Sometimes, it’s clear that there are going to be problems. After having my interest in Portal piqued by some posts on the LotFP message board, I investigated. I was pleased with the ensuing purchases, finding a band that was just exploding with creativity, having albums that (charitably) sound like a leaf blower if one isn’t paying close attention, and they are just the antidote for all of the really boring “extreme metal” that I desperately want to love (my heavy metal roots are in the early 90s death metal scene, for fuck’s sake) but that always lets me down hard. I knew I had to do something with the band, but there were problems. Their image is very… odd, with their using all sorts of bizarre stage names and obscuring their identities. I have an allergy to talking to facades, so I contacted Chris Bruni at their label (which manages to have the absolute worst-written band bios in the history of promotion for all of their bands… Bruni also does Unrestrained! mag and writes for a bunch of other mags… what gives?) and asked, “Is there any way in hell... I mean IN HELL... of getting someone from the band with a real name, on Skype (no phone here that I can hook a recorder to), to talk to me?” Well, I didn’t get either request (although I did end up emailing with “Chris Illogium” instead of “Horror Illogium” in trying to arrange things), so it was going to be an email interview. How I hate those. So instead of having a chat, I took over two months in coming up with a series of questions that I think would both not insult the band, and get me what I wanted in print. Illogium decided to pick and choose how he answered (the whole reason I don’t like email interviews in the first place!), but I think he still gives a good overview of what the band is all about. And really, with all of the mystery surrounding this band, should I have expected anything else? You are on notice: If you are at all interesting in cutting-edge, serious metal that blows through any expected sonic standards, you will listen to Portal.
(interview by James Edward Raggi IV with Roman Temin)
First, the boring stuff. Can you introduce the band to the readers?
Conceived in 1994 by Horror Illogium (guitar) and The Curator (voice) in Brisbane, eventually the Self titled demo tape was recorded in 1998 inspired by Lovecraft and Sumerian Occult themes. Some years were spent on crafting our very own dimensions of horror, delving into the antiquated. Members abducted Mephitic (drums) and Werm (bass) in 2001, The End Mills EP was released in 2002 and the debut album Seepia CD/LP 2003. A second guitarist Aphotic Mote was found in 2004, his sound added another spectrum of ghastly horror. The Sweyy EP completed in 2004 and released as a split with Rites of thy Degringolade (Canada) in 2005. Seepia became re-released via Profound Lore Records in 2005 for North America. The Telepathic chord with Mephitic and Werm is cut thereafter... The Lurker at the Threshold demo in 2006 with enlisted masters Monocular (drums) & Elsewhere (bass). A sophomore full length Outre' released by Profound Lore in 2007. Due to the distance in making frequent rehearsals difficult, closer geographical entities have been summoned and trained to usher in the next chapter of Portal.
What was the basic appeal of this music to you that more popular and accepted music couldn’t satisfy?
In 1986 I became obsessed with guitar when Iron Maiden blew my young mind.
The extra-musical elements of Portal are obviously very important. Can you tell us more about this?
The visual element was an unconscious development, The Curator and I have an affinity for the same horror feeling, these things made themselves present in the sphere of Portal. The two of us have been the central figures from day one, any of our members have agreed with our ways and expressed interest in the artform. Aphotic Mote has been with us the longest and he has an instinct for the horrific as we do. The costumes are significant to the visual element of the feeling we inject into our sound, it is the animation of such. If we had cinematic production at our fingertips we definitely would grasp the means to an end. Unlimited resources would produce some unearthly reflections of the scapes we have brought to life via audial essence.
Why do you use pseudonyms?
It is all about creating a feeling for ourselves, we become animated Outre' figures come to life, much the same purpose as the visual element, pseudonyms create unreality for the purpose to delve into our own scapes, inducing a feeling upon ourselves and the audience through this alter reality. If we did not use pseudonyms to present ourselves as artists we simply would not state any names. All members are in their third decade.
Everything about the band would seem to be an obstacle for more casual listeners to get into the band - even ones that would like the sound. How do you perceive would-be listeners?
