Portal is an Australian experimental death metal band, founded in 1994. Their album “AVOW” was released in 2021.
This album is really a beast to tackle, as it’s difficult to access for someone not used to dissonance and very dark sounding bands. You can feel darkness, despair and evil throughout the 6 songs which make the album. When you first turn it on, you get that feeling that you’re facing a wall of unintelligible sound, the feeling you usually get when you listen to Portal. But as you go further inside the album, you feel the heaviness of the riffing, and the subtle use of dissonance.
The riff patterns are very twisted and they drag you through a maze where you try to understand what is going on with the song, and you get lost within the frequencies of the netherworlds. This feeling is only emphasized by the guitar tone which sounds cavernous and highly saturated. The guttural vocals are really haunting, incredibly dark and they’re perfectly fitted for this type of music.
Throughout the album, there are several parts that make you clench your fist and stomp like an angry caveman, in a very dark atmosphere that not only brings out violence but also cheer evil. The strength of that album is that it builds an atmosphere for the listener, it sets the mood, and rather than just enjoying a music album, you find yourself dragged into a full life experience, during which you explore the darkest nooks of your being.
The structures are very progressive in the sense that you don’t know where the song is taking you next, which makes for really long songs, making you explore various feelings and mindsets, dragging the album duration into 43 minutes of darkness. The influences are very diverse and it’s felt as there are stompy efficient parts, slow doom riffs, as well as blast beats and relentless tremolo picking.
The album is an acquired taste, meaning that a random metalhead won’t necessarily click with it the first time, and the production doesn’t make it any easier to access as all the instruments overlap on each other, only to suffocate the listener more, confuse him and create that controlled chaos and mayhem, which makes the band so special.
Release Year: 2021
Label: Profound Lore Records
Reviewed by Oussama EL OUADIE