Working diligently to build a cohesive world of unexpected, experimental, high-energy blends of different influences, “Phase Out”, the newest full length from Dallas based duo CARA NEIR comes like the monster pounding on the door. The metalcore, post hardcore, screamo, black metal and chiptune hybrid announces when something is about to happen, only to suddenly upend expectations and leave the listener on edge, never quite sure of what to expect next. This amazing album is about CARA NEIR being warped into a 8-bit video game dimension by a sinister alien entity, which is highlighted as the grand antagonist phasing the band out into fantastical RPG-like depictions of the duo traversing different songs as game levels for his morbid amusement and CARA NEIR trying to beat them to escape.
How awesome is that?! Today, we’re stoked to give you the first full listen of “Phase Out“, along with CARA NEIR‘s extensivecommentary, track by track breakdown and special lists of best video games of all times, best games of 2020, their top musical inspirations, and more! Dive into it and scroll down to see the full feature!
“Phase Out” comes out February 2nd as a limited self-release on CD and limited tape edition, to be released on Tomb Tree Tapes.
“This is a concept album, pretty much the first for us as a band.” – says the band ” A lot of chiptune/90s JRPG sounds and references all interspersed within our shape shifting genre hysteria of black metal, post-hardcore, and indie rock.”
𝑇ℎ𝑒 𝑙𝑖𝑠𝑡𝑒𝑛𝑒𝑟 𝑤𝑖𝑙𝑙 𝑒𝑥𝑝𝑒𝑟𝑖𝑒𝑛𝑐𝑒 𝑎 𝑟𝑎𝑛𝑔𝑒 𝑜𝑓 𝑏𝑖𝑡𝑠, 𝑏𝑙𝑒𝑒𝑝𝑠, 𝑏𝑒𝑎𝑡𝑠, 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑏𝑢𝑧𝑧𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑠𝑜𝑢𝑛𝑑𝑠 𝑦𝑜𝑢 𝑚𝑖𝑔ℎ𝑡 ℎ𝑒𝑎𝑟 𝑓𝑟𝑜𝑚 90’𝑠 𝑑𝑢𝑛𝑔𝑒𝑜𝑛 𝑐𝑟𝑎𝑤𝑙𝑒𝑟𝑠 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝐽𝑅𝑃𝐺’𝑠, 𝑎𝑙𝑙 𝑠𝑝𝑟𝑖𝑛𝑘𝑙𝑒𝑑 𝑤𝑖𝑡ℎ𝑖𝑛 𝑜𝑢𝑟 𝑠ℎ𝑎𝑝𝑒-𝑠ℎ𝑖𝑓𝑡𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑔𝑒𝑛𝑟𝑒-𝑏𝑒𝑛𝑑𝑖𝑛𝑔 ℎ𝑦𝑠𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑖𝑎. 𝐸𝑛𝑗𝑜𝑦 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑟𝑖𝑑𝑒.
CARA NEIR is a two-piece band from Arlington, TX who started in 2008. “We’re a band who’s always taken the approach of shape shifting our sound through each release, simply because we just really enjoy a wide range of styles and whatever sound(s) we’re feeling for a particular release will come out that way.” – comment Chris and Garry.
Elements of black metal, hardcore, screamo, grind, and more can be heard throughout their discography in various degrees.
“The new album ‘Phase Out‘ reaches other levels of this approach through a video game concept behind it, which is something we haven’t done before.” – they explain. “We have blended video game themes only lyrically on The Overwatch EP where Chris writes a lot about Half-Life, but the new album goes into a full world-building idea from scratch. This concept started from a fun place where we just completely let loose with our imagination and storytelling through the music, pixel art, and overall package. We commissioned a lot of fun pieces for this album within the CD booklet, shirts, etc.”
“This album is about us being warped into a 8-bit video game dimension by a sinister alien entity known as The One From Trimjrtle [origins latently go back as far as our first release Part I/Part II]. In this album, this entity is now highlighted as the grand antagonist phasing us out into fantastical RPG-like depictions of ourselves traversing different songs as game levels for his morbid amusement and us trying to beat them to escape.”
Asked about the physical format of the release, the band adds: “Release date is 2/2/21. It’s self-released on PRO-CDR to 50 copies in this 12mm frosty transparent polycarbonate case that’s supposed to be video game-esque instead of typical jewel cases. Perhaps a retro-futuristic take on packaging. Jammed with a bunch of custom stickers for the fans who pre ordered. We also have a tape edition coming soonish through Tomb Tree Tapes. Amazing tape label who released a tape edition of our previous album in these hand-dipped paint-swirled cassettes. Phase Out is getting a similar colorful treatment!”
