Review: Portal – Vexovoid

Posted: December 22, 2013 in Reviews
Tags: , , , , , , ,

How do you explain Australia’s most fucked up avantgarde death metal band to someone who has never heard them? “Its like death metal filtered through a wind tunnel”? “It’s like if Japanese noise artist Merzbow wrote a death metal record”? Maybe the best way is to put on their new record ‘Vexovoid’ and watch their eyes fill with dread. Portal are intense. Scarily intense in fact. I watched a video on Youtube the other day of every Dillinger Escape Plan song played at the same time (because somebody out there felt the world needed to hear this) and it sounded like Portal. Portal will attack your senses in ways you will never expect.

Their new record ‘Vexovoid’ is another example of how dark and dense death metal can truly be. If you’re a fan of HP Lovecraft’s writings, you can imagine that if any of his otherworldly creations who wreak havoc and insanity on the minds of those who see them wrote music, it would sound like this. Opening track ‘Kilter’ is a tornado of blackened, hate filled noise. It is thick, dark, atonal riffing coupled with the voice of doom. It is frankly staggering that such a sound can be captured on record. Portal have their intense, filling-with-dread atmospherics down to a tee here. The production isn’t quite as murky as previous record ‘Swarthe’, which allows a bit more of the band’s intricate moments to poke through. There’s a definite influence of black metal on ‘The Back Wards’, with some atonal tremolo riffing and blasting drums. It also has the Portal equivalent of a breakdown in the final minute, which translates to the sound of the earth cracking underwater.

With each track, the atmosphere becomes more oppressive and dark. The intro to ‘Curtain’ has one of the most brutal guitar tones I’ve heard all year. It’s like Meshuggah tuned even further down. ‘Curtain’ is probably my favourite track; the final half sounds like an enormous neutron hammer crushing humanity with each impact. ‘Plasm’ is a clattering cacophony of buzzing riffs, rumbling drums and inhuman howls, before it drops out completely and layers oppressive ambience in place of full on attack. It’s yet another example of atmosphere build up: ‘Vexovoid’ spends the majority of the record increasing the tensions and fears of us simple metalheads, making us shift uncomfortably at the lack of a headbanging moment. The end of ‘Awryeon’ sounded like it should’ve appeared in something like Hellraiser.

In short, ‘Vexovoid’ is an essential record of 2013 simply due to the fact that, other than the new Gorguts record, nothing sounds even remotely this intense while remaining unabashedly experimental. Put this on, grab your nearest copy of Lovecraft and prepare to be very scared. Yet again, Portal have created a warped, evil masterpiece.

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