Australian death metal band Portal has been largely an enigma in all of its existence, using dissonance and chaotic arrangements to mar throngs of listeners who attempt to explore the band’s wildly revenant idea of what music fits the label ‘extreme.’
Many fans fail to get just what quality Portal offers to jaded metallers. Like electricity in the form of pulsating neurons, protons, and ions, the band’s music is energy channeled in anti-technical, anti-melodic fashion, merging blood-curdling rasps that make sense in greater excision of the material with music that is equally difficult to easily enjoy. Portal was never meant for mainstream fans. The hype surrounding the band is a result of media personalities wildly exclaiming the band’s worthy compliments and praise. While the band deserves the positive coverage, most fans aren’t supposed to like this stuff at all. This isn’t exactly Avenged Sevenfold.
Profound Lore Records, however, knows just how beautiful this chaotic cacophony of obscure riffery and blasting percussion presents to metal fans jaded with samish and sub-par death metal. Portal isn’t gore-grind for the nth time, nor do they use cover art that fits any stereotype. It is exactly the reason why fans who are tired of standard tuning and melodic groove attest to the band’s misleading brilliance.
That brilliance is largely misleading because many fans check out Portal due to the influence of media-generated hype. Sure, members of the media who have heard most of what metal has to offer these days may get just what makes Portal stand out, but most fans who don’t know what to expect after hearing about how strange Portal presents to average fans only profess to liking the band to get a reputation. It is either that, or they’re expectantly turned off to the band’s music after a subsequent listen. It is falsehood of this sort, posery of this type, that exposes just how ridiculous the divide is between metal fans who can tell mediocre death metal with the underpinnings of trve genius.
It isn’t as if Portal’s latest album Ion is entirely devoid of melody altogether. The tremolo washes are dissonant but melodic in the sense that it brings structure to chaos, organization to disorganization, that the band’s unpredictable manner of constructing chord patterns is synonymous with the devolution of standard songwriting itself.
Herein lies Portal’s brilliance: making chaos sound like it makes sense somehow; making the obscure vocal enunciations fit the vague concept of the album. Loosely based on electricity and kinetic energy, Portal’s Ion is a perfect metaphor for metal’s power as a type of music. Channeled through electric guitars and plugged amplifiers and effects, it is a juggernaut of beautiful rhythmic chaos that somehow, when listened to closely, presents with enough structure to account for the band’s reputation for brilliance. It’s the music that rules here, not the hype that surrounds it. To fans who really get it, it’s one of the best albums released so far this year, and a revelation in a discography filled with material both unique and indelible in aesthetic virtue.