The Back Wards
At times, listening to Portal’s complex music is a bit like enlisting in sonic boot camp. “Kilter” opens the Australian death/black metal band’s fourth studio album with a relentless pummeling of near-mechanical rhythms. Combined with similarly ferocious attacks of guitar distortion, this may leave listeners feeling exhausted. But it’d be a rewarding kind of exhaustion—one bound to leave smokers grabbing for their packs of cigarettes. There are some magical moments during the following song, “The Black Wards,” where a barrage of guitars, bass, and drums sounds like it’s folding in on itself, creating ambient overtones similar to those made by Wolves in the Throne Room. But any inadvertent beauty created within these soundscapes is violently ripped apart by the demonic vocal incantations of Portal's frontman, who goes by the stage name The Curator. Describing someone who mostly hisses and growls as a "lead singer" might be insulting to him. The evil sounds and textures he creates in “Plasm” (and throughout Vexovoid) can be considered another integral instrument of the band, rather than a traditional centerpiece.