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Portal - Avow CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.96 | 6 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars PORTAL, the modern masters of technical death metal dementia return with the sixth studio album AVOW and collectively continues the explorations of an alternative musical universe that somehow defies musical orthodoxies by crafting a terrifying mix of speed of light extreme metal ferocity with some of the most unnerving dissonance and atmospheric gloom ever crafted. Just one look at the album cover art will give you a creepy feeling that you are about to be sonically assaulted in complete darkness like a poltergeist invasion flooding your consciousness with terrifying stimuli. A place where escape is futile and only incongruous swarms of sound exist in a systematic attack of the senses that will unnerve all but the boldest and bravest musical explorers. Yeah, baby! Bring it on, hehe!

Stylistically PORTAL has remained rather consistent in its razor-sharp tech death metal assaults laced with ominous atmospheres since it debuted with 2003's "Seepia" but really focused heavily on the possibilities of unorthodox production processes and even more crazed compositional experimentation when the band really set things in motion with 2007's "Outre." AVOW looks back to "Outre" after flirting with elements of thrash metal and more straight forward death metal moments on albums like "Vexovoid" and "ION." To be honest i'm a connoisseur of all these mind-blowing experimental approaches but i consider this psycho blend of tech death acumen with atmospheric creepery to be PORTAL's specialty and in that regard AVOW does not disappoint one little bit and offers a return to form in that direction.

While AVOW arrives three years after the band's previous efforts, the year 2021 actually sees not one but two new PORTAL releases. AVOW is accompanied by "Hagbulbia" which takes the most abrasive and terrifying aspects of the dark ambient, noise and death / black ambient elements and takes them to the limit only devoid of the metal elements which still dominate on AVOW. Like any reasonable band, PORTAL doesn't deviate too far from the formula that got them noticed in the first place and there is nothing on AVOW that will either initiate new members to cult or scare established followers away. In many ways AVOW is actually sort of a retreat to the comfort zone of "Ouvre" which wasn't carried on to the following "Swarth" but even though PORTAL retains the expected elements which make them who they are, the band still is careful to craft each album distinctly as not to sound like simple retreads.

No doubt about it that PORTAL is an acquired taste reserved only for the most adventurous musical explorers who crave the most outrageous qualities of avant-prog, dark ambient, extreme technical metal and atonally ominous emotional feedback. PORTAL wastes no time with the opening "Catalfalque" which sounds like a swarm of restless poltergeists hungry for warfare with pummeling blastbeasts, incessant dissonant guitar and bass riffs and dark, brooding and even claustrophobic vocal utterances from the one and only The Curator. While sounding like an amorphous army of demons sporadically spewing hate in a haphazard rampage, somehow the band manages to keep an avant-groove behind the scenes from allowing the entire thing to collapse in an insufferable heap.

It's fairly difficult to convey what PORTAL sounds like in words. This is truly the soundtrack of nightmares and many make may claim that this isn't even music as it's pretty much taken every possible element of more popular forms of musical composure and has thrown them out the window and that even includes the world of established extreme metal genera. While tech death metal is the closest thing to a tag you can conjure up, PORTAL must be experienced in all its wriggling noisy mayhem as the band deftly walks that tightrope act between composition and pure chaos but few bands deliver the goods in such an utterly satisfying manner. Too extreme even for many extreme metal heads, PORTAL remains defiantly a darkened underground act that AVOW will not erase as there is absolutely nothing on board that would suggest that PORTAL is on the verge of selling out. This is sonic terror metal from beginning to end and the kind of stuff that scratches that itch when everything else just seems too predictable and for that i gladly take this journey into the noise metal dimension.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |


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