Most people who listen to black metal in today's world believe that bands like Anaal Nathrakh are the absolute heaviest a band can go. Blazing blast beats, fast guitars, screeched vocal, and only short bursts of melody as opposed to the black metal standard of subtly incorporating melodies throughout. While these types of bands are indeed heavy, avant-garde death/black metal band Portal would literally eat them all for breakfast. Taking metal to its most extreme limits and sacrificing nothing in terms of brutality for commercial appeal, the Australian quintet's third album Swarth
is the heaviest, most extreme offering of music to ever be created.
For anyone who can't enjoy their black metal without symphonic flourishes, cleanly sung vocals and pristine melodies, then Portal's Swarth
is absolutely not the album for you. Taking the raw energy of death metal, and transporting it into black metal style riffs along with adding some avant-garde experimental touches, Swarth
truly a beast of its own. Take for example opening song "Swarth" which begins with a fast, pounding drumroll and severely down tuned tremolo picked guitars. As the track progresses however, the guitar embodies the sound of an oncoming tornado, ready to tear all your mental structures down. While the majority of this album consists mostly of dissonant tremolo picked guitar lines, it's not fair to say that this record doesn't contain its fair share of death metal type riffery, with songs like "The Swayy" and "Omenknow" both featuring savage, churning riffs, amidst lightning blast beat drums that just never seem to end.
While each song contains many different characteristics that separate themselves from each other, one thing each song has in common however, is a claustrophobic atmosphere. The riffs are so dense, and dark, they can't help but just capture your attention, and then literally take your breath from you. Some of the best examples are is in the song "Wership" where it's black metal style guitar meeting the chugs of death metal guitar for a truly oppressive sound and feeling. Also, it's no doubt that the ever so slightly muffled production contributes to the atmosphere, giving the instruments an extra distorted, dirty sound.
Technically, everyone in the band sets the bar very high on Swarth
. The two guitarists Horror Illogium and Aphotic do a fantastic job of contrasting simple, yet harsh tremolo picked guitar lines, against more technical death metal type riffs. Vocally, lead singer The Curator takes his cue straight from death metal, with his hoarse, raspy growl inspiring fear in all who hear it. Even bass player Omenous Fugue gets moments to shine amongst the darkness, with his bass playing providing intense low-end in songs like "Writhen" and "Larvae". Drummer Ignis Fatuus throughout the record does a fantastic job, pulling off inhuman blast beats, interesting fills and helping the group perfectly transition through the numerous time changes within the songs.
, it could very likely be said that Portal created on the heaviest, most brutal albums of all time. Refusing to add more mainstream elements into their music for the sheer hope of gaining popularity, Portal with Swarth
deliberately created a record that would purposely turn people away instead of drawing them in, proving once and for all that they don't need the mainstream to survive, they can do it on their own, unique terms.