Review Summary: This Australian black/death metal hybrid has built up steam, showing their ultimate culmination thus far in Vexovoid with yet another strong release.
Hailing from the sunny city of Brisbane, Australia it’s hard to imagine the severe depth of anguish and sinister nature that Portal present in the form of full-lengths. The music for the most part sits squarely on a foundation of blast peats, gravely riffs a murky unrefined production sound that not only gives life to this sinister sounding metal band but also creates a certain atmosphere throughout their records, music that you would expect to come from a barren icy wasteland. That’s not to say that this music is a carbon copy of every other act that happens to share those attributes, instead Portal have more-or-less developed a soundscape that is largely theirs.
It’s been almost four years since their last studio effort Swarth
and really not a lot has changed in terms of their sound. This mostly masked heavy metal group (The Curator wears a tattered wizards hat that obscures peoples vision) uses lyrical themes of ‘Lovecrafth Mythos’ and ‘Cthulhu’ as well as a few others building on the mystic that the band persona already posesses. For the most part the same principals apply more than ever. Keep in mind Portal are not the only band willing to stretch these two genres of metal together; with the likes of Impetuous Ritual (also from Aust.) and Mitochondrion whose Parasignosis
was received with praise by the metal masses alongside countless others willing to throw their hat in the ring. What Portal does have though in comparison to most other groups is experience; Vexovoid
is the band’s fourth full length and with this experience behind them they have built a record that is enjoyable as it is bleak, sinister and at complete contrast to the crystal clear beaches found in their home state.
To pigeon-hole Portal as doing the same thing over-and-over again would be more than a little wrong and lazy. Over the years the band has simply developed their sound, a refinement of ideas building on experience and creating semi-blackened death metal masterpieces. Vexovoid
, so far is the culmination of their past efforts. The atmosphere comes stronger than ever, almost suffocating in nature (see ‘Curtain’ and ‘Plasm’) combining this already mentioned murky atmosphere with the likes of simple note picking as well as the usual array of tremolo riffs, before reaching the usual onslaught of blast beats and those well executed raspy vocal lines from The Curator. At a rather brief thirty-four minutes Vexovoid
is over pretty quickly and the clear notes of ‘Oblotten’ soon fade into the distance. It’s a shame the record is so short in its duration as the music could definitely withstand the pressure of another couple of tracks. From the pummelling introductory track ‘Kilter’ which slams into the listener at full speed to the haunting ‘Plasm’ that holds a consistent display of the band’s song-writing talent, baring its teeth in the face of destruction and a highlight of The Curator’s vocal ability; it’s clear that Portal means business with their 2013 release, Vexovoid
and are here to stay.
Overall, Portal has released a record that anyone familiar with their music would expect. Vexovoid
is furious, bleak, sinister, dark and ultimately unfriendly. But this doesn’t mean the music is inaccessible. Yes, the production process wasn’t exactly a ‘million dollar’ one but neither was this recorded in a tin can. Every aspect comes to the for-front of the music combining into one solid unit, building on the atmosphere the production helped to make. Despite the records brevity, Vexovoid
is a captivating listen; there is little out of the ordinary well, as far as Portal goes (high pitched steel scraping in ‘Oblotten’ could be considered a usual creepy effect), but for what it’s worth this Australian five-piece know what they are doing and why it works, ensuring that each component of the music works well with the next. Vexovoid
may not have the same sizable impact that the debut Seepia
did, in fact the band is exactly where they are supposed to be; four releases in, building off the soundscape that they developed and ultimately presenting an album that brings together their experiences. The effect of the record is really only limited by its short play time and the somewhat astounding ability of Portal themselves.