July 4, 2024, 2 weeks ago

(Metal Blade)

Nick Balazs

Rating: 9.0

review heavy metal portrait


On album number six, Portrait paints their most ambitious work yet with The Host, a concept album in the vein of their Mercyful Fate / King Diamond stylings with a story taking place in the 17th century in the Swedish Empire during the Era Of Great Power (should catch Sabaton’s attention!) during a time of war. The plot is centered on a man chosen by the church to be a soldier and what ensues is a tale of heresy, the occult, and revenge.

The story is well-written and reflects the mood of the diverse and dynamic songwriting. Portrait has come into their own on this 70 minute effort that does not feel long and is earned. Singer Per Legstedt also served as the producer and mixer of The Host and does not let singer’s syndrome get in the way. It’s classically sounding hard and heavy metal utilizing modern technology.

Legstedt puts on a phenomenal vocal performance showcasing theatricality with a screeching falsetto and a biting lower voice showcasing the roller coaster of events. He’s not a KD clone by any means; he has a distinct, recognizable voice. Portrait musically crushes blending traditional heavy metal with doses of power, extreme, and thrash. It’s taking that template served by King Diamond / MF and extending it further.

Portrait utilizes those influences to maximum potential by combining those elements seamlessly with thoughtful transitions and thoughtful use of extremity and melody. “Treachery” executes this flawlessly with swirling mayhem that builds into a huge, airy, melodic solo. “One Last Kiss” is a full on power ballad with Judas Priest-like sustained notes in the louder parts, “Die In My Heart” has a slight commercial edge with its urgent, catchy vocals, “Sword Of Reason (The Steel Of Revenge)” is a chaotic assault of thrash, and “Sound The Horn” has black metal seeped into the trad metal blueprint. This is a sample of the strongly constructed diverse set of tracks.

From the haunting keyboard intro to the longest song in the band’s catalogue to close with “The Passions Of Sophia”, The Host has more urgency and unrest than 2021’s At One With None and it works in the Swedes favor. “Oneiric Visions” is one their best with the trance like state of the chorus and “The Men Of Renown” has a motivated, triumphant power metal feel in the vocals.

The Host is ghostly, shifty, dark heavy metal that leans even more into the occult and cements Portrait as one of the best the scene has to offer.

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