Sweden’s Portrait have been a consistent force in cool heavy metal music over the past few years, no matter what you think of the music or the vocal style in particular, this is great stuff. Their latest release ‘Crossroads’ is an absolute amazing album reviewed on this site recently, so I got the opportunity to put some questions to guitarist Christian Lindell, so in the meantime, check out ‘Crossroads’ available now on Metal Blades records.
AN: ‘Crossroads’ is a phenomenal record, what was your vision for this release?
CL: Thank you. Our vision has always been to develop our style in search for the true Portrait perfection and I think we have come closer to that than any time before with ‘Crossroads’. As for the song writing itself we never try to force things forth, we just put ourselves in the right mode and do it instinctively.
AN: Does the album title suggest a change of direction for the band?
CL: No, it does not. The title is related to the lyrics. The direction of the style of music has always been the same, but with that being said heavy metal is a very dynamic and wide genre and there are many areas to explore and develop, without letting go of your glorious roots.
AN: Did you record with a clear decision to include many more influences than previously presented on earlier releases? I feel this release has much more range and influences compared to previous albums.
CL: Not really. The musical direction and influences have always been pretty much the same and we have never been afraid of incorporating some unexpected things in our songs, and that is something that should be essential to a musician in order to not fall into stagnation. I think our own channelling of inspiration has been stronger this time around though, and that of course colours the final outcome.
AN: What makes this new band line up work more? For instance, the ‘Crossroads’ recording simply feels full of energy and is really in your face. Does this mean the band is genuinely invigorated with this line up?
CL: Good to hear and yes, the new line-up is great and we work much better as a unit now than we have ever done before. It feels strange to think about, but this line-up is in a few months’ time actually the Portrait line-up that have lasted for the longest time, and that says a lot about our internal problems in the past.
AN: Did you change the approach in the studio this time around? Did you have everything pre-written before recording?
CL: We used three different studios for the recordings, which we haven’t done before. Drums were recorded separately, guitars and bass in another studio and then the vocals in yet another studio, and then everything was mixed and mastered at Necromorbus Studio. This approach made it all less stressful which I was very pleased about. Everything except for some guitar solos were written before we started to record.
AN: Have you adjusted the recording process between this and the last couple of releases?
CL: Yes, we learned a lot when recording the “Crimen…” album in Necromorbus, about what things that are important to think about when recording etc, so it went pretty smooth this time around. I don’t really like the recording phase. I think it is really stiff and not really what you expect compared to writing the songs in the rehearsal place or the ecstatic feeling of playing them live. But it is always nice to hear the final result.
AN: What are your lyrics based upon, written works or personal experiences?
CL: My lyrics are based on personal experiences (which a few books have led me to actually experience though). ‘Black Easter’ is based on the novel by the same name, by James Blish, and they were written by our friend Peter Svensson.
AN: Are there any plans for the ‘We Were Not Alone’ EP to become more widely available?
CL: It is available directly from us at our shows, and the cover song will also be included on the Japanese edition of ‘Crossroads’, which we hope will be out soon.
AN: Why choose ‘Mother Sun’ to cover? It was never released by Judas Priest officially to my mind right? What period is the song originally from?
CL: Simply because we wanted to do a Judas Priest cover and there is no reason for recording anything that they have recorded themselves, as there is nothing that could or should be added to what they have already done. The only recordings that are available of the song are live versions from 1975, so the song was probably written between Rocka Rolla and Sad Wings of Destiny.
AN: Who else would you recommend for younger fans to check out?
CL: I recommend Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Dio, Accept, Rainbow, W.A.S.P., Saxon, Motörhead, Venom, Celtic Frost and Uriah Heep.
AN: Good Choices! How do they influence the Portrait sound?
CL: I think everything that I like inspires me when writing songs to a certain extent. But it never works for me to think like “Now I should write something that sounds like this or that band”, it has to come (un)naturally.
AN: What touring plans do you have? Will they include the UK this time? I last had to travel to Germany to see you guys perform in 2009!
CL: We have a lot of ideas that we are discussing with our booking agency right now but things are not confirmed yet, apart from 5-10 gigs during the summer and autumn. We really hope to get to the UK!
AN: What do you make of other bands that have tried to adopt falsetto inspired vocals? Are there bands that you would recommend if you know of them?
CL: If you mean new bands, I would recommend RAM. As for the singing style itself it is as with everything else – the vocal melodies needs to be good and there must be an essence to it. Just as a guitar solo is not good just because it is fast, a vocalist is not good just because he could hit high notes.
AN: Describe ‘Crossroads’ with either three words, or one short sentence!
CL: Ace of Swords
AN: Thanks so much for your time, good luck with ‘Crossroads’, it is one of the greatest releases of the year.
CL: Thank you very much and I hope to see you soon!
(Interviewed by Paul Maddison)