant chord sequences reminiscent of Deathspell Omega and its copycat followers, and combined with reverb have an almost dreamy, even psychedelic feel. “Spiteful Universe”, a paean (not!) to much that’s dysfunctional about modern Western society, sets the pace and style for the album with desperate tremolo post-BM melodies and riffs that express contempt and maybe even compassion for fallen humanity. Vocals are equally despairing to the point of madness and suicide. “Normalcy” takes the desperation to another level with rapid-fire flippy blast-beat BM and screeching voices, all coated with a patina of reverb that casts sorrow, melancholy and a strong feeling of urban alienation over the music and lyrics.
Amazingly the duo maintain the speed and urgency into the album’s second half where the songs become more complex, mixing speed with a slightly more laidback and melodic approach. Bass guitar finds its own melodic voice on “Window to the Void” which adds another emotional layer to the song. “Trials of the Lost” has a definite punky pop feel and the ragged singing is more shouty than shrieky but strange and eccentric instrumental moments that almost seem to be a mini-horror film soundtrack are present. “For You” is a love song of loss, despair and pain. Onto the last track and the energy that Cara Neir started the album with is still defiantly present – as are also the shredded vocals – and the band goes careening through a mix of speedy and not-so-speedy riffs and melodies (and the emotions that go with them) to a blazing finish with a second wispy and sad coda left behind.
First-time listeners might think the songs sound all the same because they’re all so fast, frantic and above all urgent and desperate – but after the first couple of spins, you start to hear individual songs and several of them do boast quite distinctive motifs in their riffs and melodies. There are definite songs on the album that could serve as singles if Cara Neir were interested in capturing an alt-mainstream audience. Probably the weakest element throughout the album is the shrieky vocals which don’t vary enough in their range and emotion to do justice to the lyrics, their varied subject matter and the music.
If like me you’re new to Cara Neir, this is a good album to start your journey with the band and from there you can either investigate the duo’s back catalogue or go forward with them, wherever they decide to travel.