Crikey! I thought I was listening to a long lost early IRON MAIDEN track when the engine sparked into life on the opening track, "Beast Of Fire," lifted from PORTRAITíS first official long player, "Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae" - tasty duel guitars, quirky time changes and a swathe of Melody that was until a large feral cat introduced itself into proceedings. If ever a vocalist ruined a promising start itís Per Karlsson. Basically over aping the heroic Heavy Metal front man stance to the max, Karlssonís voice is a screeching over stretched annoyance and quite frankly ruins a perfectly fine Metal song. KING DIAMOND he might want to be, KING DIAMOND he ainít.
Far from being what the band state on their Press Release, much nonsense regarding "taking Metal back to the dark energy that was the cornerstone in many a classic Metal release," PORTRAIT is simply just another acolyte to the NWOBHM sound chucking in much MERCYFUL FATE references for the fast bits. The utterly ludicrous press band photo aside, PORTRAIT stands out as nothing to get overly excited about. They are ostensibly a middle ground 1980ís influenced Metal band that are, quite frankly, ten a penny at the moment. Sure the solos are rather magnificent but counterpoint to the over long, over complicated songs. And throw in a singer who, well, finds it hard to sing and then you are looking at trouble.
Itís all a bit of a shame then when the music is resolutely Heavy Metal albeit of a bygone era. The guitar pairing of Richard Lafergren and Christian Lindell is equal to that of Downing/ Tipton and Murray and Smith. Their guitars sweep, pick, flash with the very best of them and whilst many of the songs run on for a bit too long, thereís plenty to get excited about from this pairing.
I canít help but think PORTRAIT has missed an opportunity here to stamp a moniker in the glutted Traditional Metal field. Aping two such big names in the Metal world isnít bright or particularly endearing, really one for the 1980ís aficionado Iím afraid.
(Online August 2, 2011)