Thursday, December 10, 2009

Portal - Swarth (Profound Lore, 2009)

There's another Portal that opened in 1994, the band formed by 3/4 of Cynic shortly after the release of Focus. That Portal closed shortly after releasing a demo. This Portal is still wide open after its own 1994 birthing, and like the infamous refrigerator from Ghostbusters, it's let some pretty awful things pass between this world and whatever hellish nether-region it connects to. The awfullest are on the Australian band's third full-length album Swarth. Of course this is death metal, so the awfuller the better. But even in a genre in which the words "beastly," "inhuman" and "brutal" are used to express approval, Portal manage to out-nasty pretty much every other band on the planet. WTF, mate?


They do it by holding up a cracked, dusted-over mirror to death metal. Portal's guitars seem to detune themselves as they're played, turning tremolo picking into the revving of broken vacuums. Drums clatter in brief surges, rumbling where they should crash and pummel. Nothing locks; gusts of hoarse bellows from vocalist The Curator howl through like a tornado ravaging a ghost town. The uniqueness of Portal's sound obscures some pretty out there song structures, too. Like Gorguts, whose Obscura is perhaps Swarth's closest spiritual cousin, Portal's abstraction lies in its disorienting vibe. But don't call their willfully esoteric sound and lyrics pretentious. This is primal music, and it disturbs at a deep, physical level. Portal's commitment to unease is total. What could be more metal than that?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Decibel's Top 100 Greatest Metal Albums of the Decade

Publish a list of the 100 greatest anythings of the any time period and a crowd of howling banshees will come out of the woodwork proclaiming your suckiness and positing at least 100 of said thing that were better than the ones you chose. Credit Decibel, then, for not giving a flying fuck, and publishing a list of the 100 greatest metal albums that panders neither to metal purists nor to posturing beardos. Yes, there are dubious inclusions (Fugazi's The Argument, gobsmackingly brilliant an album as it is, couldn't fit anyone's definition of metal). But there's also a ton of stylistic range, and the fine writing that's long been Decibel's trademark. Plus, it's a way more interesting list than MetalSucks' 21 Best Metal Albums of the 21st Century...So Far debacle.

There's plenty to dispute inside the superslick pages of Decibel's 100 Greatest Metal Albums of the Decade special issue. But beyond dispute is the fact that Decibel is the raddest extreme music mag currently published in America, and worthy of your cash. $5.99 is a bargain for this much food for thought...there are even a couple illuminating, expanded versions of Decibel's awesome Hall of Fame series. You can use it as a conversation piece, a Christmas present, a bathroom reading option or all of the above.

You can pick up your own copy here, or at select indie music retailers. I wrote four blurbs in it, so if you love me, you've already ordered ten copies.