Rage and FrustrationExtreme Music Reviews & Interviews
Portrait – Burn the World (Review and Interview)
Band – Portrait
Album – Burn the World
Country of Origin – Sweden
Genre – Heavy Metal
Release Date – August 25th, 2017
Label – Metal Blade Records
Author – Hayduke X
For those of you unfamiliar with Portrait, here’s a brief history. The Swedish metal quartet has been around since 2005. Burn the world is their fourth full length intermixed with a demo, and EP, and a split. The Christian Lindell led project plays old school heavy metal bordering on speed metal, but the attitude present leans towards more extreme genres, black metal in particular. It’s as if Judas Priest or Iron Maiden songs where revamped to be played by Venom or Mayhem. Burn the World is a dark romp through the metal of three and a half decades ago, played immaculately, but with some serious fire.
Originally put together by guitarist Lindell (who does most of the songwriting – see the interview below) and drummer Anders Persson, the band has featured Per Lengstedt on vocals since 2008. This trio did all the recording of the current album due to two members leaving during that process, so this is what we hear on the album. All guitars and bass done by Lindell. Drums by Persson. Vocals by Lengstedt. Since the completion of the album, Robin Holmberg has joined the band on guitar and Fredrik Petersson has joined on bass to bring the group back up to five. Regardless of all the shuffling, the album is a heavy riff-fest anchored by the exceptional percussion of Persson, all supporting the superb vocals of Lengstedt. While no Bruce Dickinson, Lengstedt hits everything he needs to with a higher grit content than the virtuoso British vocalist. As talented as Dickinson clearly is, his style has always been a touch to pretty for my taste. Lengstedt has just enough edge to make him more palatable to my ear.
I’m not going to lie and say I listen to a lot of this style. It’s well documented that I lean towards the extreme. I can’t dog on Maiden as it’s clear that they are an OG band, a true game changer, but I rarely spin them. I listen to more Priest, but still, I have to be in a certain mood. I think the same will hold with Portrait, but 1) that’s pretty high company to keep, and 2) I have been listening to this album a lot since I received it.
Recommendation: Are you into the NWOBHM sound? Meet your new favorite band.
Hayduke X: Hi, this is Hayduke from MoshPitNation. Thanks for taking some time to speak with me today.
Christian Lindell: Yeah, no problem. My pleasure.
HX: Congratulations on the upcoming release of Burn The World. You’ve got a couple of songs streaming already. What kind of a reception are you getting?
CL: From what I have seen at least, people seem to be very positive about the two songs that we have previewed now. It’s always hard to choose which songs that people should get to hear before the album is released. We started with the title track, a fast, aggressive song. Now, Martyrs is out online as well, which is a more mid-tempo, epic, atmospheric song. So we tried to show many of the different aspects from the album within those songs. From what I have seen at least, the response is very good so far, so it’s great.
HX: I was struck by how – well, the word that came to me is vicious – how vicious the title track really is. Where does the edge come from for that? Why that aggressiveness and viciousness?
CL: It comes naturally. It’s also what I have within that needs to get out. Sometimes it takes those turns, depending on what I am thinking about or inspired by when writing the music. In the case of the title track, the lyrics are based upon my view of this world from a spiritual angle. It is about the need to burn the world with the will to not accept your status as imprisoned or enslaved. To rise up against tyranny. All of those aspects of opposition. Those are the thoughts and ideology that inspired both the lyrics and the music for that song. It also goes like a red line between most of the songs on the album. I mean, maybe that aspect of it most clearly in that song.
HX: Does the rest of the album lean more one way or the other? Closer to Burn the World or closer to Martyrs or all sort of spread out in between?
CL: I think it’s more spread out in between. Also, a third are also in some context. For example, the last song, Pure of Heart, the epicness that we touch on in Martyrs, for example, is going further in that song also. That is what I think we have done in general with this album, is that we have taken all the aspects that have been a part of Portrait’s music from the beginning and we have developed them in all angles, really. Both in the aggressive parts and the more epic, atmospheric parts, so I think it’s our most dynamic album so far. It feels like that right now, at least.
HX: Tell me about the songwriting process for this album.
