BAND FEATURE: PORTRAIT (Sweden)
Written by Marc C. Pietrek 2017
Fans of the original MERCYFUL FATE are a particularly stubborn bunch as I am one of them ha ha. To them, the chemistry that yielded those magic results on both ‘Melissa’ and ‘Don’t Break the Oath’ have never been able to be replicated by KING DIAMOND solo or the post-original MERCYFUL FATE incarnations. The classic line-up won legions of fans over worldwide almost instantaneously. To us fans, may whom are still huge fans today, no music put forth from all of those involved after the release of those two heavy metal benchmarks will ever come near them. That being said, we will always have our ears open for any band that embraces that sound and gives it new life.
So, being the Diamond-Sherman-Denner-Hansen-Ruzz apologist that I am, I have to raise a the question to the other likeminded: Have any of you motherf666ers checked out PORTRAIT from Sweden? Just like their fellow countrymen, IN SOLITUDE (r.i.p.), they have captured the true essence of one of extreme metal’s most revered ensembles ever. Formed in 2006, they clearly draw from other influences such as IRON MAIDEN, DEEP PURPLE and JUDAS PIEST. However, hands-down, their biggest influence is the original MERCYFUL FATE. Such an influence that royalties should be paid? No comment ha ha. Who cares anyway? Upon listening to 2008’s ‘Portrait’ (METAL BLADE), 2011’s ‘Crimen Laesae Majestartis Divinae’ (METAL BLADE; 5 star if I were to give it a rating) and 2014’s ‘Crossroads’ (METAL BLADE), the listener will undoubtedly recognize the profound sense of sincerity that this band plays metal with as well as how dramatically they improve as musicians with each offering.
The first half of 2017 has been a big one for PORTRAIT. On April 15, the band released this statement of their official Facebook band page:
“Our next album ‘Burn the world’ is all done. The master recording, artwork etc has been delivered. Release date and other info will be announced soon. Today we suggest you listen to this, and read the book by the same title: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJJ2wIeo34w&app=desktop”
On April 21, the band released this statement via their Facebook page:
“We would like to introduce our new guitarist. This is Robin Holmberg (also in Vampire), and he will replace David Olofsson who had to leave the band last year. Robin will do his debut show with us next week at Stockholm Slaughter. To sum things up, our current line-up is as follows: Per Lengstedt – vocals, Christian Lindell – guitars, Robin Holmberg – guitars, Fredrik Petersson – bass, Anders Persson – drums.”
I, for one, am f666ing stoked!! Why? Because these Swedes do the epic, up-tempo stuff with ease. The guitar duo lays down superb traditional European-style metal riffs and leads anchored down by bass lines and drum beats straight out of the ‘Ruzz and Hansen Guide To Evil Rhythms’ (fictitious title; not real, rivet-heads). Cohesive like a swimming pool of Polygrip. However, the stuff this band really hammers down like a final nail in the coffin are the dark, sinister passages reminiscing of the ones that that Michael Denner and Hank Sherman would bust into on a dime. Six-string black magic wizardry set to a solid mid-tempo beat. The vibe and feel of it burrowing its’ way into your subconscious, confirming that “It’s too late. Eternal damnation awaits you!!” Both interpretations of the band containing vocals drenched in the macabre a la King Diamond. This uniquely dark and beautifully haunting style and sound has cast a towering shadow that has engulfed legions of fans for decades. PORTRAIT is an excellent modern day embodiment of just that.
Sometimes, as it happens in just about every music genre, a band has a line-up that wins over a certain group of fans. Ones that consider their material damn near sacred. That particular version CAN NOT DO WRONG, so don not try to debate the said fan base on social media or the next smoke-out session. So, when an exceptionally good sounding band who just so happens to go slightly over the cliff with the hero worship comes around, we should want to turn a deaf ear towards it, give them a pass. Why? Because in the end, we get rewarded with music that is more way more enjoyable to listen to than most so-called “original” music is. They may even evolve into a very unique sounding unit going into unchartered directions and become very successful in doing so. Who knows? In the meantime, just sit back and enjoy a kick-ass band doing what it does.
Cheers, ya rivet-heads!!
Portrait – Portrait (Full Album) – 2008
Portrait – Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae (Full Album) – 2011
Portrait – Crossroads (2014)