Portal is probably one of the wonkiest bands I've ever come across. I've heard some strange metal music, but this particular band brings something to the table that a lot of other bands simply do not. They bring horror and destruction with them that summons winds of writhing chaos. Or rather, they are that writhing chaos, undulating with thunderous tom rolls and muffled bass drums. That's really the best way that I can describe them. When I think of this music I inevitably envision something unpleasantly inhuman. That is what inexplicably draws me to this album, despite my mind's repeated encouragement to listen to something more palatable.
It starts out as a very intimidating force that plows through with fuzzy, distorted guitars playing what appear to be chords. At some points there is technicality on their part, but it sometimes gets lost in the mix. I actually like that, as it gives me an opportunity to immerse myself in the music further. The style is unorthodox, but again, they show competence, lurching forward at some points and leaping through the air at others. As always, they convey a very sinister air, as though they herald an evil being's arrival. Remaining appropriate to the Lovecraftian themes in this album, I tend to picture Cthulhu and although I'm horrified and confused, I am at the same time, comforted. All the chaos appears to lead to something.
It carries on through the midpoint of the album, seeming to narrate the rising of this creature as it emerges from wherever it should emerge from (if it's Cthulhu it should be water, right?), and the momentum is not lost. The vocals are very whispery, but still retain the overall style of a growl while being pushed back into the mix. I don't mind too much, as the guitars, while sometimes lost, are often in the forefront. The bass is surprisingly present, even though it appears as though it's not there. It seems like a very elaborate ruse to deceive the listener, but it appears to follow the drums rhythmically, and the guitars melodically. It's interesting, and I've come to enjoy it, as the drums do need a little kick.
The drums appear to take a backstage position in the mix even though they can be heard, albeit not clearly. As the guitars appear to be the emphasis, the drums help keep the momentum going and drive the creature forward into the city, leveling buildings and stomping on malls. Even they exude evil, perfectly complimenting the guitars on their fucked up, destructive journey. The double bass is smoothly executed and the blast beats are well-timed, sometimes speeding up to seemingly inhuman levels. The tom rolls are creative and very clean, sometimes joining the double bass to create a new beat. When they slow down it turns into a different kind of monster, as though the creature is surveying the city and trying to decide what to fuck up next. It's all leading up to the next chaotic break, the next building to be leveled.
This album is a creature; an entity that is not of this world and intends to destroy everything that gets in its way. I, personally, am completely fine with that existing. Even though this is difficult to listen to and wholly unpleasant, weird, and grating, I absolutely adore it and I can find no flaws in it. It is a grotesque cosmic masterpiece.
released October 20, 2009
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