Generally categorized as death metal or blackened death, if you’ve never heard Portal before, I’m hard-pressed to describe their chaotic sound. They’ve built up a cult following over the years and metal fans seem to either obsessively love them or wring their hands in consternation because they don't understand what the hell is going on. Chances are if you like Morbid Angel, Immolation, Beherit, Mitochondrion, or Deathspell Omega, you will enjoy Portal, though they are not exactly like any of those bands. Or any band ever, except maybe Impetuous Ritual, which is loosely a Portal side project. Basically if you've never heard Portal and you like your metal weird, they come highly, highly recommended.
Began in Brisbane, Australia by The Curator (vocals) and Horror Illogium (lead guitar) in 1994, everyone in Portal uses an alias and wears a mask of some kind to obscure their normal appearance (typically executioner’s hoods). The Curator became famous for wearing a clock mask on his head, but has retired it for a demented pope’s habit and a tattered wizard’s hat, among other things. The Curator and Horror Illogium are currently joined by Aphotic Mote (rhythm guitar), Ignis Fatuus (drums), and Omenous Fugue (bass).
Vexovoid is their fourth studio album and follows 2009’s Swarth. It sticks pretty closely to their traditional sound: distorted, swirling, down-tuned guitars, disorienting sound effects, guttural, menacing vocals and an overall unfriendly atmosphere. This is bleak, extreme metal that evokes real feelings of horror, chaos, and disorientation. The album is not a huge departure from Swarth, so fans will not be disappointed, but it is also new and complex enough to warrant me listening to it several times in one week. Everyone else should keep in mind that Portal is, to put it mildly, an acquired taste. If you want to be actively challenged (if not outright threatened) by music, listen to the album here and buy it on Amazon or through Profound Lore. The amazing cover art is from the Reverend Kriss Hades and the album is comprised of seven tracks and is surprisingly short, at about 35 minutes. It was released on February 19th by Profound Lore.
The Curator was kind enough to cross the internet-space-time continuum and answer a few questions about the new album.
Satanic Pandemonium: So far Vexovoid is my favorite album of 2013. Can you talk about the inspiration behind it and how it progresses what you are trying to do with Portal?
The Curator: Vexovoid was developed and fueled from our own lore. No outer references tarnished its conception, as is with 90% of our works.
SP: How do you summon up the kind of atmosphere you need to write and record?
TC: Portal is merely our interpretation of Death Metal, which we think should be dark.
SP: Your music has always felt very cinematic to me and I’ve read that you have many influences outside of music, such as the writings of H.P. Lovecraft. Can you name any other inspirations?
TC: We are not a Lovecraftian Band. We only borrowed from the Mythos in our infancy and had reference themes on several tracks.
SP: Your live shows are very stylized. Where do you get ideas for your various costumes and how are these produced?
TC: All regalia is out sourced through various global merchants. The way we present ourselves physically is merely an accompaniment for our Aural spectrum.
SP: Seeing Portal at Maryland Death Fest was one of my absolute favorite shows. Do you have a favorite city to play in or a favorite show to date?
TC: America was an eye opener for certain with Portland and Seattle being highlights for myself.
SP: I'm sure everyone who has heard the new album wants to know: When are you coming back to the U.S.?
TC: We would like to cross the divide again in the future; however, I cannot place a date on it. Thank you for your Time and support.
SP: Thanks again! I hope I get to see you guys live sometime in 2013.
I also had to include this: The Top Ten Most Ridiculous Things Written on the Internet About Portal This Month from Chips and Beer. Visit Portal on Facebook. Happy listening, or, rather, very unhappy and possibly sanity unraveling listening.