As the old jokes go when Converge first began playing, many referred to them “Slayer played by emo kids”. For the most part, this ware a fair comparison. They played with all the speed and frenzy of Slayer, but focused it into a more melodic, emotional product akin to Rites of Spring. At the time it was a unique blend, presenting metal as something more than the splatter house genre it was gaining a reputation for. It was also a combination that would change the shape of metal and punk to come forever, plunging both into a new generation of more emotionally charged, powerful music.
It is in this new generation of emotionally charged, horrendously heavy music where we find Portrayal of Guilt. The band, hailing from Texas, does not play in the more direct style of thrash and emo, however. Instead they opt to play a far more brutal combination, blending the hectic, crazed pace of screamo with harsh black metal. It is a frightening combination, one that draws on the emotional torment inherent in both genres, and mixes them together into a truly pained form of musical catharsis. Add to that a little bit of 90’s metalcore in the vein of Coalesce and Converge, and you have one truly hectic blend of music.
Take, for example, the opening track “Humanity is Frail”. It opens with a roaring double bass intro, reminiscent of metalcore, before jumping into a fierce blackened screamo riff. All of these styles play seamlessly off of each other, creating an eclectic style all its own that is as fearsome as it is emotional. This blend of styles even bleeds into the lyrical and vocal work. The vocals are presented in a way far more reminiscent of black metal and metalcore than it is of screamo. The lyrics, however, draw from the misanthropy of black metal, but present it through the emotional lens of metalcore and screamo.
An odd new perspective arises from this as a balance must be struck between the misanthropic and the oddly hopeful. There seems to be a general hatred for the human condition, drawing on its selfish, destructive nature. Inversely though it is oddly hopeful, as if Portrayal of Guilt desperately wants the people it’s referencing to be better, to prove them wrong. And, if all goes well for us, people will continue to screw them over so that we can continue to get some of the most pulverizing, frantic screamo music made in the last 20 years.