Portal - Hagbulbia review
|Release date:||May 2021|
02. Of Straw & Cloth
When you devote most of your career on themes about cosmic terrors annihilating mankind's senses, at some point you have to wander what is left after the psychological Armageddon is over. Hagbulbia explores that scenario.
Portal has been a front-runner of cavernous, colossal death metal with its murky, sometimes shapeless sound. With a production that more often than not puts a dark cloak on top of the compositions, the listener would always feel like there is something else lurking through the dissonant riffs, maddening drums and inhuman howls. So I was most intrigued when I found out Portal was going to release a companion piece to their latest album, Avow.
With Hagbulbia, the band puts focus on this indescribable sense of dread that dwells deep within their death metal sound while removing all traces of metal. What is left is a re-interpretation of their style in the form of a drone/noise album. The guitars take a huge step back, adding only background dissonance to the ambience and giving the album a slight industrial edge. While this is mainly drone music, it does have a clear percussive sense to it, with the pulsing tones and drum work discretely evoking the primitive, ritualistic tone the band has been known for. The vocals naturally take more of the spotlight this time with the howls, whisperings and growls fluctuating between being far away amidst the dark noise and right in your face. A lot of effects have been put into them as well, making them sound larger and more imposing, as if the listener was witnessing millions of souls dying by the hands of millions of unnamable beasts.
This mix of dark ambient, noise and drone achieves a sort of death industrial quality that reminds me a little bit of Abruptum's post-apocalyptic record, Potestates Apocalypsis, from 2011. Soundwise, they are very different, but the intent seems similar to me. But unlike that Abruptum release, which had a clearer theme and songwriting, I feel that Portal focuses on only exploring this hellish landscape rather than carefully describing it. Thus, the songs on this album remain formless, meandering and sometimes feel like they are not going anywhere in particular.
One thing I truly appreciate about Hagbulbia is that it's a noise album that couldn't be done by anyone other than Portal. It represents their style truthfully but with a different palette of sounds. Unfortunately it lacks staying power and direction. After enduring the harrowing scenery of the world's dying embers, perhaps the listener would like to witness the actual event that caused our end?
||Written on 08.06.2021 by|
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