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Honest and authentic - 72%

Felix 1666, December 23rd, 2017
Written based on this version: 2011, CD, Metal Blade Records

"Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae", released in 2011, confirms an old finding anew. An expressive artwork is helpful. Portrait's second work shines with a picture that mirrors the general heavy metal approach (the barren landscape and the grey clouds), the unruliness of the compositions (the gnarled trees) and their occult touch (the church in the distance). It makes simple minds like me curious to discover the music of the Swedes and I guess that only an insignificant number of confused suckers will be disappointed when they do the same. Okay, this disc is not a breathtaking masterpiece, but a very solid, sometimes exciting full-length.

It seems as if one cannot write a review for this album without dropping the name Mercyful Fate and I admit that tracks like "Infinite Descension" have much in common with the material of the Danish legend. The complex structures, the aforementioned occult aura or the vocal style build a resilient bridge to the dominion of the King. But the opener, for example, does not flirt with the outputs of the pioneers from Copenhagen. "Beast of Fire" is, despite its duration of almost eight minutes, pretty straightforward. The double bass motivates the entire group and a speedy number with some melodic leads and an alarming chorus is the result. The song does not border on thrash, but the frontier is in sight. Great instrumental parts combine velocity with melody and the band proves its high level of energy right from the beginning. The tingling "Bloodbath" takes the same course and leaves a lively aroma, too. If we take a sober view, these tunes deliver nothing else but traditional metal which is presented in a very fresh and sometimes stirring form. I don't hate the sub genres, by no means, but at times it feels good to get back to the roots.

One could discuss whether the album suffers from a lack of compactness. Seven songs and a pretty mediocre intermezzo deliver the stuff for nearly 54 minutes. These numbers indicate an imbalance and unfortunately, they tell no lies. Some songs do not really come to the point and they also fail to create a dramatic or epic structure. Tunes like "Der Todesking" (what kind of German English is this?) have a small number of attractive sequences, but they are simply too long. The band strives for variety and adds a calm part. Nevertheless, it seems as if the level of heaviness and intensity remains more or less the same during the entire nine minutes. Furthermore, the guitar work is surely ambitious, but without outstanding riffs or leads. Maybe I am just to picky, but the less rapid tracks rather convince with their honesty than with compositional excellence. Either way, honesty marks an important feature and therefore Portrait's album belongs to these albums I do not want to miss. And I cherish the fact that the band acts passionately. The clear, often high-pitched and more or less melodic vocals illustrate this as well as the guitar work that avoids ordinary lines and banal leads intelligently.

In terms of the production, Portrait do not deliver any kind of weak points. The album sounds like a tradition-conscious album should sound: powerful, clearly defined and (not overly) aggressive - and its last highlight ("The Passion") is another track which is definitely worth discovering. So let's confirm another old finding anew. Authenticity and coherence can be the compensation for little musical deficiencies, at least to a certain extent. Thus, I guess that every old school metal maniac can lend an ear to "Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae".