Saturday, May 9, 2015

My thoughts on Portal and their new album "Vexovoid"

You know, for the most part I have pretty much given up on what the metal genre has put out in the last decade or so and continues to put out. Bands are either trying too hard to emulate what has been done in previous decades in a "retro", "true" or "revival" fashion without ever properly getting the point of what they are trying to emulate, or trying too hard to be "different" and "unique". Sure, there is plenty of stuff I may enjoy as background music, both new bands and new stuff by old bands, certain new bands are just solid enough that I don't mind them. Sunn O))) for example is one of these bands I can listen to and enjoy on a basic level, even if they are just a more "artsy" version of early Earth. And as for old bands, you certainly won't ever see me running away screaming if someone puts on a new Master album, lest they expand on the metalcore elements on The Human Machine. But there really is next to nothing from the past decade I really consider outstanding in any way, or even approaching a state of being on par with what had been done at the peak of metal's development.

Portal is a band that among heaps of praise has drawn a fair share of criticism for being extremely one-dimensional, one style of riffing, drumming, vocals, and especially atmosphere throughout their works from start to end without variation. I agree with that criticism. They are one-dimensional. They only do one thing. But I gotta admit that when I first heard them, that one dimension, that one thing they do, hit me like a neutron bomb. They never stray from their thing, but you gotta admit that their thing is extremely powerful. It's a relentless attack on everything light, everything pretty, everything hopeful, everything on the good side of life. One critic described it as a perpetual feeling of being drawn into an abyss. That was supposed to be a bad thing. To me, it is shockingly infectious. This relentless attack of malevolent bleakness. What is malevolent bleakness? It is evil, but not out of anger, hate or any emotion, but out of the absence of emotion, the absence of conscience, the absence of goodness. The force with which Portal hit me when first listening to their early material really does make them one of the assorted few bands from this millenium that really stand out to me. In fact, if it wasn't for Norway's Hjarnidaudi, whom all of you should check out right now, Portal would probably be the cream of the crop. I still would never rate it as highly as the classics from the 80s and 90s, but it certainly towers over anything borne of this millenium.

That was the impact the early material had on me when I first heard it, and it still does when I put it on occasionally. But the band continued. Eventually, along came Swarth. And the band remained one-dimensional and never strayed from the one thing they do. And as they did, the impact waned. I didn't really feel anything from that record. It was just an exercise of "here's a bit more of the same", and I didn't need more of the same. It was exciting the first two times, but starting with the third album it no longer was. If you don't have new ideas, don't release a new album. Just because you're from Australia does not mean you're AC/DC. Bring us something new, hit us harder, up the ante. Don't give us an album that sounds like leftovers that didn't make it on the first two albums. Such a great band, but they just can't keep my interest if they just keep on doing the same thing over and over again. Four years passed, and the final nail was hammered in the coffin. Vexovoid.

Oh my. Did they get so caught up in the undeserved praise for Swarth that they never realised what a disaster it was? How can they release what is basically the same album again? There is absolutely no sense in this, no purpose, no thought, no plan, no idea, no inspiration, no creative spark, no fucking clue as to where to take their sound. They go through the motions every second of this album. There's not a single thing you haven't heard in better shape and form on the earlier albums. It basically sounds like they used a computer program that randomly assorts new arrangements of earlier material they fed it. Remember the Simpsons episode where Marge finds an expensive designer dress for a cheap price and keeps pretending to get new dresses to impress the rich people by altering and retailoring the same dress? That's basically what Portal are doing here. They've been doing it on Swarth already, but on Vexovoid they hit rock bottom, scrape the bottom of the barrel. The horse they're beating is deader than dead. Even a global zombie virus outbreak couldn't revive it to an undead state, that's how dead it is. A one-trick-pony beating a dead horse, that's macabre.

They are doing the exact same thing they have done the exact same way before, only without the creative spark or relentless purpose. I can't help but repeat that they are completely going through the motions here. It shouldn't be called Vexovoid, it should be called ReSwarth. Have they completely lost their will to deliver anything that will provoke any reaction other than ambivalence? It doesn't leave any impression whatsoever other than a feeling that not only was it completely unnecessary for me to hear it, it was completely unnecessary for them to record it as well. I can't fucking figure out what the purpose of this record is. Stop making carbon copies of your classic material. It's unnecessary and is nothing but a stain on your discography. Either develop some new ideas or refrain from releasing such pointless material. Can't you think of a way to go completely crazy and ramp up your music so it has the same impact the first two albums did? There must be a way. And I hope if Portal release another album, they will go down the road of upping the ante and completely fucking with our heads again rather than release the same album a fifth time, which would be a dismal portray of creative bankruptcy.

Bring back the previously malevolent bleakness. You can't do that by writing albums like an office clerk zombie processes the same standard forms every day in his cubicle. You have to unleash that force from deep within. Not from a superficial standpoint of releasing more of the same just to have a new album as an excuse to tour. Bring back the Portal I loved. Erase and forget the Portal that gave up on itself.

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