CL: We started writing the material pretty early on. Actually, the song Martyrs, I wrote only six months or something after the previous album was released. So that one is the oldest song on the album. But, in general, the songwriting process is – I mean, I come up with most of the riffs and melodies and such at home. Then me and the drummer usually rehearse and arrange things together. Do some rehearsal recordings and, you know, contemplate things and change things as necessary. The other members have input as well later on. In general, it starts with me and the drummer Anders.
HX: Can you tell me about the gear you use to create your sound?
CL: For my part, I use a Marshall ACM 800 amp. The usual Ibanez Tube Screamer for distortion. I play on a Fender Stratocaster guitar actually when recording. I think the sound is better for recording than my other guitars. I usually play Gibson Flying V and Hamer Flying V when we play live, but in the studio I prefer the Fender. This album was recorded when two members had quit. So, we recorded it as a three-piece, actually. Then, we got two new members after the album was recorded. So, I also recorded the bass. I can’t really remember what – it is some pretty cheap, shitty bass, actually, that I used. For drums and vocals, that is beyond my level of expertise. I don’t know about that. Drums were recorded in a proper recording studio that we rented. The other stuff was recorded at our own smaller home studios. Everything was mixed and mastered in Necromorbus Studio in Sweden.
HX: Tell me about the shake-up in members. You said you had a couple leave and a couple new ones come?
CL: Yeah. Actually during 2016, both Mikael and David left the band, a former guitarist and bassist. Both of them were – Mikael had some personal reasons. He didn’t feel that he had time for the band. David, I don’t really know about actually, but I think it was more or less that he lived quite far away from the rest of us. It became more of a hassle for him to come and rehearse, so it had to be like that. This was during the writing process of the album, so the remaining three of us decided to keep on writing and recording the album, instead of searching for new people that would come in directly into the writing process. That would be a quite odd situation. So, we did like that, and then we were thinking about people that we knew who could fit in the band. Actually Per, our singer, knew the new guitarist Robin and he was interested. Robin, in turn, knew Fredrik, who he recommended as the new bassist. Both of them came to a rehearsal together and we played eight or nine songs, I think. It sounded great, and it has become even better since, so they fit very well into the band. It feels great to have a full line-up again, now that the album is going to be released.
HX: You talked about themes in the title track a little bit, but what other themes are on the album?
CL: All lyrics are inspired by those kinds of thoughts and ideologies that I described about the title track. It’s from different angles. I mean, I don’t only focus on the negative parts of existence, but rather, also, what can be done about it. Ways to reach higher goals and to transcend limitations and so on. I mean the theme is more or less the same. The theme would be my personal view upon this world and creation from a spiritual point of view. Then there are different aspects to what the exact focus is put upon.
HX: Let’s go back to the history of the band. Can you give me a brief overview of how you guys started?
CL: It was me and the drummer. We had a band before Portrait called Bloodlust, which was more like a thrash black metal band. We did some demo tapes and so on, but never really went anywhere. We never really had any belief in the music we did. At some rehearsal, we started to play a Running Wild song, Black Demon. Then we both felt like maybe we should try to do some heavy metal instead. That was kind of that we both liked most anyway. We had always thought that it was a bit out of reach, because you have to find a great singer and so on. It’s a whole other deal than playing extreme metal. We thought like that anyway. So that started. We started writing some songs and found a singer and a full line-up later on also. We started doing a demo tape and then a seven inch single which led to the first album also, on an underground label. After that, we were contacted by Metal Blade Records. It was actually Alan Averill of Primordial who works for Metal Blade also, who invited us. He had seen a gig we did in Germany. So we signed a three album deal with Metal Blade in 2010, I think it was. The new album now will be the third album that we release on Metal Blade. There we are. And then there were a lot of hassle and membership changes and so on in the middle of that, but I’m not going to bore you too much with those details.
HX: You and the drummer have been constant since the beginning?
CL: Yeah, exactly. So we are the only original members left. Per, the singer, joined in 2008. So, he’s been a member for a long time also.
HX: Who or what would you say are your influences musically or not musically, either way?
CL: It’s hard to say what the main influences are. My absolute favorite bands are the classics like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Dio, Black Sabbath, Accept. But I also like some black and death metal like Bathory, Venom, Morbid Angel. Also some 70’s prog stuff like King Crimson, Wishbone Ash, Genesis, Jethro Tull and stuff like that. In some way, I guess, everything you like inspires you somehow, even though some might be more overt. Heavy metal bands like Judas Priest, Mercyful Fate, of course, and Iron Maiden I would say, and of course with a touch of some other, darker stuff from the more extreme kinds of metal also.
