Review Summary: Experimental deathcore that just isn't that experimental....Portals
is the third LP from Santa Cruz act Arsonists Get All the Girls. Tagged as "experimental deathcore", the group has built up a following with previous albums Hits from the Bow
and The Game of Life
, facing the death of bassist Patrick Mason in 2007 and the departure of previous vocalist Cameron Reed due to spiritual reasons along the way. Portals
is the first album with new vocalist Jared Monnette, of which the band had to say "He is definitely the new voice of AGATG and is a perfect match for the direction we were going musically. We headed back into the studio to lay down the new vocal tracks, and it went wonderfully!
The group is know for its use of keyboards and synthesizers on their albums, a homage to the 8-bit sounds of "nintendocore" legends Horse the Band whom the group admired and wanted to initially sound like. Full of distorted, chugging riffs and melodic guitar playing, Portals
is also characterised by its warbling electronic effects, unusual structures and the screaming vocals of Jared Monnette, who does a pretty good job. Unfortunately, Portal
is also characterised by something else: it feels rather sloppy and inconsistent which is unfortunate, because where it works the group does seem to have something to offer at times.
Just about every track on Portals
falls into a similar sounding mush, some death metal influence here, some grindcore there, electronic effects, screaming, all in all the sum of its parts aren't worth tearing apart. After the spacy opener of Interdimensionary
by the time the group kicks into "metal" mode in second track The 42nd Ego
the album doesn't let up in pace. My Cups Half Empty
, Skiff For The Suits
, In The Empyreans
, these all sound virtually the same and for the most part it is a reasonably good formula. If there is anything to flaw the band just doesn't feel tight enough at times, with a loose, playful feel to arrangements that breaks out into an occasional "dance" side to the drumming of Garin Rosen which can feel at odds with technical riffing. This is mostly all well and good, but it isn't until I Lost My Loss Of Ruin
that the group starts showing much more promise, after an initial blast of noise around the minute mark managing to turn into a convincing ska track that later unfolds into a repetitive piano led lounge/jazz section. This works quite well, with following track To Playact In Static
doing something similar closing as a bluesy, bar number. Arsonists Get All The Girls certainly does good here. The album ends with another unremarkable track in Tea Time Ribbons
and a long stretch of silence that reveals a hidden country-esque number, which isn't really worth sticking around for.
The good thing about Portals
is that it works at times, a much worse album could have resulted from an "experimental deathcore" group then this. The bad thing about it is that it just isn't that great overall, Arsonists Get All The Girls showing only hints of promise here and there but never managing to focus it into anything truly great. It feels loose in structure, the more technical side of the album as a result sounding forced and sloppy. Portal
is remarkably average metal for a group that explains themselves in terms of having an experimental nature, but not always downright terrible.