Portal – ION Review

For anyone who hasn’t been keeping up with death metal for the last 15 years or so, Portal essentially take the stylings of death metal pioneers Incantation and apply the dissonance of Immolation and the technical approach of Gorguts. Blanket this with a thick level of atmosphere and psychological horror for a cocktail that would somewhat resemble the band’s style. The Australian natives have never been afraid of experimenting within their sound, as most evident with 2012’s release, Vexovoid. The production on the album was cleaned up, even polished, leaving more than a few fans wondering exactly what Portal would have up their sleeve when they announced the first follow-up in five years. Fear not: ION proves to be yet another stand-out release in their catalog, crafting a new chapter in their legacy of discomforting death metal.

Release date: January 26, 2018.
Label: Profound Lore Records.
Album opener “Nth” sets the stage before the first proper track, “ESP ION AGE,” explodes forth with a violent electricity. It’s as if Portal has combined their dark rituals of ancient magic with mysterious experiments to create an abomination between this world and other worlds of unspeakable terror. The whispered/growled rasp of The Curator offers a dark seduction into the madness at hand, while the riffs emanate chaotically, seemingly from Tesla coils harnessing a dark, schizophrenia-inducing energy. The guitar tones radiate like a static current: pulsing and crackling. The drumming is a precise and well-constructed assault, despite the chaotic nature of such music.

 

This is a chaos Portal have mastered, aiming to drive the listener to the brink of total madness. The album is full of surprises, and continues Portal’s tradition of being fresh and unpredictable. From the sound of millions of swarming, otherworldly insects being unleashed in “Phreqs” to the short circuiting sparks of cosmic energy flying off a track like “Revault of Vaults” or the claustrophobic enclosure of “Phathom,” the band still knows how to keep their audience in a vexatious state of listening. The album closer, “Olde Guarde,” deconstructs, as though the forbidden experiments are finally collapsing in on themselves before fading to one of Portal’s more haunting outros.

After a few days with the album, I continued to find myself lost in another of Portal’s dimensions of unfathomable horror. I began to question why I continued subjecting myself to such an auditory punishment, yet couldn’t pull away from it. The negative energy given off from the plane that ION is on is precisely what pulls the listener in. Recall Chemistry 101: an ion is an atom or molecule that has either taken on or lost electrons to give it a positive or negative charge, and Portal are undeniably radiating with a negative voltaic energy. They have mastered their style, without becoming stale or predictable, and while some may feel that ION is an attempt to polish what the band tried on Vexovoid, this really is not the case. ION stands on it own as a landmark in Portal’s discography, and proves that Portal still hold their crown as the kings of psychological death metal terror.

Posted by Ryan Tysinger

I listen to music, then I write about it. On Twitter @d00mfr0gg (Outro: The Winds Of Mayhem)

  1. I’d been struggling to really get into this album after the first few listens, as after Vexovoid I really loved the smothering wall of reverb and distortion on that album, but the cleaner sounds on Ion didn’t really resonate with me. That is, until I turned the volume up really loud! Seriously, sometimes it’s the smallest of things that makes the difference. Now I can’t stop listening to this record, it really needs to be heard loud in order to appreciate everything on this record, from the razor-sharp production (like …And Justice for All levels of treble, like is there is even bass on this album?) to the Curator’s harsh whispers/vocals. Early death metal AOTY contender for me one month into the year.

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