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Really not that great. - 62%

Empyreal, June 7th, 2015

It's really getting to be lame when I have to keep leveling the same complaints at so many modern metal albums, but here we go again – this is just too long and has no really good hooks. Portait is a hot young band and they've been getting accolades for years now. Personally I just can't get into it much – sure, it's good for what it is and all, it'd be tough to claim this is offensive to the ears or unpleasant to listen to. But it's just not all that amazing, and the band still has a long way to go, I think.

The basis for the sound is basically just Mercyful Fate – that's the most audible influence by a country mile. You get the fiery, scorching leadwork and molten metal guitar tone, the frantic, fast-paced riffing and even a wild vocal performance that sort of sound like King Diamond, a bit. But the songwriting just isn't there. Don't Break the Oath had guitar work that was as much about old 70s style metal as it was about new, extreme, scary stuff – you could hear the band with one foot in the grave and one foot in some sort of time portal to future extremity. It was great – Satanic theatricality mixed with the heavist, meanest, loudest and most unforgettable metal out there. Portrait just don't have even close to the same level of catchiness or the same presence with every riff. Their songs often replace grounded catchy moments with over-long repetition, like eight or nine minute songs at times, and while none of the songs are bad, none of them will stick with you either. The vocals are solid, but just not all that distinct, and he spends more time wailing in the super high registers, as opposed to creating hooky, dramatic lines that we'll remember later. It sounds, overall, like the band just listened to Mercyful Fate and stuff that came out later, and didn't spend enough time listening to the roots - Deep Purple, Priest, Motorhead, Sabbath, et cetera. That's where the secret lies. You need great hooks. Fate had it, and Portrait just does not on this album.

And yeah, it's not a crime to be not as good as Mercyful fucking Fate of all bands. Tracks like “Beast of Fire” or “Bloodbath” sound energized and heavy, which is good, but they also just don't have the charisma and personality Fate had at their best. Every song starts with a good riff but then they don't really do much interesting with it – they play complex and fast, but they forsake any moments that would really barb themselves into the listener's brain. Just playing fast and heavy isn't good enough, you need memorable hooks – Portrait on here go for more of an epic, multi-layered complexity, but that isn't as well done as I'd like either. The comparison in sounds to Mercyful Fate is so near identical that you kind of have to make the comparison, and Portrait come out the losers there very, very easily. I just don't see a point in mimicking one specific band's iconic sound so slavishly – that also goes for bands who ape Blind Guardian and other such instantly recognizable bands, mind you. It's too easy to make the comparison, and the standards are just too high. These guys are talented, and hopefully they improve later, but this is really just an OK album, and nothing more.