Portrait – S/T

Portrait’s self-titled album, which is apparently their 10″ and 7″ records together, excites me more than almost any hardcore band I’ve heard in a while. For while a lot of hardcore bands out there know how to play their instruments fast and scream incoherently, few make it an art-form. The one thing that Portrait remembers is that it’s just as important to make good music in hardcore as any other style.

That’s emphasized by the focus put on the music in many of these songs, often with several minutes of no singing and quieter moments that highlight the intricate and melodic guitar, powerful drumming, heavy bass and even viola that is used in every song as a key instrument. Nowhere is this more apparent than on “North Ebony,” heavily instrumental that has some of the most amazing guitar and bass/viola that I’ve ever heard. But while some may say this band would benefit from a vocalist who sings, Jeph Burgoon screams just as loud and desperate during the fast, pounding moments as during the soft, quiet ones.

You know what kind of album this is going to be as “Even Now” explodes: driving guitar, frantic drumming, and Burgoon shouting “Rah-Rah-Rahhhhh!” Oh, it’s not pretty yet, as Burgoon shouts out “Burning alive as they watch me / dance me around and let the blood pour / down my feet.” But then it has this melodic guitar breakdown with a subtle bass and viola groove. “Quiet Company” starts beautifully, slower and melodic emo-style guitar and viola, and the vocals build in perfectly, shouting out as the song builds and crashes, almost soaring. What an amazing song. Melodic, Mineral-esque guitar starts “Missing the Shore,” and Burgoon comes closest to singing, ripping out these poetic vocals that can almost make you weep. There’s a moment in “Constellations of a Star-Gazing Iris” when you only hear the most mournful viola and Burgoon screaming as if dying in the distance. It’s so incredibly powerful. “Take our last breaths together,” he finishes off in a desperate scream.

After the mind-blowing “North Ebony,” the band gets heavier and more melodic, with each song having a moody breakdown. “Knowing Your Friends” begins aggressive rock, pounding and furious but with an undercurrent of melodic viola. The breakdown in the middle, where Burgoon sings/moans “I can fix this if you’ll let me, I can fix this,” is a great touch. The guitar mixes seemlessly with viola and bass on “Once an Englishman” for a very deep, reverb-filled sound. And “Always Sacred” finishes things off with a squeal of noise and feedback, probably one of the most consistently heavy and aggressive track here.

This is exactly the kind of hardcore music I so love. Bands like I Hate Myself, Yaphet Kotto, and Twelve Hour Turn know that music is just as important as screaming desperately, and Portrait takes that a step further, even, putting the focus on their amazing musical talents. It’s a shame this album is hard to find, because this band is downright amazing. Seek it out.

No web contact information, so send $6 to Portrait, PO Box 55462, Atlanta, GA 30308.