“We wanted to create an atmosphere of anxiety and fear.” Portrayal of Guilt guitarist/vocalist Matt King’s stated goal for Portrayal of Guilt’s third album and second full-length release of 2021 shouldn’t be that much of a shock for anyone familiar with the Austin black metal-tinged screamo destruction crew. Nor should it necessarily catch anyone off guard that a band that chooses to name their album CHRISTFUCKER—a title chosen in part because nobody else had already used it—would revel in sounds and concepts that push as deep as possible into the depths of darkness and horror.
Portrayal of Guilt are particularly good at that sort of thing, after all. Where their 2018 debut Let Pain Be Your Guide employed an explosive intensity and its early 2021 follow-up, We Are Always Alone got more comfortable in extended explorations in ominous dissonance, CHRISTFUCKER is the murkiest depths of their depravity thus far. A product of mushroom-addled hallucinations and sheer hostility, the band’s third LP is an extended feral bark, sludgier, murkier and with even less possibility of a ray of hope breaking through its bleak atmosphere.
Much of the album is spent lurching and churning rather than pursuing the more incendiary two-minute hardcore explosions for which Portrayal of Guilt is best known. The chorus-effect guitar that shimmers over the ghoulish bassline of “The Sixth Circle” finds the group pairing deathrock with death metal, a marriage made in hell that’s long overdue, and delivered with a menace that’s almost hedonistic. Where We Are Always Alone felt like a primal scream into the void of despair that’s threatened to swallow us whole for the past two years and then some, CHRISTFUCKER swan dives directly into its lightless center and embraces the vile horror that envelops it.
It’s oddly therapeutic. Something as deliberately vile as “…where the suffering never ends” is an invigorating tonic for dissolving the rust and scale, for a scalding to reawaken the senses. Everything about CHRISTFUCKER feels abrasive and dirty and wrong. And that feels strangely good.
Label: Run for Cover
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.