CARA EIR have a lot in store to follow-up this ride this year.
“We have an indie game currently being developed by a fantastic team called Nyanko Games. It will also be titled ‘Phase Out’. We won’t divulge full details on it until it’s out, but it’ll be more for casual gamers as a way to alternatively enjoy the themes and world-building we’ve crafted through this album with pixel art and 90’s JRPG elements present. We’re both going to create the SFX and music for the game as well. Aiming to have it available on either Itch.io and/or Steam this Spring (2021) as a pay-what-you-want game.”
The prolific band also developed a sequel album as a follow-up to Phase Out, so this wild ride isn’t just a one-time thing, but a grander story that unfolds in different directions.
Track by track commentary:
The Trimjrtle Sanction
Chris: When we started the writing process for this album and getting the concept hammered out, I thought it would be a neat idea to have the songs rotate perspectives. So this way, we would have some songs told from The One’s point of view, and some would be from ours. There are two outliers within the album written from the perspective of The One’s cohorts, but this idea allowed us to really shake things up when it comes to each song’s personality and let me cover more ground when incorporating the lore into our lyrics. This track was written from The One’s perspective.
Garry: When coming up with the concept of this album, this song wasn’t the first song composed. However, the 8-bit speech in the beginning was one of the first pieces of audio I recorded. I knew from the start that this bit would set the tone and feeling of the album. The song itself is a callback to our most black metal-oriented material (mostly on Perpetual Despair is the Human Condition). I wanted to kick it off this way since the rest of this album largely does NOT sound like this — this acts as a parallel to the story where we’re jarringly warped into a video game dimension and this song has those chiptune synths sprinkled all throughout to reflect this cartoonish and outlandish descent as it spirals into a trap-style electronic beat in the end.
Chris: This was the first track I wrote lyrics and recorded vocals for. I wrote the lyrics in a somewhat campy and meta way to channel the transition into this pixelated world that The One had thrust us into. This concept gave us such a sandbox to play in this album, and I took advantage of that with the lyrics and vocals. I went nuts on this track (and a few others.) Shrieks, shouts, screams, growls, gang vox, spoken word, even gutturals made it into this album, and this track encompasses almost all of them.
Garry: This song was one of the first I wrote for the album. Heavy proto-BM punkish feel to it overall. It ends with this kind of Celtic Frost-style stompy riff and the popular 80’s bouncy punk beat that goes well under those types of riffs.
Chris: This is the only track I didn’t do any vocals or lyrics for. This is also one of my favorite songs on this album. The lyrics that Garry wrote are fun, the riffs are catchy, the song itself is almost giddy. It’s something we don’t do a lot of, and we really love to.
Garry: This is one where I performed all the vocals, which is very rare for us. I did this as a personal challenge and to give a narrative feel while Chris is fighting monsters, so to speak! It was a fun song to write and probably the most poppy songwriting we’ve ever done while having a black metal-meets-garage rock feel.
Chris: Valkyrie marks the first time that I performed on a track of ours aside from vocals, with the creepy transitional piece at the end of this track, as well as Maestro Infernus. Valkyrie is The One’s ancient demigod, worshipping glyphs and symbols as she desecrates humankind. Her and Maestro Infernus are The One’s frontline defense.
Garry: Valkyrie was the first piece of music I composed for this album. In the very beginning, I was not musically convinced on any one genre (which happens a lot on our albums), but I wanted to start this song off mid tempo and melancholic and have it go through a semi-glitchy bridge to a chunky punk section where I could then highlight chiptune synths over that to glue what I’m dubbing as pixelcore (a joke, but I’m sticking with it). This song ends with a bouncy, yet eerie electronic piece that Chris came up with to reflect us passing through to the next ‘level’.
Floodgates of Doom
Chris: Lyrically, this is another very meta song that’s also a throwback to gaming culture that any gamer can relate to, with an easter egg thrown in for good measure. There are some wild things happening with the vocals here that I adore, along with some of my favorite material instrumentally.
Garry: This song might be our second most poppiest song we’ve ever done. Maybe the most fun I’ve ever had writing a song. I knew that I wanted it to feel very indie rock/pop but with both harsh vocals and a black metal riff that sears through the chorus over this electro-disco pop rhythm section. More and more chiptune elements bleed through on this song, especially towards the end before it pulls us into a frenzied ending.
Four Seasons in a Day
Chris: This acts as the instrumental partner to the next track, Phasers Set to Relax, which serve as “save points” throughout. This song has perhaps the most relaxed mood and sounds we’ve ever put on a track.
Garry: Definitely our “save point” area on the album or in this dimension. I knew I wanted it to have a sort of lo-fi chillhop feeling with chiptune synths trilling throughout it. There’s Supernatural samples compiled in the last part of the song that’s sort of co-opted to reflect monsters on the sidelines mocking other humans who’ve been subjected to The One’s gauntlet.
Phasers Set to Relax
Garry: Maybe our most unusual song to date? I was just thinking Godflesh meets Health meets trap music. Hypnotic, simple rhythms, distorted heavy synth bass. This pairs up with the previous track as “save point” songs as we’re fighting through the game.
Chris: I will reinforce Garry’s statement and say that this is definitely our most unusual song to date. I had so much fun recording for this track. The lyrics are a total throwback to a particular farming sim, that also serve as a brief intermission for us during our journey.
Chris: Probably the most blistering song we put on the album. Loud, vicious, and rabid, we push the listeners toward the endgame at a very accelerated pace. Maestro Infernus is the second of The One’s subservient soldiers, and the most insidious. He is The One’s powerful and hate-filled marauder.
Garry: Our screamo song on the album. This is a frenzied throwback to our most post-hardcore/screamo elements (some songs on Portals and Part III/Part IV). I knew by this point in the album that we needed to ramp up the intensity to lead into the transition piece that Chris made for the end of this song. The hyper-electronic beat is sending us into the next ‘level’, something a lot of 90’s games had, the dreaded ICE level.
Chris: Hypogelum is the ice cavern in the universe of Gnax (where The One’s planet Trimjrtle resides) that we are forced to battle through once escaping Trimjrtle. This song is frantic and has lots of chiptunes sprinkled throughout. Plenty of layers and detailed passages on this track make it the perfect stage for our rendezvous with a friendly stranger.
Garry: This kicks off with a very JRPG-sounding icy waterfall section that ends a little glitchy as it thwarts itself into my view of what pixelcore is haha. A chiptune-infused punk section with a lot of energy and a lot of high frequency bitcrushed sonics. It breaks down into a pure video game soundtrack with classical style arpeggios in chiptune fashion before it throws us back into a repeat of the song’s first section with some extra sonic elements. The sample at the end is directly from my favorite game of all time, Star Ocean: The Second Story. Huge influence on the feeling and vibe of the album.
Legacy of Gnax
Chris: This song is a great culmination of the sounds and efforts brought forth in this album. There are some passages in this song that could fit perfect in the right game. I took inspiration from John Tardy’s early days for the lyric writing process of this album. That is to say, there are times where instead of written lyrics, I would improvise vocals that fit the flow of the track. I think this gave several bits a much needed dissonance when trying to convey some of the more hectic moments throughout the album.
Garry: The final song had to follow up with similar cartoonish dynamics — having all the chiptune aspects, the bouncy punk sections, and overall adventurous journey in the songwriting with tons of little layers sprinkled about. Past the midway mark, it sort of falls into this trap door of a false ending of a song (lyrically and thematically), which brings the album to a cliffhanger ending as the dissonant and horror-like synths pulsate to finish.
Chris’s TOP 5 Video Games Played in 2020:
1. Black Mesa – Not an original new game in any sense, but a solid release of a work that had been years in the making. This is a complete remake of the beloved and original Half-Life. I’ve made it more than obvious on multiple occasions that I’m a huge HL fan, and this game scratched the itch that the lack of an Episode 3 or any new HL game has created. The team behind this game re-built everything and even went as far as refurbishing some sections of the game, making them less painstaking than their 1998 counterpart. It looks gorgeous, plays incredibly tight, and gave me goosebumps when I witnessed the resonance cascade the same way it did 22 years ago. A must play for any sci-fi/FPS fans not already long familiar with the franchise.
