Portal - ION review



Reviewer:
7.0

68 users:
7.07
Band: Portal
Album: ION
Release date: January 2018


01. Nth
02. ESP ION AGE
03. Husk
04. Phreqs
05. Crone
06. Revault Of Volts
07. Spores
08. Phathom
09. Olde Guarde


Albums that sit somewhere in the 6 - 7 range for rating are often some of the most disappointing, because, while not terrible, they often end up leaving such a strong impression of "this could have been better." With the fearsome, commendable reputation they've acquired over the years, the nightmarish Portal would probably be one of the last bands one would ever expect to drop such an album. But, for better or worse, we find ourselves in such a situation with ION.

For die hard Portal fans who are well accustomed to the dense, suffocating death metal of the band's discography, upon listening to the first few seconds of ION's "ESP ION AGE," something will probably feel a little off. Not "off" as in "bad," but simply… different. Unusual. On this track the overall production is noticeably more audible and less smothering than before, and the remainder of the album more or less follows suit. The suffocating sound that Portal have made their trademark, as though as though a black, sentient curtain is slowly eating you alive, has been diminished significantly. In turn the music sounds a lot more "ringy" and treble heavy, which unfortunately means less emphasis on bass, thereby making ION considerably less colossal and imposing than what else Portal have generated.

Whether this increased sense of production audibility is a good thing or a bad thing, however, is a tough coin to call. While it somewhat detracts from the overall weight of the music on the one hand, on the other hand it serves to make the different aspects of Portal's composition much clearer and not as difficult to discern. With ION it's much easier to focus on one specific dimension of the music over another, because things are no longer as buried and melted all together as they previously were, and this also creates a much greater appreciation for the subtle intricacies of Portal's music as well. For music listeners who enjoy being able to take in the various ingredients of a band's sound for all they're worth, this new approach on ION may come as highly satisfying, but longtime fans who enjoyed the more blurred, "sonic maelstrom" approach of albums like Outre' and Vexovoid may have more of an issue with it.

Almost five years after their last album, ION isn't quite the triumphant return to the throne for Portal that many were probably expecting it to be. But this certainly doesn't mean that it's a poor release. Rather, it simply represents a significant shift in Portal's compositional approach, a shift that some will enjoy, some will detest, and that others like myself will be somewhat ambivalent towards. Above all though, ION is certainly more good than bad, and the fact that Portal shook things up with a new approach on this album is testament to their commitment to evolve their sound, which is always something to admire. And at the end of the day, an album from these masters that comes as slightly disappointing is still probably better than what a good 80% of death metal bands could conjure on their best days.


Take the square root of -1. The portal beckons once more.


Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 7
Originality: 8
Production: 6


 



Written on 11.02.2018 by Comforting the disturbed and disturbing the comfortable since 2013.


Comments

Comments: 11   Visited by: 160 users
12.02.2018 - 01:13
theFIST
Generally agree with the review, except for the production
the more treble focused sound is the one good thing about it, too many albums nowadays get ruined by being drowned in bass like the electronic audiotorture used to sell more drinks for drowning it out,
but the entangled sound was what made them so impactful, and worth relistening for the feeling it creates, leading to at some point figuring out the parts anyways, while without that it is just too conventional, not quite technical death
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http://metalstormmusicianscorner.bandcamp.com
Written by Warman on 07.11.2007 at 22:39
Haha, that's like saying "compose your own Metal album and upload it here, instead of writing a review of an album". :lol:
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12.02.2018 - 01:26
Apothecary
PsyCHEdelic
Written by theFIST on 12.02.2018 at 01:13

The more treble focused sound is the one good thing about it, too many albums nowadays get ruined by being drowned in bass like the electronic audiotorture used to sell more drinks for drowning it out,
but the entangled sound was what made them so impactful, and worth relistening for the feeling it creates, leading to at some point figuring out the parts anyways, while without that it is just too conventional, not quite technical death

I generally agree with you, but Portal have been around for a good while, so it's harder to accuse them of using that "drowning in bass" technique for a gimmick when they were basically one of the bands that pioneered it to begin with.

