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Portrayal Of Guilt’s last record, ‘Let Pain Be Your Guide‘ (2018), sounded exactly like that: pained. It was an intensive, fearsome blackened-hardcore LP that was hyper-emotive in feeling as it was savage in instrumental execution and bleak tone. Now, the very same could be said for the prolific band’s latest release, their short and sweet but noisy new EP, ‘Suffering Is A Gift.’ Unsurprisingly, this six-track EP sounds like it’s namesake: full-blown suffering, with some clarity, all musically embodied.
Opener ‘Self-Inflicted‘, after some washing distortion fades, repeats this one ringing note before the band suddenly explodes like an IED, charging full pelt into their famed combination of black metal screams, grinding drums, and blazing hardcore riffs. Well, for all of about 20 seconds, and then the song ends. Damn, can someone say blue balls? ‘Scarcity‘, originally the first taste of this new EP, is the stand-out track and my favourite Portrayal song yet. Because it’s actually a full track: it’s the longest song here at 2:52. It’s not just a short instrumental followed by a shorter secondary heavy section like some of its peers. Not only that, it captures Portrayal Of Guilt at their best as musicians and songwriters; I love that demented death metal section right before the creepy, buzzing sound effects of the noisy outro.
Next up, ‘Dissolution‘ is an 80-second blast-beat-athon that peels the skin right off your head with rapid snare and hi-hat hit combos and menacingly picked riffs, before opening up to reveal the sluggish mouth of hell. It’s a decent number, no doubt, but one that definitely could’ve used an extra minute or so tacked on to give it the right amount of punch. ‘Moral Decay‘ ends with a whirring, distorted soundscape that moves over into the dark chords and dire, post-apocalyptic mood of ‘A Futile Light.’ Which is a cool little instrumental piece that takes the record onto its last stretch with a final crescendo, but overall doesn’t do much on repeat listens nor has anything to really come back to either. Closer ‘Merciless‘, slows things right back down to the ominous guitar leads, oddly enough, instead of fully capitalizing on the 90-second build-up of the previous song. After an enjoyable blackened hardcore mid-section, the song contorts into this harrowing-sounding portal to the underworld with layered screams, messy guitars, and fast, cacophonous drumming, as the heavy breathing of a diabetic closes out the release. And… that’s it.
You may have noticed a running trend with ‘Suffering Is A Gift‘, and that’s that it’s short. Too fucking short, honestly. It ends just as it basically begins, just as it really gets going. (A similar issue with the latest Hesitation Wounds EP as well.) On one hand, it’s uncompromising and never goes on too long to ever grow tired or become bad, but on the other hand, it leaves me on-edge, a little unsatisfied, as a full release. This band’s supposed annual release strategy means that we’ll be getting another release before we even know it, but on its own, this is too little at times. Because it’s those strong moments when Portrayal establishes the flow, riffs, and the groove of a song that the EP stands at its tallest; when it stands as its strongest. But these moments are just far too short-lived. If it was twice the length, with twice the songs as a full record, maybe it would’ve worked a hell of a lot better.
Portrayal Of Guilt have taken the idea of “less is more” to maybe the wrong side of the extreme. As ‘Suffering Is A Gift’ is somewhat undone by it’s own brutally short run time. There’s nothing quite like a quick, feral dosage of blackened-hardcore adrenaline injected right into the veins, and there’s nothing wrong with that idea or style at all. I’m actually a real sucker for artists like this. Yet just like any awesome high, in the moment, it’s completely fleeting and it doesn’t last. ‘Suffering Is A Gift’ will be heralded by some due to its brevity, and whilst there’s some brooding, heavy impact here amongst the mesh of death metal, noise, grind and blackened hardcore, it could’ve gone much, much further in track size and in length. No doubt, at this rate, we’ll likely see a larger POG release sometime within the next year. And I can’t wait for it.
- Moral Decay
- A Futile Light
‘Suffering Is A Gift’ is out now: