Portrayal of Guilt – We Are Always Alone Review

The three members of Austin’s Portrayal of Guilt are young and full of punk. Jadedness and grey hair is a distant worry. They are raging, raging against the dying of a light that so many have gently entered. Youthful vigor is a fleeting thing. If the rage of youth could be bottled it would sell billions. For many bands, the golden thread of youth unravels and vanishes in a flash. It’s a ball of yarn and a knitting needle then, a life trying to recreate the glory of days gone by. The rare band or individual breaks the mold, but for the most part, nothing can recapture the seething potential and momentum of the early days. Portrayal of Guilt approach is an unraveling thread of punky, grinding, and blackened chaos. We Are Always Alone is their second full-length and second attempt at raging against the dying of the light.

Carnage erupts in the opening seconds of We Are Always Alone. “The Second Coming” is a scathing assault that asks for no introduction. Portrayal of Guilt’s hardcore is blackened and steaming with vitriol that rushes straight to the head. Matt King’s high pitched shrieks curl like sulfurous smoke, hooking into the ears with malice. These vocal retches spread like tangled thorns through the 25-minute record, lacing everything in a blistering poison. King’s vocals seem naturally higher-pitched, shrieks surging high above, but he reaches into the gut to spew forth raspy gutturals that collide with segments of marauding sludge in songs like “They Want Us All To Suffer” and “Masochistic Oath.” Portrayal of Guilt reaches into the pits of the low end frequently, pulling out shards of crusty sludge and noise that bubble beneath. They are at their best, however, in tracks like “A Tempting Pain” when low-end crust clashes with high pitch urgency.

With regards to the mix and general sound, We Are Always Alone is a big improvement compared to 2019’s flat and watery sounding EP Suffering Is A Gift. We Are Always Alone is considerably more bass heavy and the balance between vocal prominence, guitar lethality, and electronics suits Portrayal of Guilt’s sound excellently. Don’t be put off by that DR4 score. Take “A Tempting Pain” as an example. King’s vocals whip above deep rolling throbs of guitar sound and cymbal tapping before the song stops dead in its tracks. Whirring alien-like noise surges through the mix, leading into the crushing stop-start dynamic of “It’s Already Over.” It’s dense but apt, a claustrophobic blanket that still carries depth. I like the tinny snare drum tone that rattles loosely throughout, too, though it might deter some listeners. It offsets the heavy bass thrusts and electronic segments, providing a fragile human touch.

We Are Always Alone isn’t a constant barrage. Portrayal of Guilt frequently decelerates their sound to a menacing pace—sometimes to the record’s detriment. Second song “Anesthetized” opens with a skip and swagger as groovier density, aided by expressive drum sweeps, counteracts the chaos of opener “The Second Coming.” Similarly, “Garden of Despair” breaks free from its hardcore furor and descends into a crawl of tender, expressive drum fills and whispering snarls. These early album breaks manage to retain the heaviness and momentum of the explosive sections, merging to create satisfying wholes. They are timely, well-constructed, and fleeting. We Are Always Alone’s final songs, however, slow things down too much. The depressive plod and clean vocal moans of “My Immolation” presents a different style of despair, deep-rooted, and serious; it sets up for a climax that never arrives. Closer “We Are Always Alone” simmers at a similarly uneventful mid-pace. These final tracks are not bad by any means, but they sap the potency of the opening half of the record considerably.

We Are Always Alone ends on a middling note which is a shame. Variety is good, but We Are Always Alone is great when raging at the dying of the light, not going gently. This is still a confident forward stride. Portrayal of Guilt has intriguingly and tactfully attached elements of noise, sludge, and black metal onto their hardcore-screamo swiss army knife. We Are Always Alone is a flash of youthful rage that satisfies many an itch, although it’s not quite as reinvigorating as one might hope.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 4 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Closed Casket Activities
Website: portrayalofguilt.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/portrayalofguilt
Releases Worldwide: January 29th, 2021

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