I don't mind the increased audibility and emphasis on treble here, but I like the effect it has on the sound of the vocals more than on the rest of the music. Kinda wish they had gone for an approach where the vocals are brought out more like they are here, but combined with the dirtier, denser guitar sound of earlier. "Spores" is a really good example of what I mean actually, if the rest of the album was more in the vein of that track I probably would enjoy it a little more.
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Check list and give validate, ya kook.
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12.02.2018 - 12:35
theFIST
Written by Apothecary on 12.02.2018 at 01:26

I generally agree with you, but Portal have been around for a good while, so it's harder to accuse them of using that "drowning in bass" technique for a gimmick when they were basically one of the bands that pioneered it to begin with.

didn"t mean just portal"s sound specifically, or using as a gimmick, but the general trend towards bassier production that is ruining contemporary albums, including those that have nothing in common with Portal
agreed that Spores is a lovely track
----
http://metalstormmusicianscorner.bandcamp.com
Written by Warman on 07.11.2007 at 22:39
Haha, that's like saying "compose your own Metal album and upload it here, instead of writing a review of an album". :lol:
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13.02.2018 - 00:47
mz
I'm not sure if I finished this album . I wished for something in the vein of the teaser they released
As I said before , this is the biggest disappointment in many years for me.
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Giving my ears a rest from music.
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13.02.2018 - 03:14
Apothecary
PsyCHEdelic
Written by mz on 13.02.2018 at 00:47

I'm not sure if I finished this album . I wished for something in the vein of the teaser they released
As I said before , this is the biggest disappointment in many years for me.

As far as recent disappointments go in the realm of extreme metal, I'd say I was way more disappointed with the new WITTR album than with this. I can understand why this new sound upsets some fans so much (not just you), but after a point I think I just came to enjoy the new clarity it gives the instrumentation more than I was annoyed at it not sounding like the earlier albums.

If you didn't finish this and aren't really feeling inclined to, I would encourage you to listen to Olde Guarde at least, the latter half of that track gets super droney and atmospheric and it's really interesting. It's only for like 4 minutes but as I said in the album thread, it teases a lot with ideas of what Portal would sound like as a purely dark ambient band.
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Check list and give validate, ya kook.
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16.02.2018 - 05:27
flightoficarus
Stamp Tramp
7 feels like too low. This is an 8 at least. Agreed on the production changes though.
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Daily underground metal recommendations at Metal Trenches.
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17.02.2018 - 00:00
Apothecary
PsyCHEdelic
Written by flightoficarus on 16.02.2018 at 05:27

7 feels like too low. This is an 8 at least. Agreed on the production changes though.

It's a grower for sure, I feel like I might be leaning more toward 8 the more I listen to it. Ultimately I'm more intrigued by the new production technique making the compositional elements cleaner than I am upset about it sacrificing the more murky, hellish sound of earlier. Still not as amazing as albums like Outre' and Vexovoid in my book, but it gets the job done in its own way.
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Check list and give validate, ya kook.
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17.04.2018 - 16:35
LuciferOfGayness
MS necromancer
Edit and take out the first paragraph and its a fine review.
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18.04.2018 - 14:55
Mercurial
Written by LuciferOfGayness on 17.04.2018 at 16:35

Edit and take out the first paragraph and its a fine review.

Nah, the first paragraph sums up a paradigm perfectly and one that now applies to Portal. Portal's new take on the more higher frequency production tones wasn't particuarly well done, so it could have indeed been a much better album that would have pushed it comfortably into the 8+ score arena. As it stands the album just sounds a bit flat.
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18.04.2018 - 19:37
LuciferOfGayness
MS necromancer
Written by Mercurial on 18.04.2018 at 14:55

Written by LuciferOfGayness on 17.04.2018 at 16:35

Edit and take out the first paragraph and its a fine review.

Nah, the first paragraph sums up a paradigm perfectly and one that now applies to Portal. Portal's new take on the more higher frequency production tones wasn't particuarly well done, so it could have indeed been a much better album that would have pushed it comfortably into the 8+ score arena. As it stands the album just sounds a bit flat.

I was only refering to the text itself (we are all entitled to have different opinions on the album and the review . Most of the text is ambiguous and thats fine, while the first paragraph is a bit dramatic and attention seeking.
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18.04.2018 - 23:15
Mercurial
Written by LuciferOfGayness on 18.04.2018 at 19:37

I was only refering to the text itself (we are all entitled to have different opinions on the album and the review . Most of the text is ambiguous and thats fine, while the first paragraph is a bit dramatic and attention seeking.

It's fine, I don't see anything wrong with it. It's a review, not an academic paper, designed to draw in a reader with something entertaining, flashy, familiar etc. so that type of intro works well.
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