The Conquerer Worm

July 26, 2015


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Listen to Portal

Portal. I'm a bit of a geek, so the first time I heard the name, I thought we were talking about the game by Valve. Turns out that the band is not only equally good, but twice as mind-bending. I get sick of using the same old metaphors for sound, so here's some fresh ones: The guitars are a colony of marching ants devouring a corpse. A swarm of locusts. Cancer multiplying from within. There's an underground, burrowing quality to it. This is what the Shai Hulud hears as it travels through the sand.

Portal have been cultivating this infestation of terrifying, atmospheric death metal for many years and over the course of several albums. But Vexovoid has taken a few liberties that help it stand out. For one, and this seems to be to the chagrin of some of the die-hards, there is an increased allowance for actual structure. Don't get me wrong, to the average listener this is still going to sound like Poltergeist static with voice-over by Pinhead. But those who stick around for repeat listens will notice a sense of order.

”Kilter” throws in a touch of recurring groove, while "Awryeon" harnesses the contortions of strangled treble to create memorable moments that actually stick. These disturbed melodies drew me in, but what kept me coming back was the doomy outro and pounding drums. And that...”sound” the end is completely alien. Then there's of course the insatiable beats and spiraling tremolo of “Curtain.” Blastbeats seem to come through an otherworldly fog while accented bass notes murder djent in a blood ritual. The Poe-inspired music video is the perfect accompaniment for this twisted fantasy.

If you can take a break from the cataclysmic stampede of snare and toms, the absolutely ominous ambient break at the close of “Plasm” is as close to a reprieve as you're likely to get. But the most unique track is undoubtedly "Orbmophia," which sounds like the swarm finally manages to burst forth, sprout wings, and scatter across the room into a series of bug zappers. The song ultimately leads into a fairly traditional Meshuggah sounding riff that was equally unexpected.

All said and done, Portal probably took me the longest of these groups to get into, but once it clicked, it was over. I was meat. Vexovoid just happens to represent my tenderizer of choice. If you enjoyed this album, definitely go back and explore their discography. There's plenty of mayhem to be had.