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Portrait - Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae - 80%

logboy, May 28th, 2011

Portraits self titled debut album was a solid piece of Mercyful Fate inspired, dark sounding and dark themed Heavy Metal. Alongside fellow countrymen In Solitude, RAM and the long-standing Wolf, the band have been flying the flag for the darker side to the sub-genre among the more popular acts of the current crop of ‘revival’ bands like White Wizzard or Enforcer.

With their signing to heavyweight label Metal Blade and a change in vocalist from their first album, have the band changed in the three years since the last album?

The answer is a mixed yes and no.

Firstly, the Mercyful Fate influence is still in play here, although not as heavily as the debut album. New vocalist Per Karlsson has a sound more his own, unlike previous vocalist Phillip Svennefelt who’s King Diamond impersonation was quite uncanny. Karlsson has a more traditional sound to his voice , utilizing a more powerful sounding regular singing and falsettos alongside the King Diamond styled vocals, giving more variety to the vocals as was seen on the previous album, a definite improvement in originality for the band.

Alongside the change in vocal style, the songs have had their own evolution from pure Mercyful Fate worship. While the influence is undoubtedly there, there are moments closer to speed metal such as the high speed opening track Beast of Fire. The songwriting, while still keeping a dark sound and feel, has also shifted from Mercyful Fate worship to also taking influence from the whole spectrum of Heavy Metal.

There has also been a definite improvement in the production of the album in comparison with the debut, sounding much thicker and with all instruments becoming audible over the thin and amateur production of the debut album. The improvement is another good turn, while sounding cleaner and more professional it still keeps the old-school edge to the sound, rather than going the route of ultra clean and sterile production plaguing releases by other bands of the genre.

The songs themselves are incredibly catchy and well written pieces of Heavy Metal. A variety of tempos are present from the high speed opener and The Nightcomers to more mid paced songs such as Darkness Forever, even adding in an interlude track to build up the atmosphere through the album in the form of the third track The Wilderness Beyond containing acoustic melodies and restrained leads, acting as an intro before the destruction of Bloodbath and its high speed riffing, guitar harmonies and drums – a classic Heavy Metal song in every way and one of the albums many highlights.

Overall, while the album is not doing anything entirely new to the genre, the band has achieved everything it sets out to do here – make a brilliant Heavy Metal album that both takes obvious influence in style from their idols while also adding their own songwriting style into the mix. The album is the perfect length and no song overstays its welcome, staying interesting by hooking the listener with brilliant riffs and guitar harmonies alongside shout along vocal passages.

A massive step up from their debut and a stand-out album among many other revival acts releases.

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