An audible rift has been triggered, a new Portal is open.
It's been quite a while since we've had any activity around the site. It's been quite since the calendar rolled from 2017 to 2018. Honestly, thinking about writing has been a lot easier than finding the time and focus to actually sit still and hammer out some words.
Portal has also been on a kind of hiatus. Except the gap between their releases spanned half a decade. And they were busy. While Vexovoid was the last proper release from Portal, they did record another record and put all the touches on it from a layout and design perspective, only to not complete the mixing before setting out on tour. As Horror Illogium, guitar player for Portal, says in an interview with Bardo Methodology, "Not properly sealing the ritual was a mistake, given what we’d invoked with this work."
All that ever surfaced that release were rumors and from the sound of those rumors, it was a shame that we may never hear that finished product.
That's really too bad. Portal occupies a very distinct, unique place in the realms of extreme metal. They're clearly a death metal band, but they're also so much more than that. What we've come to know as black metal and bestial metal also carries some similarities to what Portal presents. Their excessive number of strings, cryptic identities hidden behind intricate costumes, and music too complex for many to even try to understand all meld into something altogether otherworldly feeling in a little pocket of music that can't help but feel stale due to the massive saturation of modern music.
All the time away from a new album seems to have pushed Portal forward and almost more to the point. With nine tracks, ION clocks in at just 37 minutes, including an epic closer that lasts more than nine minutes, half of which is essentially atmospheric. The first track is also a callback to the days of their 2007 release, Outre, in the sense that it opens with a short intro.
One thing that it felt like Portal always did was take a unique approach to constantly building in their long musical journeys. Often allowing for long, winding guitars to build the atmosphere, while the drums plodded forward instead of battering you. It wasn't constant, but it was somewhat of a signature approach to their songs. You can hear traces of it throughout their catalog, yet that pattern isn't nearly as persistent on ION.
Perhaps, ION feels more dynamic and almost more traditionally straight forward like other artists of the extreme metal genre. That isn't to say that this is a departure from the signature patterns and stylings of both Ilogium and vocalist The Curator.
Everything present on ION is very much Portal, but I guess I'm trying to say that this is perhaps the most straight-forward the band has ever felt. It may be due to the production. In place of the more minimal production and muddy sounds that we've seen from the band in the past, this album has some sparkling production. To my ears, Portal has never sounded to clear and pronounced.
Contrary to what your typical message board poster might say, the production isn't just a treat for the vocals and guitars. The drums and bass have found a punch unlike that ever heard from Portal before. The precision with which the band executes each track is relayed in a clarity that we've never known before.
The album is short. That's before factoring out the intro track and several minutes of "atmospheric" content at the end of the album's closer, "Olde Guarde."
I think the most dangerous thing we can do with albums in 2018 is cast them aside too quickly. In a time when music is produced and released faster than ever before, there is seemingly a new album, demo, or single dropping from an artist in every genre, every day. In a "throwaway" culture, it would be easy to bury Portal in the sands of time. Fortunately, what amounts to five years on the calendar has not rendered Portal irrelevant, in fact, the new album is fantastic. It's also short enough (too short in my opinion), that your commercial-programmed brain won't fight you and make you turn it off before listening all the way through.
This is one of the first things I've heard all year, but if history is any indicated - as is my bias - you can bet that I've already found one of my favorite albums of the year in ION.
by Daniel Coughlin