There is no easy starting point with a record such as Ion. It’s an album that’s dense, almost to the point of being utterly impenetrable, with vocals from The Curator that swirl with crawling chaos and drums that march to an inhuman beat. Portal are not an easy band to digest and their music is a claustrophobic head-trip into the abyss.
Ion is the Australian band’s fifth full length and the engrossing murk of their previous work is here in spades while the tension has somehow been ramped up to ever higher degrees of agony. “Husk” wraps you in cascading guitar lines that occasionally flirt with melody but are more often than not stacked with discordant textures and a feeling of genuine disgust is layered over the entire album.
While Portal can be associated with death metal or black metal in one way or another, the base genres have been twisted so grotesquely that to label the music is somewhat of an impossible exercise. Elements of extremity certainly filter into the music but industrial, curious time signatures reminiscent of jazz and a heady dose of experimentation give Portal a flavour that no other band can capture. The darkness they create is singular and in Ion the band have a work that will take multiple listens to untangle.
“Revault of Volts” surges on electrifying drums and dissonant guitars that meld into towering structures of sound while The Curator’s voice echoes over all, generating a deathly growl that is distinctive and terrifying in its slithering obscurity.
Ion is wholly oppressive and the feeling you get when it’s over is one of relief, a chance to breathe again and to find your way out of the cavernous hell that Portal have dragged you into. It won’t be long, though, until you find yourself enveloped in their shadows once more; doomed to repeat this trip to the limits of the human mind over and over again.
8.5 / 10
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