Portrayal of Guilt : Devil Music
It’s wild to think that Portrayal of Guilt formed only six years ago. The Austin-based band have become staples of contemporary heavy music, releasing stacks of material (four full-lengths and six EPs thus far) and relentlessly touring with disparate acts such as Birds In Row, END and Skeletonwitch. This malleability is the band’s greatest asset. Though they started out clearly indebted to turn-of-the-millennium screamo, they’ve since revealed their true ambitions, which are much darker and more experimental than any mere revivalist project.
Their sense of ambition and scope is closest to idiosyncratic grind act Full of Hell, whose vocalist Dylan Walker actually featured on their debut Let Pain Be Your Guide. Like FoH, Portrayal of Guilt have a knack for coming up with intriguing conceptual goals. So far they’ve released horror-inspired videos, channeled Dante’s Inferno (on scorching previous LP Christfucker) and now on fourth full-length Devil Music, they’ve started to jettison familiar rock instrumentation in favor of gothic orchestration.
At its midpoint, Devil Music makes the bold move to sonically bifurcate. The final five tracks are a jaw-dropping pentaptych (yes that is a word) that reinterprets the previous five as a horrifying orchestral epic. Vocalist Matt King’s abrasive screams remain, however piercing strings, booming timpani and doom-leaden horns are introduced instead of the band’s usual blend of caustic metal. It’s an audacious experiment, of which the terrifying “III (Burning Hand)” is the highlight. Incorporating the most distinct instrumentation of the bunch, including frantic bells and layers of demonic vocals, “III (Burning Hand)” is legitimately panic inducing.
Side-A is hardly any less alarming. PoG have already transcended subgenres and developed into purveyors of a wholly-distinct and distinctly-savage brand of extreme metal. Their raw and spacious textures are put to punishing use on “Untitled,” whose hallowed space echoes like some impossibly-large chamber. “Burning Hand” opts instead for groove and movement, riding a discordant bounce that jitters and twitches like a possessed marionette. If you can’t tell from these metaphors, PoG excel at creating nightmarish music. However, the band’s true brilliance comes from the fact that the atmospherics never feel labored, just intuitive and fleet-footedly compelling.
Devil Music is only going to appeal to those with a predisposition to grim and nasty music—its title alone is enough to convey as much. However, for those who like transgression and experimentation mixed in with their heaviness, PoG have such delights to show you. It’s also something of a leap forward for the band. Given their previous dabbling in horror cinema and the fact that Devil Music’s B-side is so clearly inspired by the soundtrack work of Bernard Hermann and Jerry Goldsmith, don’t be surprised if PoG soon announces that they’re working on an indie horror film. Devil Music more than proves that they’ve got the skills to pull it off.
Label: Run for Cover