2. Pathologic 2 – The titling of this one is confusing since it is not a direct sequel, but a remake of the original Pathologic video game released in 2005 (not to be confused with the remaster, Pathologic HD that came out in 2015.) With that situated, Pathologic 2 is an open-world horror RPG that is absolutely unlike anything you’ve ever played before and most likely well beyond most players comfort zone. My favorite game that I had the pleasure of playing in 2020, and hands down in the top 5 games that I have ever played.
3. Phasmophobia – An early access title that released Halloween season of 2020, this one has and up to 3 other players as ghost hunters who have to use equipment to find clues of paranormal activity, determine what kind of ghost is present, and fulfill any extracurricular objectives that the game has given you. This was a really fun game that I sunk days of time into, and I had more fun playing with random players in this game than I have in a while. The gameplay loop is simple, but fun, and pulling off a successful hunt with your teammates is rewarding.
4. Hell Let Loose – HLL is a brutal and unforgiving WWII milsim. Post Scriptum players will disagree with me here, don’t ask why. Those assholes know. Anyway, this is hands down one of the more visceral and squad-based FPS games I’ve played in a while. Unlike Call of Duty or other mainstream FPS titles, HLL brings you back to the theatres of war and puts you on the side of the allies or the axis in 50v50 player battles on huge maps, where communication is key and any daydreaming will get you killed quick. The sound design in this game is unlike a lot of games I play now. It’s huge and in your face, with explosions and grenades sounding proper nasty.
5. Diablo III – Without spending too much time on how crappy the initial lockdown of North Texas was during the beginning of the pandemic, during our furlough my girlfriend and I dumped hours upon hours of our boring days at home into this game with good ol’ couch co-op on our PS4. Not really old, not really new, but still a good time if playing with others.
Chris’s TOP 5 Video Games of All Time:
1. Splinter Cell – There is no way I could list these influential and incredible games in any particular order, as they all mean so much to me. It’s a shame that Ubisoft likes to kill its darlings. The SC series resonated with me as a kid because of my love for espionage movies. Sam Fisher was this amazing combination of ninja and black ops agent. The series put out a solid 5 games (me being part of the unpopular vote that Conviction was a stellar game that showed you a rogue Fisher) before pumping out a final ditch effort (Blacklist) that saw the departure of Michael Ironside as the voice of Fisher, which settle with just about zero fans, and it killed the franchise. Rumors of Fisher’s return are afloat, but I don’t have my hopes very high for anything that Ubi puts out anymore.
2. Stardew Valley – Stardew means so much to me and holds a special place in my heart. Harvest Moon was a game that saw many awesome releases, many of which I played again and again, and eventually Natsume just couldn’t do it justice anymore. Well, I heard about SV after some rummaging for a good farming sim, and this game hits all the notes. I’ve purchased the game for my console and on PC, where my girlfriend and I spend countless hours tending to our farm, fish, mine, romance our love interests, discover lost artifacts, and more. There are other great farming sims out there, but the simplicity of SV’s graphics, the quaint atmosphere, and the sweet soundtrack bring it all together in a package that you can sink hours into without realizing it.
3. Red Dead Redemption – I can’t write about one without writing about them both. RDR and RDR2 are two of the greatest games that we’ve seen as gamers within the last 2 decades. Rockstar are known for putting out some of the best AAA games there are for gamers, and RDR is no exception. These two games are a pair of Westerns that tell a beautiful and tragic story, both of which are perfectly woven together. It is difficult to talk about this series without spoiling too much.
4. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice – The game that a ton of people called the spiritual successor to Tenchu (it really kind of is,) Sekiro is a “soulsborne” game set in a fictionalized Japan where you control a shinobi known as Wolf. And it sure did piss a lot of people off. Soulsborne fans were pissed that you couldn’t dodge and cheese fights as easily as a Dark Souls game or Bloodborne. Tenchu fans were pissed that it wasn’t a pure stealth game. What Sekiro is, is an amazing adventure through a beautiful, yet dark Sengoku era Japan with some of the most hideous bosses I’ve faced in a video game.
5. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater – The last game I’ll put on here is definitely not least. THPS molded a huge chunk of my early teenage years. Day after day and year after year from middle to high school, the homies and I would gather after school on the floor in front of a huge, old school box TV and play HORSE. Every. Single. Day. Busting a combo that your boy just could not touch was so satisfying, and set the field perfectly for massive shit-talking over the course of the next day at school. What was even bigger than the simple but satisfying gameplay was perhaps the monumental playlist that it and just about every next iteration had within the game. From Lagwagon, to Anthrax, to Busdriver, to Primus, THPS was responsible for an absolutely huge chunk of the music that would lead me to find other genres and serve as influences and inspiration for years to come. Even if you or your friends never played the games, it’s almost certain you heard of the soundtrack at one point or another.
