(Our man BadWolf is trying a new review format with these quick takes on new releases by Portal (which I reviewed at length here yesterday), Head of the Demon, and Shai Hulud. Leave a comment and let us know what you think of this idea.)
Portal – Vexovoid
By this time many of you are already familiar with Australia’s Portal. They play a technical, alienating brand of death metal, a bit like Pyrrhon but sludgier, with more blunted riffage. The band’s imagery–hooded members and vocalist wearing a clock on his head—made a big splash at Maryland Deathfest. So big an impact, in fact, that I’d wager more people are familiar with the band’s image than their music—Portal is the only death metal band I can say that about, come to think of it. I found their 2011 album, Swarth, pretty unremarkable—another substance-free death metal record that sounds like it’s coated in mucus. That Swarth came out on Profound Lore, normally the best label I can think of, irked me more.
Now Portal’s back with Vexovoid, and maybe I was wrong to dismiss them. A little clarity in the production really shows off the technical aspects of their music—my inner Deathspell Omega fanatic did a little backflip while listening. I especially liked the song “Plasm,” which opens with a flurry of hypnotic blasting, then degenerates into foghorn distortion. I still hold some qualms: the titles and vocals still sound essentially like word-vomit, and Portal are aware that HP Lovecraft wrote fiction, not prophecy, right? Still, Vexovoid impressed me enough to warrant giving Swarth a second chance.