Portal
Avow


4.0
excellent

Review

by Robert Garland STAFF
May 30th, 2021 | 114 replies


Release Date: 05/28/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Never idle…

For the better part of thirty years now Portal has been unleashing devastation upon the hallowed shores of Australia, but the band's (whose identities are as shrouded in mystery as the artwork that adorns them) reach has always been further than the country that bore them. Yet, unveiling a project so ambitious through articulated cacophony and devastating dissonance. Portal have always been the purveyors of their craft, taking a boot to the throat of extreme Lovecraftian-lore, running with the constant rampart ideas; while firmly pushing back at the naysayers and detractors. At the band’s core however is a staple of titanically proportioned molten, burning abrupt and direct metal. In hybridizing death metal with bleeker, blacker tendencies, Portal has gifted themselves some of the murkiest, caustic music across the broad spectrum of the larger metal genre—unapologetic for the way they harness and release their craft. Looking back however it’s clear that this Aussie death piece has had some defining moments, bearings on a map so fraught with detail it’s hard to see all the topography. Seepia (the debut full-length), Swarth and ION all stand out as markers for where Portal would take their music.

I can already hear the detractors: “What’s this rubbish?/Did the channel turn to static again?/All this sounds the same./Would you put something normal on please?”

No, it’s much more than that. Where Seepia paved the way for most of the group’s more dissonant tropes, setting marks on the ground to what would be to come. The likes of Outre took the extremities fans have come to love and while birthing them, disgorged them onto a sheet so white it would never be clean again. Swarth in turn forged through the atmosphere and flexed on the molten aesthetic of blackened avant death while remaining true to the ethos so eloquently presented in the debut. Outre proved Portal was onto something. Swarth defined the type of band this Australian group would continue to be. Jumping ahead almost a decade and listeners came to a dichotomy of sorts with ION’s play at calming the dissonance to an almost accessible level. The classic Portal recipe book was still well and truly open, but there was a limitation to the band’s murk. A sprinkle instead of a splash. A pinch instead of a slosh. Portal began to carve a different direction while hugging the very foundations that made them what they are. Honing what needed to be sharpened and letting everything else run rampant across a portrait of aggression and dizzying dissonance.

Portal’s 2021 effort is the same beast, in a new direction again, in a different guise.

Avow follows a similar pattern to its predecessor, tumulting on the formula that makes deeper cuts like Outre and Swart so damn interesting while resorting to slash at the likes of Vexovoid with sickening ease. Avow wastes no time with frivolous notions or subtle nods at a larger picture, instead the opening “Catafalque” quickly bludgeons, tension seeping through a warped atmosphere and adding a limitus to harmony. At ten minutes the track itself isn’t breaking new ground for a group so adept at throwing gnarled riffs into nth degree madness, but it’s in itself is the longest (traditional) Portal track to date (an exception being “Hexodeus” from Hagbulbia, released the same day). Tempo maps lay askew as “Catafalque” shifts and winds through riffs and chord progressions, adding return of repetition in the climbing scale of razored tremolo riffs and neck snapping percussive slaps, lighting up the molten corners of its blackened frames. “Eye” heralds in some of the influence of old, a timestamp on the passages that defined the likes of Vexovoid and Swarth respectively, wrapped in the bed sheets of modern day metal production. Like always, it’s clear that this Portal record will need a minute to sink in.

From here, Avow manages to turn up the intensity. “Manor Of Speaking” cultivates pure atmospheric energy, shifting subtle moods on the foundations of slightly slower compositions before lurching the timing and catapulting the listener down a road of impassioned guitar lines, blustering cymbal splashes and vicious growls. The track itself roars across a palette of warbled murk, dissonance and oft running rampant as usual “Portal” practice allows. It’s here that Avow begins to really take a hold on the foundations of ION and the mainstay energy of their entire back catalogue before ascending into the standards long time fans would expect.

