Death metal always pretends to be scary, but for all the gore-obsessed lyrics, violent imagery, and crushing riffing and blastbeats, for all the cacophony, it’s all rather harmless. That said, however, I make no mistake in saying that the death metal peddled by Australia’s Portal is truly friggin’ terrifying. Visually, they’ve got it down, as band members don suits and executioners’ masks save for vocalist The Curator, who wears a huge, tattered wizard’s hat that obscures his face. Lyrically, the aforementioned Curator spews random cut-up images in the vein of William Burroughs, delivered in a howl as dry as the Outback. The music itself is the final iron nail in the dusty, wooden coffin, it’s production unrelentingly stifling. Not unlike black metal, it’s more preoccupied with atmosphere and less with technical proficiency, the songs constantly projecting a supremely creepy vibe, from the awkward cadence of the percussion, to the haunting thrum of bass (or as the liner notes put it, the “Writhing Undertow of Omnitidings & Rift”), to the lo-fi churning of guitars (wait, is that a melody in “13 Globes”?). So convincing all this is, we half expect to see this band in only sepia tones when we see them in person. If we’re ever brave enough, that is. Beautifully packaged by the always reliable Profound Lore label, the astonishing Outré is not only a highly disturbing slice of extreme music, but also an essential one.
Move the hell over, Corpsegrinder. This is real horror.