Portal – Vexovoid (Profound Lore Records)

Monday, 22nd April 2013
Rating: 8/10

Australia’s Portal find themselves in the unique class of death metal bands where upon they have their own set of descriptors. Oftentimes, the words “warped,” “vacuum” and “abyss” get shuttled out when talking about these lads and for the most part, they’re spot-on. Listening to Portal is like listening to a Morbid Angel album backward, albeit with an even more deranged sense of purpose. It’s no wonder that their 2010 effort Swarth was such a gem. Its Vexovoid follow-up figures to follow suit.

Vexovoid wisely stays in line with its predecessor, with rumbled, jumbled riffs comprising the foundation of the album’s seven songs. When there’s a break in the action or momentary breather, that’s when Portal darts for the finish line, like on “Plasm,” where incomprehensible time signatures make for a jarring listen. You’re going to find the same thing on the twisting “The Black Wards” and dazzling “Awyreon,” which features some daredevil guitar runs that for once, break from the norm. Naturally, the song breaks into a cloaked, almost mystical mid-section. Curveballs can sometimes be expected from these lads.

A closing respite from the maelstrom comes by way of “Oblotten,” which serves as the album’s bookend. While it doesn’t possess the frazzled tempo of the other tracks on the album, it’s equally as moving and unsettling. It’s like this with Portal: They never let you get comfortable. Vexovoid is discomfort at its finest.

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