Avow’s payoff isn’t immediate. It often takes a matter of introspection and repetition to truly access the worthwhile challenge Portal music has in its core. Chances are you won’t hear everything on a single, second or even third venture into Avow’s darker, deeper abode—but there’s an element of continued discovery to be found here. Whether it’s the droning repetition of warbled tremolo found in the album’s first half or the sheer devastation of drum and bass combinations in the devastating closer, “Drain” there’s moments to dive deeper into a chasm of dissonance, tumult and sheer aural devastation, upending the norm of what makes Portal music what it is purely for the sake of it. It’s clear that the group don’t care about maintaining a ‘normal’ grip on their music. Rather they’d stay to twist, manipulate and shave what acclimation listeners would otherwise naturally develop and redefine their own sickening atmosphere along the way.

Avow isn’t at all a clarity measure on the heartstrings of fans and listeners alike. Preferably it’s a limit tester; brought to fruition just to test the bounds of what we can emotionally cater for, break them and desensitize. Avow runs in a different direction to the other avant extremities the world has yet to offer, a parallel would simply confound and confuse. In this way Portal are their own champions, tested and tried only by themselves in a mirror image, only the reflection isn’t a reflection of the now.




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user ratings (124)
3.6
great
other reviews of this album
Brandon N. (4)
sweyy[g]...

related reviews

Vexovoid

Outre

ION

Swarth


Comments:Add a Comment 
Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
May 30th 2021


15220 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

So yeah, turns out this needed a review badly.



Album discussion....go!

evilford
May 30th 2021


52893 Comments


Can't wait to jam this, nice rev

Piglet
May 30th 2021


8139 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

portal/5

combustion07
May 30th 2021


9161 Comments


Gonna rule. I can feel it in my bones

Sowing
Moderator
May 30th 2021


39288 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Never even listened to these guys but might start here

Digging: Stephen Sanchez - What Was, Not Now

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
May 30th 2021


15220 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Sowing/5



With all the stuff you've been digging on the m/ spectrum lately Sow I wouldn't be surprised to see you slap a 4 or so on this.

Azog
May 30th 2021


590 Comments


I'm still in the process of measuring up this album, relative to the ones before. This seems to be the case with all new Portal albums. It takes time, it takes effort, and lots of it. Yet if there's one thing you can rely on, by now, then this would be Portal always delivers. This definately is up there.

Digging: Skepticism - Companion

Gameofmetal
Emeritus
May 30th 2021


10992 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i would be shocked if sowing liked this in the slightest lmao

Pikazilla
May 30th 2021


19122 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

sowing, it is time for redemption

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
May 30th 2021


15220 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Praise for Sowing and his new favourite ever...Portal?

Azog
May 30th 2021


590 Comments


His?

I'm confused.

ShadowRemains
May 30th 2021


26648 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this is the curator's best vocal performance, goddamn he sounds fucking ferocious on this

PortalofPerfection
May 30th 2021


2534 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This might be my favorite Portal. Was thinking this didn't beat Swarth at first but I'm finding this more replayable.



Time to go back through the discog!



Nice review, love the last paragraph.



Digging: Rivers of Nihil - The Work

DarkNoctus
May 30th 2021


11629 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

i didn't enjoy this, but i didn't enjoy ion either. up to vexovoid i'd always go into a portal record and think at the end "yeah... that was kinda neat" and never want listen to it again.

LeddSledd
May 30th 2021


6154 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Manor of Speaking holy balls

Ryus
May 30th 2021


25699 Comments


only "outre" has really clicked with me but what an album that is
gotta do a discog run

Digging: RP Boo - Established!

ShadowRemains
May 30th 2021


26648 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Eye has that Larvae/Glumurphonel-vibe to it

JayEnder
May 30th 2021


11326 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Manor of Speaking and Drain are definitely my favorites. m/



Sweet review Nocte!

Digging: Vildhjarta - Msstaden Under Vatten

Slex
May 30th 2021


12250 Comments


I bet this woops so much ass
Excited

Digging: Magdalena Bay - Mercurial World

brainmelter
May 30th 2021


7574 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

the murk

Digging: Deviant Process - Nurture



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