Garry’s TOP 3 Video Games Played in 2020:
Slay the Spire – It’s been around a few years, but I was new to it last year. There’s not a game I played more than this in 2020 and for good reason. I absolutely love trading card-games (MTG mainly) and this ticks those boxes digitally at the comfort of your own couch or desk. This is as methodical as you can get while still being easy to pick up and play for hours. Highly recommended to pick up on Steam so you can get more mileage out of the game with mods.
C.H.A.I.N. – This is the most unique presentation for a game I’ve ever played. It’s available on itch.io. It’s 20 Games. 20 Developers. One Narrative. Watching the trailer for it alone hyped it up for me. The actual gameplay throughout these 20 games are very primitive and sometimes too clunky but I would safely assume that was intentional. The aesthetics alone kept me going, regardless of playability or difficulty.
CAIN – Really fun short horror platformer also on itch.io. This is a platformer game that’s sort of within a game, although that aspect is more of a 1st person experience of a character in a dark room playing the platformer. Don’t want to spoil it but this was really fun as the horror and unknown aspects of it made me sweat a bit.
Garry’s TOP 3 Video Games of All Time:
Star Ocean: The Second Story – Without a doubt my favorite game of all time. This game defined RPGs for me when I first played it throughout a whole summer where I’d take turns with my cousin as we’d alternate watching/playing. It also had 80+ possible endings, which blows my mind and frankly, still does.
Detroit: Become Human – Insanely cool choice-driven game set in a future where A.I. is present in everyday life, while also being heavily politicized. A lot to unfold as you craft how you want this game to play out in its intricate branching narrative. Also, I am pretty awful at ‘action’ or fast-paced games, so I prefer more methodical-leaning strategies and this game excels in that.
Chrono Trigger – Probably regarded as the best RPG of all time, but my sentimental attachment to Star Ocean barely tops it in that regard. If anyone’s unfamiliar, this beloved classic paved the way for RPGs to come. It was ahead of its time and strongly holds up well to this day.
To wrap it up, we asked Garry for his TOP 5 ALBUMS as Inspiration for ‘Phase Out’ and some closing commentary how they translated into the band’s creative process.
- Eikenskaden – The Last Dance
- Lingua Nada – Djinn
- Ulver – Nattens Madrigal
- Jay Reatard – Blood Visions
- Genghis Tron – Dead Mountain Mouth
It’s hard for me to talk about these as itemized since each one inspired me in different ways and some are kind of connected in that inspiration. So right off the bat, the sonics and abrasive attitude of Eikenskaden and Ulver’s early BM works (especially Nattens Madrigal) guided me on finding the guitar tone, somewhat raw drum sound, and bitcrushed vocals. Not quite as harsh as the guitars on those two albums but somewhere in that realm.
Anyone interested, I’m using a pedal called Janglebox cranked up going through clean amp settings to get that hyper compressed, yet articulate tone. DiPinto Galaxie IV has been my guitar of choice for Cara Neir the last few years. The bass tone is largely warm and clean throughout the album. I wanted it to simply complement all the bitcrushing, distortion, and compressed energy of the other elements in the mix.
Lingua Nada is a band I’ve come to love just in the past 3 years. They also embody a shape shifting approach to their music and the way they did it on Djinn really spoke to me. They have these fantastic pop elements that hit really hard and then these huge noise-rock sections, among many other eclectic moments! Highly recommended and underrated band.
Jay Reatard’s Blood Visions is one of my favorite albums to just throw on when you want high energy to sing along with or rhythmically tap your steering wheel to. The production on it also somewhat influenced the way I sonically sculpted Phase Out. Guitars and vocals really pushed with drums taking a more subdued and unpolished approach. Very different from modern metal/hardcore production styles.
And lastly, Genghis Tron must be mentioned because when they first came out, Chris and I both latched onto them and really admired their mix of metal, spastic hardcore, and grindy energy sprinkled with plenty of these fun and sometimes cartoonish electronic/IDM bits.
We thank you so much for giving us an opportunity to talk about the album in detail!