Portrayal of Guilt
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ABOVE THE CURRENT
In a year that will see the release of countless heavy-rock records, Portrayal of Guilt’s Devil Music is guaranteed to stand alone by the end of it. The still-fresh Austin trio uses their fourth album to upend preconceived notions of what loud music can do—then flips the script halfway through. And the results are sheer magnificence. Regardless of whether the record is your cup of tea (or more like absinthe in this case), Devil Music pulls a magic trick like no other.
Portrayal of Guilt, at least the version of the band that introduces Devil Music, embrace most extreme types of music it can carry in its collective arms: hardcore, grindcore, black metal, you name it. Vocalist/guitarist Matt King, bassist Alex Stanfield, and drummer James Beveridge splatter gritty, grimy, and grisly gruel on an unblemished canvas with all the maniacal, inebriated enthusiasm of Jackson Pollock. With this emetic gesture, they convince the audience that the entirety of Devil Music will consist of this frothing, untethered mayhem with few points of reference. However, those with ears well-trained to sludge, experimental hardcore, and grind may detect some resemblance between the eerily dissonant “Untitled” and Mastodon’s “Megalodon,” while King’s glass-shattering screams occasionally recall those of Chris “CT” Terry from Rwake.
But then the magicians of Portrayal of Guilt unveil the turn, the deft, game-changing move that defies all expectations: Suddenly, the band restarts the album, but with strings and light percussion supplanting the deafening electric guitars, bass, and drums. It’s as if early Apocalyptica barnstormed the recording studio and booted out the band. Presenting mostly instrumental versions of the album’s first half (with King still shrieking throughout), this doesn’t last for a song or two—it spans the rest of the record, which comes to an abrupt end after 31 minutes.
“I’m a huge fan of Celtic Frost,” King divulged over email about the Swiss avant-garde metal pioneers when I pressed him for answers about the record’s structure. “The inspiration behind the orchestral side is based on a few of the tracks on Into the Pandemonium. ‘Sorrows of the Moon’ has an alternate orchestral version called ‘Tristesses de la Lune’ that I love. I felt that it would be interesting and challenging to do an entire album with that idea in mind.”
King revealed that Portrayal of Guilt decided to take their experiment a step further. When asked why the band didn’t release Sides A and B of Devil Music separately, he explained: “This is meant to be an A-side/B-side situation. You hear the album one way, and then you flip it for an alternate version. I haven’t seen that done before.”
Neither have I, and most likely, neither have you. And if that alone isn’t reason enough for adventurous listeners of heavy music to give Devil Music a spin, I can’t think of a better one.