HX: I usually post on our Facebook page that I’m going to be interviewing whatever band it is. One of our readers commented. They were wondering about the RAM split, how that came about, and if there’s a chance of you ever doing something similar again?
CL: It came about, because I’m a good friend with the singer of RAM, Oscar. We have the same attitude towards music, the same taste in music, and so on. The belief in the power of heavy metal. It was one of those nights where we were at his place or at some pub or something, and just discussed doing a split seven inch was the first idea actually. I had seen the German and Dutch bands Disaster and Pentacle had done the same thing. They did a cover version of each other, so to speak. We felt that we could do something along the same lines. Then it evolved, because we felt we should have one new track from each band also. Then it got even further, so it was actually three songs from both bands. So, that’s the way it is. Yeah, we’d definitely do something along those lines again. It’s a bit more relaxed to do things like that, but still you can get things out and do great stuff with it. It’s not the same pressure that you feel when you have to magic a whole album complete, and have all ingredients to it and stuff like that. I like those smaller releases also.
HX: You mentioned, in your answer there, the power of heavy metal. What would you say is the power of heavy metal?
CL: To me, it’s been invaluable. The music itself speaks to you for a reason. For me, it’s proven to be because I’m in harmony with it. It can describe how I feel, but what I have not been able to put into words. The power that in can grant – I mean, you start listening to it, and it can get deeper and deeper into record collecting, the attitude, and the lifestyle and so on. You get freed from some of the shackles or bonds of society, at least on a mental level. You’re always affected by politics and stuff like that of course, but if you have a mental focus and something reasonable and valuable to do with your life, then you’re not as affected by all of it, at least on a mental level. It has given me an outpost or resort – a sort of freedom. It’s been going on for over twenty years now in my case and I haven’t regretted it so far when seeing normal people. I think it’s there to stay, it should be safe to say. Then of course, to others, there may be other things that can do the same thing. I mean if someone is into dinosaurs or something, then they have that to spend their lives upon and be interested in and put focus on and so on. But, to me, that things, the important thing has been heavy metal. To me, it’s above everything else. Others can do what they want.
HX: That’s a great way to put it. We feel that here. Fans of the site and writers. Tell me about the Swedish metal scene.
CL: It is an active scene. Many bands. Throughout history, as soon as there’s one band that does something successful or deemed cool, there are many other bands popping up that try to do the same thing. I think it’s been the same since Europe did The Final Countdown in ’86. Then all hard rock, heavy metal bands tried to do similar things. Then the next thing was the Stockholm death metal thing, which also got huge and many bands popping up. Then you have the Gothenburg kind of melodic metal, which was the same thing. Also, this form of traditional, classic heavy metal has been pretty popular during the last years. I think it’s both positive and negative, all those waves. They always give some good bands and a lot of not so good bands. As long as there are still some releases worth checking out, then all good. Better than nothing. That’s the way it is. Sweden is a pretty trendy country and things can change from one day to the other. We have a good music climate. It’s quite easy to get rehearsal places and stuff like that everywhere. It’s all good. Except for us, who have had huge problems in the last years with rehearsal places, but that’s another story. It’s solved now, at least. It’s alive and kicking, to sum it up, the Swedish metal scene.
HX: Excellent. It seems like it. We always see excellent bands coming out of Sweden. What are your tour plans in support of the album and any chance of hitting the US?
CL: Yeah, we have one European tour scheduled for October-November. Then, I think we will do one-off shows maybe for the last part of the year, also in Europe. I really hope we’ll be able to get to North America this time. We haven’t received so many offers from there actually. It is something that all of us, both as a band and as private persons, would like to do. I hope that it can happen this time around. Hopefully it would be in the first part of next year. We will see. Nothing is confirmed or anything, but hopefully. That is all I can say now.
HX: I hope we do see you over here. One final question. What else should we know about Portrait?
CL: You should know that nowadays, we rehearse in a room that was built for pigs. I don’t know what it’s called in English, you know this house for pigs on a farm that we have rebuilt now. That is important information. You should also know that the new album will kill.
HX: So far, so good. I’ve only heard the two tracks, but I like them for sure.
HX: So, that’s all the questions I have. Thank you so much for your time.
CL: Yeah. Thank you too.