On their fourth full-length Swedes Portrait are sounding more 80’s power metal than ever as they polish up their precise “retro” King Diamond inspired speed metal sound. While they are completely deserving of King/Mercyful Fate comparisons, see “Likfassna”, more discerning classic metal fans might hear adept nods to ‘Under Jolly Roger’-era Running Wild (“Flaming Blood”) and the song structures evoke the sort of precision of post-Satan speed metal band Pariah with percussive high-speed riffs backing melody-informing lead guitars. This homage to 80’s power/speed metal classics reminds me of earlier releases from another Swedish band Trial whom retain similar influences. By while Trial is moving towards more progressive metal pastures and begin to resemble mid-80’s Fates Warning, Portrait is entirely stuck on this sound. This feels decidedly “retro” which is both incriminating and refreshingly direct. ‘Them’ and ‘Abigail’ are two of the best guitar albums ever created and while I’m always itching for more of that bombastic power/shred/speed dance Portrait seem a little too stuck on creating a facsimile that captures someone else’s sound and produces more of it. I’m conflicted as a fan because as happy as I am tapping my foot along the way, it gets under my skin that a band wouldn’t stray towards something different after four records. When I can’t wonder what more thrash influences, more power metal chorales, death metal riffs, or keyboards might bring to their sound I’m left listening to an 80’s metal cover band. Can I be happy with that? Yes, but still have a weird need to grow along with bands as I go on listening to them for years.
Production is handled by Tore Stjerna, who is incredibly prolific in his production of Swedish artists within the metal underground. It surprises me how authentically 80’s the production sound is despite his involvement in entirely different projects like Repugnant, Watain and Black Anvil. The vocalist’s presence is distant due to 80’s style mixing, but it gives the guitars a slightly more forward position in the mix. This approach is distinctly 80’s but it buries the bass guitar parts, which are a fair oversight. ‘Burn the World’ is made for metal purists by metal purists and without any concern for modernity beyond general clarity. The style is as much a tribute as it is a creative statement and that is my biggest criticism of Portrait’s work. Within the confines of classic metal this is inspiring and wildly entertaining, but it never goes to any new or mysterious place that a fan might not already expect. Is great talent being squandered on a throwback effort? Probably not. The grand takeaway? Portrait are still the absolute best at this style of music.
|Released||August 25, 2017|
|BUY/LISTEN on Metal Blade Records||Follow Portrait on Facebook|
|Preview “Mine to Reap” on YouTube||Portrait on Metal-Archives|