ost available lit on Australia’s Portal tends to cast them as a multi-media guerilla outfit—a perplexing mixture of avant-garde film and surrealist imago. Of course, the visual element is lost with the recording, in this case eight tracks of dense Death Metal cum audio fuckery that ends up sounding like Beherit’s earliest incarnation playing a gig over a Carcass CD on repeat. The vocals are pure Beheritian Holocausto, baritone gargles that surf out of the throat on rafts of thick black vomit. They intrude only occasionally, ceding space to onanistic guitars, fritzing jackoff lines that cover one another in a big ol’ arpeggio bukkake. When the drums aren’t hammering out series after series of blastbeats, they’re laying sheet metal cymbal shatter over the top of each piece, shaking it into place with brain rattling double-bass drum din.
“Transcending a Mere Multiverse,” despite its awkward title, is a lithe standout, with tremolo wank and neighing upper register that summons forth notions of the Death Metal dustbin, where lanky leathered rockers swayed to and fro from battered PA perches. The longest track, “The Endmills,” blows out of the gate like the Mayhem of old, driving drums, guitars shredding over head, vocals a grim dictate, wound tightly around triumphal exhalation and Tom Warrior’d Popeye grunt. Oddly enough, the whole thing warps into an overexposed blur of calliope, seagull skree, and sun melted cassette loops slowed down under the weight of long lost horror soundtracks, musique concrete cut-up, Penderecki styled atonal smears.
Portal’s strength is in their style, a continual revving up and slowing down, where structures are poured like concrete and then blown apart by impatiently pugilistic drumming. Some pieces come off as if Can mixmaster Holger Czukay had two hands in the tape, where movements are rendered as collisions between instruments and voice, much in the same way Czukay’s scissors styled Can’s trademark “abruptness.” Few—if any—of the metal horde work with such a wide palate, fusing an avant composer’s tendency towards highbrow tinkering with Death Metal athletics. Thankfully, a clinical approach does little to dispel the rawness of the finished product, putting Portal comfortably in place with other stalwarts of metal’s cryptic lot, such as Benighted Leams or Mistigo Varggoth Darkestra.
Reviewed by: Stewart Voegtlin
Reviewed on: 2006-03-03