02. The Back Wards
[Profound Lore Records]
To call the music of Portal an ‘acquired taste’ would be, to put it lightly, a fucking understatement. It’s a horrific, twisted abomination that derives far too much enjoyment from taking the known genre definitions of black and death metal and turning them inside out, exposing their darkest recesses and making the devil’s music sound truly sinister once again.
Vexovoid is much the same. The latest outing from the band finds them building on their career defining step taken with Swarth back in 2009, that shoved their music into the faces of the general metal populace — those that were fortunate/unfortunate enough to witness that monstrosity will find themselves at home in the cavernous walls of Vexovoid, but at times, something even stranger begins to occur; you’ll find yourself asking, ‘was that a riff?’
‘Kilter‘ opens business as usual, before taking an unexpected twist. Muddy, dirty guitars swirl filth over the top of frantic drumming in patterns that only slightly resemble metal as we knew it, closely followed by a churning methodical and off-kilter riff that can only be described as the most twisted, Lovecraftian incarnation of Meshuggah-meets-Incantation possible. Portal have toyed before with similar ideas, but this time much of ‘Kilter‘ is built around it and rather than being a curious sideshow of their sound, instead because of it’s slight familiarity it becomes one of the most disconcerting moments on the entire record.
However, if you had to pick one song to really give an idea as to what Vexovoid and Portal are really all about, it would be the filthy slog of follow up and career highlight ‘The Back Wards‘. The ferocious tempest of Deathspell Omega meets the tar thick atmosphere and noisy hatred of Leviathan and Mitochondrion, all culminating in a sound so dense and oppressive that it would make even the grimmest and most misanthropic black metal act look like Styx in comparison.
At the same time though, Vexovoid suffers from an issue that has plagued pretty much every release in their back catalogue — just as you begin to become accustomed to the unearthly din on offer, the record abruptly ends. At roughly half an hour, it may be an effort to entice in those who find Portal a tiring listen, but where as, say, Reign In Blood left you wanting more and reaching for a pencil to wind back the cassette, here it just disrupts the atmosphere and it becomes quite jarring to simply start back the beginning again.
Vexovoid is still the perfect evolution for the band, though. They’ve clearly found their niche and to have messed with the formula too much could have been a risk with little reward, but the subtle changes on offer here do nothing but enhance the band’s already unique approach. They may dabble in more organic and human elements but it serves to make the whole far more twisted.
Portal’s Vexovoid gets…