Anyone who loves speed metal, but can’t stand the lashings of cheese usually served up by the speedier Euro brand of power metal, should love Portrait. The first album back in 2008 was a blast – a fantastic band still finding their feet. But it was on Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae that things really took off. Like, seriously took off. Like NWOBHM meets 1980s style speed metal with oh so just enough King Diamond to make sure everyone says ‘King Diamond!’ every time anyone puts on a bit of Portrait. That, and being released in the same year as the much more Diamond-a-like The World, The Flesh, The Devil by country fellows In Solitude. Speed metal just on the right side of ‘progressive’ to keep things nice and unpredictable and with enough blistering solo’s siren-like vocals and to make sure that 50 minutes with Crimen Laesae is always enough to put a smile on your face and to wonder why all metal can’t be at least this good.
Portrait’s 2014 follow up Crossroads wasn’t exactly a misstep, but it just wasn’t quite the same nose-bleedingly intense as Crimen Laesae. A bit more basic in its song structures and perhaps even more of an ode to Portrait’s 1980s roots and the debut. With Burn The World, the adventure continues and with the same flirtation with a variety of influence that are both hinted at and then slapped in your face. This time there is as much Agent Steel (or, more specifically, on opener Burn the World), with guitar breaks straight out of late-80s Riot – and yes, still very much a blend of King Diamond-on-kick-drum-speed, in fact if not more so than some of the previous albums (like Likfassna which could have almost come from Abigail). It is another heady concoction that Portrait have come up with and not exactly like anything they have produced previously – and yet also pulling elements of it all together. Some of the tracks feel a bit more melancholy even with the fuel injected speed added and it’s good to see that, on some of the tracks at least, the Portrait magic shines through.
While this kind of works it also feels like it’s harder to get a grip of this latest Portrait album. By the time we get to the brief musical interlude Further She Rode and into the last few tracks it feels like I’m still looking for the spark that is going to set my metal mind ablaze like Crimen Laesae did. In fact, the final couple of tracks – particularly To Die For, even if the chorus cripples the intensity a little – do a good job of picking up from where the mid album tracks drop the ball. But, overall, I suspect most fans who came to the band through Crimen Laesae will be returning back to it after two or three spins of Burn The World. It’s a decent stab but not high octane enough to get Portrait back on track.
(7.5/10 Reverend Darkstanley)