Review Summary: Beautiful.
and he said it wasn't built upon anything.
and he said it wasn't worth it if i made you feel this way.
and he said it wasn't worth it if i made you feel like you're everything.
i don't want to help this knowing how far we've gone.
if it wasn't worth it i'm ready to feel for the last time.
then no one could touch me.
love is not for me.
no one could save this from me anyway its my everything.
for the last time i'll ask you why
There are 16 minutes on Portrait’s discography where its hard to imagine anything being more remarkable. Whether it’s the hypnotic viola lulling you, the harsh vocals rousing you, or the melodic yet dynamic guitar and drum combination, the songs “Missing the Shore”, “Constellations of a Stargazing Iris”, and “North Ebony” are the perfect emo songs. They take you through a range of emotions, through a range of musical ideas, and in the end leave you with a sense of awe that something so clearly harsh could still be that beautiful.
That’s the kind of band Portrait was. Taking the formula established by bands like Moss Icon and Indian Summer, and adding in their own unique touches like a viola player (think Smart Went Crazy) and generally harsher vocals in addition to a more Heroin influenced sound, and bam you’d have name drop formula heaven to describe Portrait. While the whole viola aspect of the band could end up overwhelming everything else, as so often happens with bands that add in a “foreign” instrument to a genre, it works out for the best with the viola adding lush backdrops instead of demanding attention as an almost third guitar.
The two guitarists meld seamlessly throughout the album, sometimes picking up an acoustic for parts of songs like “Junction at Barcelona”, punctuating the beauty/chaos border even further on tracks like “North Ebony” where acoustic riffing infects the first half of the songs, which then transforms into an intense hardcore song. With the addition of a drummer who knows when to be melodic and when to blast, Portrait had all the key components necessary to create special music.
The movement through all of the songs is absolutely superb, with none of the abrupt shifts you see in bands like Saetia or Circle Takes the Square, but more tasteful and extended transitions. Pacing themselves from slow, viola based movements to guitar driven rockers by often including the ever popular interlude, Portrait expanded on the imprint left by Indian Summer by taking the ‘soft build to climax” formula and injecting it with more melody and a greater stress on differentiating the two sounds.
So yeah, they had the beauty within madness thing pinned perfectly. There’s still one more thing Portrait had going for them; lyrically, they were pretentious and at times brilliant. Not dealing with the social issues that most of their contemporaries and predecessors dealt with, Portrait were an intimate band that focused on friendships and relationships. Instead of going for a completely direct lyrical approach or one too full of metaphors to be meaningful, they used metaphors to accentuate the blunt meaning of songs like “Constellations of a Stargazing Iris”.
take these wings and fly away.
because i've abandoned all of them.
i was waiting for you to show me up and around
take me on latch me now.
i know the best way out of here.
for what i fear is missing.
take our last breathes together.
is this the way home.
forget my name judge me and call me nothing
If their discography is any indication (and it, of course, is), Portrait’s career should be the stuff of legends. They perfectly encapsulate both the intensity and the sincerity of the genre that bands like I Would Set Myself On Fire For You and the Kodan Armada have been trying to capture for years now (with varying results). One of the most enthralling, interesting, and overall excellent bands I’ve ever heard. What Portrait did in their short time together stands as one of the greatest outputs a punk band had in the mid 90’s, and a cornerstone in the screamo world.