Monday, June 24, 2013

Portent - Dismal Deities EP (2013)

Dismal Deities knows how to drag you into its depths with the diabolical pageantry-riffing of its first track, "Woven" and then not let you go as its continues to unleash a stable of death, black and doom progressions that maintain an appreciated level of variation without sacrificing their sense of sweltering darkness. Impressive, considering this is just one man (the eponymous entity 'Portent'), but really I'm just happy that extreme metal artists amidst such a massive swath of mediocrity are still focusing in on 'the riff' as a concept. Though Portent might not be a paragon of the medium, the music here is at the very least thoughtful and concise, with arbitrary repetitions or soulless, uninspired note sequences left by the wayside, which only benefits the listener.

The writing is more or less a level playing field between the three niches I listed above. Overt, sepulchral death/doom ("Hollow Oaths") that should appeal to fans of Finnish groups like Hooded Menace or the younger Solothus. Textured, mournful melodies, obscure whispered rasps and thick, corpulent performance on the bass guitar totally flesh out the voluminous, raw drumming. But then there's the ghastly, scaling, winding mid-paced melodic death metal ala "Woven" which feels like you're gallantly riding a nightmare steed on a ferris wheel unto damnation, or the great "Dismal Are Our Ways" which is slightly more entrenched in a barebones, sinister black metal aesthetic. Despite the range and ambition, though, Dismal Deities never becomes untangled, unglued or indecisive...the stylistic overlap is consistent, the transitions feel like the product of a single, demented mind rather than an individual attempting to bite off more flesh than he can devour. All the music is also regulated by the central vocal timbre, which is a gruesome, resonant guttural bark that can occasionally whittle away to a more rasped inflection.

Bleak, apocryphal cover artwork, some incantation of snaking, smoky souls is a nice accompaniment to the dingy, ritualistic but mockingly playful variety of the musical ideas here, and clearly you've got another proponent for the 'way things were'. Portent gladly eschews the concepts of technicality or clutter, concerned strictly with riffs and atmosphere, two of my favorite things, and as such I feel that this EP will hold appeal towards a good cross-section of fans. Whether they're into the archaic death/doom stylings of a band like Autopsy, the black/death of Abyssal, or other morbid mash-ups like Sonne Adam or Father Befouled (though this UK act is more uppity in nature), the cult potential is undeniable. Who can say what will result when this guy gets his skeletal digits on a full-length's worth of material? But for now, this very reasonably priced four-tracker is headed in the right direction: down, down, ever downward to the lightless catacombs and crawlspaces of the Underworld.

Verdict: Win [7.5/10]

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