Portal – Ion (2018) REVIEW

Portal’s fifth full-length is an achievement in the realm of extreme metal guitar playing that pushes the limits of avant-garde expressionist tremolo-picked heavy music. ‘Ion’ is abrasive, dense and high-level technical wizardry that initially takes a concerted effort to follow. The intense speed and flurry of guitars are razor sharp black metal in style but backed by vocals seemingly whispered in a wind tunnel. Their tone is piercingly electric as it comes in waves of terror-inducing mid-range noise that inevitably shape themselves into remarkably structured and atmospheric death metal songs.

The riffs are on par with what avant-technical extreme metal bands like Thantifaxath and Pyrrhon explored more recently, though ‘Ion’ is more focused and in turn memorable than either record. If Gorguts‘ ‘Obscura’ was played at double speed it might have resembled this sort of well-shaped discordant stream-of-consciousness metal record. What I think Portal lacks in melody and memorability they make up for with compelling atmosphere and sheer skill. Much of that atmosphere comes from icily gasped wind-tunnel vocals that resemble the whispers of Satan himself in your ears. It is a challenging listen but it’s initially directionless composition lends itself incredibly to repeated listening.

The tautness of Portal’s song-writing seems impossible to top in terms of sheer complexity, speed and dynamic tension. If the band were to accelerate any further in speed or compositional diversity ‘Ion’ would resemble the sound of a giant cheese-grater rubbing hundreds of guitar strings at 200bpm. The avant-technical horror-occult death/black experience of ‘Ion’ transcends technical death metal song structure to the limit of over-complicated nightmare death metal music. My favorite track here “Phantom” manages to create a psychedelic electrical storm of guitar riffs and set it over war metal blasting and brilliant percussion in the middle of the track; followed by the nearly 10 minute roller coaster of “Olde Guarde” that fades out into chaos and rumbling atmospherics. For my taste this is a guaranteed top release for 2018.

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Artist Portal
Type Album
Released January 26, 2018
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp! Follow Portal on Facebook
Genres

Inextricably deep echoes. 5.0/5.0

 

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