Release Date: 5th November 2021
Record Label: Run For Cover
For Fans Of: Full Of Hell, Orchid, Mayhem
“Friendship ended with Converge, now Mayhem is our best friend” – Portrayal Of Guilt.
Ok, so that quote may not have happened, but after having heard the first few tracks of their new album CHRISTFUCKER (yep, that’s the name), listeners will realise that Portrayal Of Guilt’s black metal worship has come to fruition. Hell, even the album name and cover provide a more than generous hint that this record may not feature the chaotic screamo stylings with which the band are synonymous.
Of course, having black metal influence in screamo isn’t something new, as genre pioneers Orchid and pg.99 sound closer to the likes of Darkthrone than their emo contemporaries. Similarly, incorporating black metal elements into their style has been established by Portrayal Of Guilt since their inception, earning the genre tag of ‘blackened screamo’, alongside such artists as Oathbreaker and Celeste. But with CHRISTFUCKER, their second full length release this year, the band have all but abandoned their once chaotic sound, and in place have unveiled a record that would be at home in early 90’s Norway.
While it may not seem such a leap from blackened screamo to full on black metal, there are several characteristics of the notorious genre that stick out like a burning church against a night sky. Most notably: the production quality. With the genre famed for its intentionally lo-fi production levels (the worse the quality, the more trve the band), Portrayal Of Guilt have adopted a less refined sound on their latest release. Granted the band never boasted the polished shine and almost digital sound of the more mainstream metalcore acts, and CHRISTFUCKER doesn’t reach the (quite frankly) atrocious production values of Burzum, but listeners will find certain passages of the record indecipherable. With the guitars utilizing tremolo-picked chords over blast beats, it can become a challenge to discern what is actually being played. This coupled with the band jilting their usual push-pull/stop-start rhythms, one can get easily lost in the whirlwind of noise. Similarly, the frenetic, punky energy that once defined the drums has been neglected in favour of more conventional, driving rock beats. ‘Sadist’ has a marching groove akin to black and even thrash metal bands when trotting out their obligatory mid tempo track.
As a whole, the album feels slower and less urgent than the band’s previous releases, using the reduced tempos to create a sinister atmosphere that does not relent throughout the record. Matt King’s snarl is more satanic than ever, sharing very little hardcore traits with his earlier performances. Across the record, the vocals are distorted to amplify the chilling nature desired from the genre, and may remind listeners of the unintelligible roars found on Carcass’ Reek Of Putrefaction. The use of electronics and noise are more present than ever on the record, and while some relief from the wall of sound of the rhythm section may be found on interlude track ‘Bed Of Ash’, the ever present darkness of the album does not relent. Bursts of industrial noise and harsh synths sustain the hostile nature of the record, not dissimilar to the soundscapes utilised by Full Of Hell.
Yet despite the sharp shift in direction, there are occasional glimmers of chaos. ‘Dirge’, the album highlight, balances menacing tones with the frenzied approach found on earlier records, flitting between assaults of distorted minor chords, rolling attacks of percussion punctuated by piercingly shrill whistles, and some of the most evil tones you can achieve with a clean guitar. Similarly, the first half of ‘The Crucifixion’ would not be out of place on You Fail Me, with rapid punk drums racing alongside bouncing guitars. Even as the tempo undergoes a significant drop, the ensuing breakdown is beyond anything the likes of Mayhem would concoct.
CHRISTFUCKER is definitely Portrayal Of Guilt’s most divisive record to date, with the divisive factor being whether or not you like raw black metal. While fans of the genre will embrace the chilling, ever present darkness of the record, other listeners may be put off by the coarse production quality. The minimal presence of chaotic, angular rhythms and a stronger focus on atmosphere results in a lack of intensity, and considering the abrupt change in style, the record feels more like an experiment than a natural progression. But seeing as how prolific Portrayal Of Guilt are with their output, fingers crossed they’ll be back to their old blackened screamo ways in no time.
Recommended Tracks: Dirge, The Crucifixion, Possession
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