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Portrait | ‘Burn the World’

Portrait have come a long way since their delightfully odd debut record.

They’ve progressed from fresh-eyed Mercyful Fate acolytes to lasting heavy metal warriors.

They’ve done it with a remarkable commitment to quality.

‘Burn the World’ sees the band release their third full-length via Metal Blade. The US label seems to have become a steady home for the Swedish metal magicians.

The group have persevered through the glut of retro metal acts, using real quality and the distinctive wail of singer Per Lengstedt to forge actual character.

That’s something pretty special in this day and age. 20 seconds into the first track proper, and it could be no-one but Portrait.

The band have long since established themselves as a no-nonsense trad heavy metal band, unafraid to push things harder and faster than the competition.

Formulas, fatal & fresh

The formulas of 80s-style metal are long since established. They’re a set of sounds that we dearly love, but what sets ‘Burn the World’ apart is the band’s willingness to push beyond the galloping tropes and fills that distinguish so many in this style.

Maybe it has something to do with the group having been stripped down to a core trio on this record – but things do sound more condensed.

In many respects, it makes for a stronger impact.

Every second of the title track is packed full of sound – wailing guitar, machine gun scale runs, skittering cymbal work – it’s like the band is working all the harder to make up for missing members.

All this makes sitting down with the record a somewhat intense exercise.

Special attention seems to have been given to the drums, with a bewildering range of hi-hat dashes and ride-cymbal attacks. The intro to the rapid-fire ‘Flaming Blood’ almost sounds like two drummers facing off with each other.

And yet, the group’s giveaway Mercyful Fate-isms are still there for all to see. Things take a relative breather on ‘Martyrs’, with the squealing guitar a perfect example of the Shermann school.

It’s a funny situation that Portrait find themselves in. In one sense, they’ve put together a harder and heavier record than ever before. And yet, it somewhat lacks the level of anthemic power that made older songs like ‘Bloodbath’ such total bangers.

Power and Glory

The problem with such a good back catalogue is that any drop in songwriting power is suddenly visible.

Some of these songs just don’t have the strongest staying power. Eight minute closer ‘Pure of Heart’ is just kind of there, bouncing along with a few nice licks here and there.

The point is often made that certain special bands, like Deceased, play heavy metal with such an intensity that it almost reaches death metal tempo.

That’s where Portrait find themselves with this release. They still definitely have the power and the glory.

It’s just that with this particular portrait, they’ve painted so fast and furiously that the colours are almost running away.

Nevertheless, it’s by-and-large powerful and quite fearless-sounding stuff – aided in no part by some very cool keys and atmospherics.

Fans of the group will do well to check out an engaging twist in the band’s legacy.

3.6 / 5 – Lorcan Archer ::: 27/08/17

  1. that track is almost reminiscent of ‘stormrider’ iced earth

  2. unreal artwork

  3. Yes, that is indeed a highlight. When you see it at hi res it looks absolutely stunning with all the brush strokes.

  4. Great review!
    This album kicks some serious ass.

  5. Correction: the band are Swedish not Danish!

    I’ve listened to the album three or four times now and I’m struggling to get into it, but I’m a fan of everything else they’ve done so I’ll certainly be giving it more time.

  6. Crossroads took me a little while to get into, so I will reserve judgement on the new one. I agree on the Iced Earth comparison, based on the track posted above.

    Aren’t they from Skåne? That was part of Denmark for several hundred years, so…

  7. Thanks Pio, correction incoming.

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