Portrait – Burn the World (Metal Blade)Monday, 14th August 2017
As cross-pollination and modernization make headway in metal, it’s always nice to step back and find musicians set in churning out the roots of the genre – regardless of trends. Since 2006 Portrait have blazed a trail for heavy metal – the type that brings out the denim and leather brigade, adorning battle vests with Iron Maiden, Running Wild, and Mercyful Fate patches. Gaining respect from festival goers unsigned by playing Sweden Rock and Keep It True prior to signing with Metal Blade, they’ve released three full-lengths plus a split 12” vinyl with RAM – setting the stage for Burn the World. This 10-track platter is another sinister effort that doesn’t rock their discography to date so much as just expand on the strengths of aggression, atmosphere, and axe-wielding, high octane melodies for an older, wiser, and dynamically pleasing recording.
Because of the core members previous thrash/death experience in earlier bands, it’s easy to tell Portrait performs in a primal form when you take in the biting, 80’s oriented guitar/bass tones and natural drum hits. Check out the trilling against the follow up minor chord choices for “Flaming Blood” or explosive drum salvo that opens “The Sower’s Cross” and you’ll understand the quintet has serious credibility and aren’t riding any retro-trend nuances. Spacing out the longer tracks for the second, sixth, and final cuts allows the listener to absorb the flow of the record as if climbing a mountain where things rise, level off, descend, and climb once again. Be it surprise blast beats during the title track or the narrative elements against the clean, opulent guitar lines midway through “Martyrs”, the band challenge themselves to twist formulas in achieving a memorable takeaway.
As two new members make their recording debut with the band (welcome guitarist Robin Holmberg and bassist Fredrik Petersson), the principle parties keep the Portrait train chugging along smoothly. Per Lengstedt craves the mid-range to upper falsetto wailing, traversing legends of Rob Halford and King Diamond to make the previously mentioned “Flaming Blood” one of many standouts. Even the guest organ work from Hell’s Kevin Bower for “Likfassna” plus ex-Dissection guitarist Set Teitan who contributes three solos feels right for all the best reasons – contributions that add the final topping to an already attractive feast.
Let’s hope this is the record to finally get Portrait stateside to witness their material on stage – more metal consumers need this band in their lives.