Album Review: Portrait - At One With None
Reviewed by Jon Wigg
Swedish trad metallers Portrait sure know how to write songs. Their 2017 album ‘Burn The World’ demonstrated their progression from their early work and a reliance on Mercyful Fate for inspiration and with ‘At One With None’ this continues. Now there is no doubting the love for their Danish cousins when listening to this album, and given that Mercyful Fate are one of the originators and still one of the best bands at this style of dark heavy metal, this is certainly not a bad thing. But Portrait add their own more modern twists to the old-school feel and their music is all the better for it.
Vocalist Per Lengstedt certainly sounds like King Diamond when attacking the high register but in the mid-range, there is also a bit of Matt Barlow (Ashes to Ashes, ex Iced Earth) in there. I don’t make this comparison lightly as Barlow is one of my favourite singers in any genre and Lengstedt demonstrates similar control and power throughout this slab.
The rest of the band are similarly skilful in their craft. Christian Lindell can shred with the best and his chugging riffs drive the album forward. His acoustic parts are also marvellous and really add to the dark atmosphere of the songs. Fredrik Petersson’s bass lines add to the fullness of Portrait’s sound with a pounding performance and Anders Persson’s drums are subtle in places and devastating in others - just as they should be.
‘At One With None’ is made up of 8 tracks and it’s difficult to single any out as highlights, such is the high standard throughout. The title track starts proceedings and is a wonderful way to get going. Dark, moody and full of King Diamond shrieks, the simple main riff is interposed with shifts in tempo, this is the closest track to the Mercyful Fate 80’s classics in feel and compositional style. ‘Curtains (The Dumb Supper)’ is a much more traditional mid-paced metal song with the Iron Maiden style chug and gallop in evidence with some lovely Steve Harris style bass parts poking through.
‘Phantom Fathomer’ drops the pace slightly and ups the atmosphere concluding with an excellent breakdown and solo section. ‘He Who Stands’ starts with a faster, almost thrash riff but this gives way to multiple modulations in pace and some unexpected but well judged harsh vocals later on.
Church bells welcome us to the 9 minute epic that is ‘Ashen’. Mid-paced and heavy as hell, the fluctuations in key and style fit well together, and the addition of some fast almost black metal riffs in the middle really work well. The shorter, more frenetic ‘A Murder of Crows’ changes thing up.
The album finishes up with the fast, pounding ‘Shadowless’ with another memorable solo, and ‘The Gallow’s Crossing’ which crosses into power metal at times after a fantastic acoustic opening.
Overall ‘At One With None’ is an outstanding album with no poor tracks. It’s mainly traditional metal feel is broken up with other styles such as power, thrash and a little doom, to keep the tracks feeling fresh. The performances are all great and Portrait really show that they are a force to be reckoned with going forward, both in musicianship and songwriting.