PortalFlyIt’s off to a recently refurbished Nambucca tonight and the venue looks a lot better than it used to with much more room in it. Still it was never going to be enough for the London debut of Australian’s Portal who were just over for this show and Temples Festival in Bristol the day before. Unsurprisingly the venue quickly fills up and opening London band QRIXKUOR get the opportunity to play in front of a healthy audience, not bad for a band who simply have a limited edition demo tape available so far. They certainly look the part with the anonymous players masked up and they have a nasty, thick and cloying sound about them. They quickly get into the swing of things playing their metal of death in a fast and furious fashion with lots of cymbal clashing and rigorous drumming driving it all along. They counterpoise things with some gravid doom like parts and their unholy sound gets fists raised in appreciation as they finish their first heaving mass and move fluidly on to the next bestial onslaught. There’s a lot of intricacy amidst the trembling fretwork and it surges with a gnawing intensity behind it. With the last number of this short but potent set building up into a mesmerising pitch of obsidian black atmospheres, this first encounter with QRIXKUOR is certainly noted, perhaps by the time they come back I may even be able to spell their name properly!

No worries about stinky people. No sooner than the first band have snuffed out their joss sticks they are replaced by the incense of choice from next London band Grave Miasma. Taking a break to blood themselves up before coming on stage the band look suitably grim and tonight don’t have billowing smoke to hide behind. ‘Death’s Meditative Trance’ is a slow one to start with and it seems like the band are limbering up to bite which they truly do part way into next number ‘Obscure Terror.’ When the drummer batters down and slams away the bloodlust explodes off the stage with the reverb driven vocals sounding especially ferocious. It seems like the audience are more than up for banging heads towards the front and it is well and truly rammed by now. This prehistoric worship rung out with grunts between songs and it was a case of join in or go and hide at the bar as they continued to drag us into their ‘Ritual Lair’ at an increasingly hostile velocity. Grave Miasma definitely seemed more on fire than when I last saw them at the Dome a few weeks ago, perhaps I was more in the mood for them and at least they always leave you knowing exactly where you stand; bloody and battered. Could things get any more barbaric?

Yes it would seem as Impetuous Ritual who share members with headliners Portal are concerned. I’m not sure what I expected really having never encountered this lot before but it probably wasn’t very hairy men wearing spikes and loin cloths! Well we are really off to the Iron Age now. I have a feeling their set list was put out to confuse anyone stupid enough to try and review by it with song titles such as ‘Smell A Sheep,’ ‘Sensible Aboriginals’ ‘Wanking Kevin’s Tyranny’ and We are Crusty Swingers’ being written down in atypical Antipodean humour.  Musically there is nothing humorous about this lot in the slightest once the drummer sorts himself out and the feedback is quelled. This is gnarly as fuck, full on caveman grind with thrashing mind-set that’s primitive in the extreme. Naturally it goes down very well with people acting like maniacs at the front whilst the rest of the audience stand back a bit trying to take it all in. The sound of supreme hatred as I seem to have called it continues with the band playing in near darkness, silhouetted as shapes barraging away from one track to the next. You can distinctly feel the seething heave of Portal amidst the riff work here no doubt guitarists Omenous Fugue and Ignis Fatuus bringing over some nuances from their other band. With mighty drums thundering and cracking away and cheese grating riffs going haywire it’s ugly, obtuse and a heavy relentless onslaught; what’s not to like? If there had been room for one no doubt they would have got a pit exploding into action A slow doompocalypse sounded especially hellish and brought a gravid atmosphere into play before naturally exploding into a fiery nuclear holocaust. Job not quite done as it was time for a couple of them to come back for the next set; somehow I expected they would change first!

Word had filtered through how crushing Portal were in Bristol and certainly it was an intense situation hemmed in like this to watch them in. The Curator no longer wears his famous clock head, no doubt it proved a hugely weighty appendage but that does not mean that he doesn’t still strike and a very strange figure in a black cloak, face mask and white face paint which can just about be made out under it. The rest of the band look like they have escaped from the film The Town That Dreaded Sundown (not the remake) with their masks and it was impossible knowing where to look. It was very challenging down the front and impossible to stay there for any amount of time. The guy in tweed jacket who had stood next to me reading his kindle and the other one reading a paper on the other side at least found the band interesting enough to stop what they were doing and watch. I waited for the Portal to open and hope they were going to be sucked through it and disappear giving me more space. No such luck.

Swarth is the first number to hit and drag us into its claustrophobic insanity. The kick drum seems to try and splinter my ribs going straight through me, guitars snarl and The Curator growls away looking hideous and scary as anything witnessed on a stage ever before. Portal would have a band like Ghost running home tail between legs, that’s for sure. As they surge onwards into Kilter opening track from latest album Vexovoid I find my brain is trying to make sense of it all and process the deluge of sound, pretty much as the band do to me on album. It’s not an easy job either and it must be near impossible for the players who are surely sweating bucket-loads under their sack cloth hooding. Having watched a track or so from the side of the stage and being ravaged old number ‘Vessel Of Balon’ it was time to back out through the throng and try and find a bit of space. It was at this point they played their biggest video hit, if such a thing exists and opened their ‘Curtain’ At least this one was much more identifiable amidst the shredding chaos. Back towards the emptier bar area having seen things from close up, at least breathing was now possible even if seeing what was going on was not. Luckily there was no problem with the sound flying through the venue and still hitting us solidly on numbers such as the winding, grinding Glumurphonel. The band played tracks from all their albums and for those in the audience who recognised it all well done! I already want to catch Portal again in somewhat more comfortable surroundings but I guess that’s a case of tough vegemite. It’s unlikely that many promoters will have the dosh to bring over someone quite so extreme in a hurry again and well done to Temples and Old Empire for allowing us to witness this. Last song Werships is still fizzing in my ears!

(Review and photos © Pete Woods)