Portal of Sorrow
posted on 3/2011 By:
I'm going to be very honest here. As much as I've always tried to give Xasthur a chance, I've never been able to get through entire album of theirs until Portal of Sorrow. Unfortunately, I can't exactly say that the album's greatness is what enabled me to listen from start to finish. No...my desire to give the band one last chance came after I read frontman Malefic's year-old blog entry stating that Portal of Sorrow would be Xasthur's last. The truth is, I pity the fellow. Despite having released eight full-lengths and a number of splits and EPs (the split with Leviathan being the most noteworthy), Xasthur has failed to make a very big impact even among black metal circles, with the exception of becoming one of the most notable bands beginning with the letter "x".
Some common occurrences in reviews of Xasthur albums seem to be any or all of the following:
1. A low score
2. An opening remark in which the reviewer (almost apologetically, as if to appease some of the band's die-hard followers) mentions the fact that he / she isn't a very big fan of the band
3. An attempt to summarize many incoherent songs into a review that gives an objective depiction of the album
Some main reasons for the common occurrences listed above are most likely due to the fact that the reviewer is both honest and also feels sympathy towards a musician who doesn't really give a shit about garnering attention or spotlight from people who never appreciated his art to begin with. I can respect that.
Although you have already seen examples of both numbers 1 and 2 in this review, you will not be seeing number 3 anywhere, because I have found it impossible to find any correlation between these songs. Instead, you'll be getting a standard, song-by-song rundown of the album. It's not the way I planned it, but if Malefic and I have anything in common it's probably that neither of us really give too much of a fuck what you think anyway.
Track 1 - "Portal of Sorrow" - The song starts out with the strumming of some guitar chords accompanied by female vocals and some vampiric keyboard noises. It's pretty scary. This is one of the only instances I can think of where an album's title track is just an intro.
Track 2 - "Broken Glass Christening" - Sound effects from the movie Psycho are used to kick off this song. The song features about a minute of lo-fi guitars, repetitive drumming and some wailing in the background. Actually, everything sounds like it's a part of the background. No matter how loud I turn up the volume in my headphones, I feel as if the music is getting louder and louder... in another room. A traditional piano is also used to make this track sound even more scary than its predecessor.
Track 3 - "Shrine of Failure" - The bass is the dominant instrument throughout this track. It's pretty boring. The keyboards seem to be the main thing differentiating all of the songs on the album so drastically, as all of the other instruments and vocals pretty much behave similarly throughout.
Track 4 - "Stream of Subconsciousness" - This is the album's longest track. Again, random gurgling and a woman's voice help Malefic's keyboard-laden atmosphere become a bit more creepy and depressing. That's not to say it's creepy and depressing, though... but it's definitely the effect Xasthur seems to be going for. The drums sound like a marching parade is nearby. If anything, the song is rather peaceful and relaxing, much like Enya's Halloween album, if she were ever to release one.
Track 5 - "Karma/Death" - For the first time on this record, Malefic uses a constant blast beat. This song features the best riff on the album thus far, but it gets old after four minutes. The keyboards follow the same melody as the guitar, which is part of the reason that Portal of Sorrow actually earned a couple of points in the production category. On most of the album, the mix isn't nearly this good.
Track 6 - "Horizon of Plastic Caskets" - Nothing new here, really.
Track 7 - "Mesmerized by Misery" - I really don't know how anyone can say this is sorrowful music. It's lo-fi guitars, monotonous keyboards and a woman humming over everything.
Track 8 - "This Abyss Holds the Mirror" - Now here's a song I can appreciate. Why? Because it sounds like it belongs perfectly in the soundtrack to the cult classic horror film, Phantasm. This is the album's only other track that extends beyond seven minutes. I could probably listen to an hour of this track on repeat and be more satisfied with it than all of the other songs combined.
Track 9 - "Mourning Tomorrow" - Ballerina black metal.
Track 10 - "Miscarriage of the Soul" - I believe this song was miscarried.
Track 11 - "Obeyers of Their Own Deaths" - The guitars, screams and drums are all on the chaotic side in this track. Beyond that, nothing else really happens.
Track 12 - "Released From This Earth" - If there's one thing Malefic can do well, it's write melodies that sound good when repeatedly played on a traditional piano.
Track 13 - The Darkest Light - .
Track 14 - Hiver de Glace - This song features a piano outro. That's it.
"I wanted to end on a better note with this [Portal of Sorrow] album because the album that came before it, All Reflections Drained, was not up to par and I couldn't finish up with an album that I was less than satisfied with." - Malefic
Boy... I would really hate to hear what All Reflections Drained sounds like.
Thus marks the end of a nearly twenty-year era for Scott "Malefic" Conner. I wish him well with whatever musical venture he attempts next. Hopefully, he'll at least conquer another obscure letter of the English alphabet.
*Hint - Try the letter "q".*
Register to post comments.
A Gate Through Bloodstained Mirrors (Reissue)