Galloping bass riffs, driving percussion and rock-solid guitars have taken their spot at the vanguard of PORTRAIT’s new sound; – and it’s most certainly a fresh one. For almost two years now the Swedish heavy metal group have been working incredibly hard on their newest studio LP, titled ‘Burn the World’, which has finally been released as of 25 August via Metal Blade Records. PORTRAIT as a group have consistently drawn up mixed opinions since their formation, with some bestowing great critical acclaim and others merely citing them as “KING DIAMOND copyists” – but is the latter statement really the case? Originally, perhaps so, but I really think after this album hits the stores those earlier comparisons will cease to exist. Long gone are the eerie undertones that plunged 2011’s ‘Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae’ release and there’s very little tapping into the realms of conceptual horror. What you get here is a somewhat unlikely product consisting of numerous foot-tapping thrash-influenced songs categorized by exceptional percussion.
The album opens with ‘Saturn Return’, an intro piece lasting approximately fifty-four seconds and is more than definitely the closest thing you will hear on this album to “horror”. It emanates a myth vibe before slamming into self-titled song ‘Burn the World’, which is indeed somewhat based on the melodic theme of the previous piece. Overall it’s a thumping six-minute heavy metal song but rarely undergoes any changes which is a little bit disappointing. Luckily, however, excitement still retains itself as there’s an unexpected section which features a swirling Hammond organ solo by session keyboardist Kevin Bower of HELL and formerly PARALEX. Suddenly you get a resurgence of energy and tension when hearing such an under-performed instrument such as the Hammond on a modern metal LP. Structure-wise there probably isn’t a lot to note about this particular track as it does repeat itself quite a bit and probably could have afforded to be shorter in length. One highly redeeming quality that really impressed me throughout this track and throughout the course of the entire album was, funnily enough, the tone of the ride-cymbal. I know that’s probably not a comment you’ll hear every day but the ride-cymbal just has such a fresh and glistening touch to it. It’s actually a real treat every time drummer Anders Persson hits the ride-cymbal multiple times in rapid succession, – which isn’t often! He’s a remarkably talented drummer and has a keen awareness of how to manipulate his craft. The percussion is, of course, the back-bone of a track and it’s always exciting to listen to drummers who can not only carry the song but also change the appearance of the song’s aforementioned bearer by playing something a little differently. ‘Likfassna’ oozes aggression and it’s the part of the album where things start to take a stronger turn. Not an awful lot to say about the song in particular other than the fact that it is thriving and features a lot of good melodies. ‘Flaming Blood’ is another example of where you hear this newly-discovered, perhaps more “ferocious” thematic quality of the group. This is a record that strays from fantastical myth and in turn has a lot more to do with grit and realism. Not in a particularly depressing sense, but even the album cover itself and its tendency to gravitate towards warmer colours through the medium of a sort of volcanic landscape gives one the impression that the group are changing their initial visage of icy mystique to red-hot fury, which I think this track nicely encapsulates. ‘Mine to Reap’ was actually the first song I heard from this album seeing as I was asked to review it a couple days ago. On hearing it I remarked that the song is “more direct than anything they’ve done before and probably relying less on time-signature / tempo changes”, which, I still one-hundred percent stand by as a total conviction of the record as a whole. The song itself is quite wordy which is probably why it was chosen to be one of the singles. ‘Martyrs’ is the second longest track on the album and it’s a bit of a strange one for me. It takes a very long time for it to get going and when it finally does there’s a lot of choppy moments that feel at times glued together. The second half of the song is better than the first simply because there’s a stronger reliance upon dynamics but overall the song is a bit too cluttered for my liking. A nice moment of repose is introduced through ‘Further She Rode’, which is a gentle instrumental piece which clocks in at 01:52. It begins with sensitive acoustic finger-picking and has a good sense of echo and reverb surrounding it. Eventually the song builds into a slightly more cinematic soundscape through the introduction of quiet strings which aren’t overly conspicuous. ‘Pure of Heart’, the album’s closing track is the longest and probably most progressive piece due to its sensibility with dynamic versatility. It begins with yet again some delicate acoustic phrasings which alternate from 7/4 timing to its original form of 4/4 and the vocals make it very fitting. Unfortunately you don’t hear this section again which disappointed me a tad as I thought it could have been repeated once more somewhere in the middle. Luckily, the rest of the song is a rollercoaster of good highs and lows and there’s seldom a moment where you find yourself getting bored.
Overall it is a very promising transitory release from PORTRAIT and will no doubt be of interest to many. It showcases the group at the acme of confidence and it’s definitely the most streamlined and well-balanced item in their discography so far.
“‘Burn the World’ is our fiercest one to date, holding all aspects of Portrait within it, yet in an even more dynamic, empowered and elevated form than its predecessors. Expect nothing else than sheer heavy metal rage dedicated to all forces that seek to end this world through their fires of adversity.” – PORTRAIT
Per Lengstedt – vocals
Christian Lindell -guitars
Robin Holmberg – guitars
Fredrik Petersson – bass
Anders Persson – drums
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