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Portal - Seepia CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.87 | 14 ratings

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Prog Sothoth
4 stars I can safely say that none of these songs will ever be used in a Volvo or a Gap television ad. If you're not a death metal fan, this is actually a good album to own if for no other reason than to play it to death metal fans just to hear them say things about the music that you and most of the world say concerning death metal in general. To say this album is a difficult listen is like saying Victoria Beckham is a velociraptor in disguise. That's just how it is. This may be one of the most entertaining extreme albums I've ever heard.

The overall impression one would get from a first listen would be a swirling miasma of unusual and brutal chaos interspersed with morbid creepy ambience. It has all the elements of death metal: distorted down-tuned guitars, bass, a drummer on speed, cocaine and Turkish espresso, and guttural roars for vocals. Thing is, what Portal does with these blueprints is throw them all in a nuclear blender, stir in a darker sense of atmosphere and a few spoonfuls of gloomy soundscapes, and carefully pour the results into eight wine glasses. The result is Seepia. It's delicious to the few and the proud, and a great way to clear the house of unwanted guests. It's also quite technical without being a blatant showcase of virtuosity due to the chaotic wall of sound, and it's even further removed from grindcore than death metal, although there's maybe a bit of black metal seeping through on a purely aesthetic level. The lyrics, when actually read, veer towards the Lovecraftian in nature, which adds to the final package.

The production here is a notable factor that personally elevates this album above their other efforts. The music is ridiculously chaotic, but thanks to the lack of reverb on the guitar tracks, there are plenty of instances where the horrifyingly bizarre and fast melodies rear their mottled heads to fry the brains of the listener. When the guitars do play chords on the heavier strings, they are so down-tuned they sometimes sound like a school of sharks devouring Captain Crunch (the cereal and the pirate). At other times, lower chords are dismissed in favor of weird atonal high note patterns and tremolo riffing. "Transcending a Mere Multiverse" has a multitude of decipherable musical moments showcasing the dual guitars playing some of the weirdest note patterns in sync that I've heard, even on an avant garde scale. There are no pretty arpeggios to be found anywhere near this creation. "Vessel" of Balon is notable since it's the only track to even remotely flirt with more conventional death metal, if briefly near the song's end.

The vocals aren't completely buried in the mix, and when occasional outbursts are accented with a liberal dousing of reverb, the effect is monstrous. The opening track utilizes reverb to maximum effect. The rhythm section is where these tracks are barely held together with the drummer pummeling away in a precise manner. Occasionally he'll do some odd things like accentuate certain "riffs" with high tom rolls and slow down the pace in a gradual fashion before lurching into some crazed blasting or stopping altogether. Nothing is really predictable, even the promise of extreme noise in every track since one of the numbers is basically morbid ambience. The ending of the last track is particularly unsettling as the music morphs into some weird soundscape of horror music and looped samples warped to levels by the mixing board that offer an effect of being sucked into a vortex. Fun stuff.

I enjoyed this album a great deal, even though a part of me says it's not wise to find pleasure in this piece of music. The band name is apt, since hearing Seepia is like being hurled through a portal to a terrain where music is played "wrong" yet sounds so "right". The Old Ones would boogie to this.

Prog Sothoth | 4/5 |


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