ARTIST: PORTRAYAL OF GUILT
TITLE: LET PAIN BE YOUR GUIDE
LABEL: HOLY ROAR
WORDS: JOE ARNOLD
‘Let Pain Be Your Guide’ might be the strongest debut album of the year. Hailing from Austin, Texas, Portrayal Of Guilt have succeeded in crafting a furious mix of Converge-influenced Hardcore, Black Metal and Noise Rock. While the band have not taken their more experimental inclinations as far as they can go, this is a thrilling effort that grips the listener from start to finish.
The album’s strengths are best exemplified by its opening track, ‘Daymare’. The song begins with a repeated sequence of discordant guitar notes before suddenly exploding into a wall of noise. The transition between this almost Industrial introduction and the ferocious riffing that follows catches the listener off-guard, making the song feel even more chaotic. Portrayal Of Guilt continue to subvert expectations for the rest of the track by incorporating changes in time signature and a sudden drop in volume to clean guitars in order to raise tension for a big finish. Such a song structure is common in heavy music, but the way in which the drums cut out and the guitars slow down even further before the climax cleverly toys with genre conventions. This way, the band can surprise even the most jaded listener, making the experience all the more shocking and cathartic.
“a thrilling effort that grips the listener from start to finish.”
Portrayal Of Guilt continue to keep listeners on their toes throughout the album. The use of blast beats in ‘Life Holds Nothing and Among Friends’ displays a strong Black Metal influence, while the sudden transition to clean guitar and more restrained vocals after the opening of the latter slams on the brakes for a change of pace. This demonstrates a strong ear for melody that also manifests at the end of ‘A Burden’ in the form of a wonky, offbeat lead riff that is reminiscent of At The Drive-In. By incorporating these surprising elements into their songs, the band succeeds in disorienting the listener; adding to the chaotic nature of the music by abandoning old ideas in favour of new ones before the they can get comfortable.
The vocals throughout ‘Let Pain Be Your Guide’ are also excellent. Allowing the lead guitar to provide any necessary melody, the vocalist instead chooses to unleash a variety of throat-shredding screams. He employs a number of styles; most frequently a high-pitched Black Metal shriek, but also a more restrained shout in quieter passages and the occasional low growl. All are utilised well and the variety prevents the album from becoming repetitive like many other, less skilled, bands that choose to forego melodic singing altogether.
The album’s one flaw is that the band do not sufficiently expand on their most interesting influences. While the Noise Rock and Industrial elements from the first track resurface later, they are relegated to interlude tracks ‘Let Pain Be Your Guide’ and ‘The Hunger’. The latter incorporates synths that gradually build tension with the pounding drums for an explosion of sound that never comes. Similarly, ‘Chamber of Misery (Pt. II)’ sees sinister guitar arpeggios alternating with the occasional moment of heaviness before simply ending with a wave of feedback. If properly expanded upon, these could have been the strongest, most inventive tracks on the album. But as it stands, the most exciting influences manifest mainly in overly short interludes, of which three in a ten-track album is too many. It is only on the ninth track – ‘Death is Gentle’ – that the band lives up to its promise. Opening with a clean guitar, the band build up heavy drums and distorted bass, then push forward with a descending lead riff and a lurching, purposeful beat before eventually cutting back to clean guitar for the ending. Portrayal of Guilt have approached heaviness in a different way here, and it results in the album’s slowest, most progressive song.
“the band can surprise even the most jaded listener, making the experience all the more shocking and cathartic.”
‘Let Pain Be Your Guide’ is a stellar debut album. It constantly disorients the audience throughout its first half with its disparate influences and readiness to drop ideas that less ambitious bands might stick to for entire songs. The chaos of the song structures contributes to the intensity as much as the music itself. However, the band’s failure to evolve the overabundant experimental interludes into full songs means that the album’s second half cannot help but disappoint just a touch, as it could have been much better. Above all, this album shows massive potential, and they’re clearly a band to watch because if they find a way to fuse the disparate elements of their sound, they will create something truly game-changing.