The Portal art is used for our own device, only we fully understand the totality, most would-be listeners are interested in torment, the mental sadist who love to walk the corridors of our labyrinth. The works of Portal develop from our own feelings until we deem a composition complete, there are no intensions toward anything outwardly, the purpose of the device is inward. Portal is truly self-involved, the goings on of a scene is not of great importance to us. The website is for documentation and inciteful purposes, we se no inconsistencies when the art itself does not mold to whatever tool. Families understand the personalities involved and see nothing more than artistic embellishment.
Australian bands tend to be, I don't know, "amplified" in their images and attitudes compared to similar bands elsewhere. What is it about the Australian heavy metal environment that causes this?
The few bands that do this are made up of very 'amplified' personalities, I'm not sure that the environment has anything to do with it to be honest.
I often see you described – including by your label – as death metal. But with the chaotic nature of the sound, the extreme visual element, and just the feel of the thing, I’d say you’re closer to black metal. Are such distinctions important to you? What do you think separates these two subgenres?
Morbid Angel was the biggest influence on our sound, therefore we called it death metal, to what it has warped into now, I’m not sure if the term death metal still fits. I would suggest that our sound is much closer than what is representative of the genre in this day and age, however such distinctions are not important, when we have created our own identifiable sound. The best elements of death metal can be very dark, black metal took that sinister feeling and tapped into the inner psyche. There is a lot of boring crap in both genres unfortunately.
When listening to Portal, suddenly I feel like it's 1992, I'm seventeen and don't know shit about shit, I'm just getting into death metal and bands like Entombed and Morbid Angel are destroying my mind and how I think music is supposed to sound. How do you put this together?
Possibly Portal has unraveled feelings you have not experienced in extreme sound. Most of the time I myself have composed the music but of late Aphotic has offered up some truly horrifying music or we co-create as a band. Usually some guitar parts are created from some inspiration and built upon for months, we know when we have a Portal sound when we feel revolting or just from instinct. There is a lot of unused music that just didn’t touch that horror gland, or too many unnecessary notes in riffs without touching on the core element of feeling. The absurd confounding is just an effect taken by the listener, we only construct songs for our own journey and interest. The Curator's asphyxiating old man voice we find very appealing as the heirs master's voice. Regarding the 'next step,' I would say we have something unique, metal is moving with technology a lot, and if anything Portal is going backwards as we really despise an over digital, over clean sound with triggers and such. Our kind of production accentuates what we convey musically, we are about making extreme heaviness! Outre' is different to Seepia in the way that it really captures the olde vibe we were aiming for, and in an even more dreadful way we had envisioned, Seepia still holds a lot of our early influences in it's sound, that album has our first demo songs from 1998, so the soundform was still very much beginning, also the production is heavier on Outre' while sounding more defined and in your face. We have already started on the next opus with direction even more dreadful but utilizing methods as olde as the 16th century.
Lyrically, the band is fascinating. Tell us about that.
Much inspiration was derived and we pay tribute to entities mentioned in Lovecraft Mythos, Omnipotent Crawling Chaos is Nyarlathotep, 13 Globes - Yog Sothoth, Sunken for Cthulhu and Transcending a Mere Multiverse are for Azathoth/Cthulhu. All other lyrics are invented from our own minds over the course of several years. It is up to the observer of our art to make up their own judgement upon reading our lyrics, we only care to complete our creation and feel it has been described musically in full.
Outre´ has an amazing visual presentation. Tell us about that.
As artists we are of the self satisfaction thinking, we invent Portal to fill a void that is missing for our own observation. To lose ourselves in the art is pure indulgence. We're not concerned for how people wish to obtain their music, most people want the form in it's entirety from what's been witnessed. The artwork ideas were conjured between Horror Illogium and The Curator, with specific instructions with artist Jeff Lowe in the construction of the Clock Father in detail. A lot of the artwork was gathered and manipulated by ourselves over years, some other pieces were hand drawn for us by Perversor.
Tell us about your relationship with the record labels you have dealt with.
We have a good working relationship with all our labels over the years. Black Talon Media (RIP) served as nothing more than a promo machine to spread our horror into the underground, they were issued in limited editions as they were most likely to be released on a larger scale down the line, and thus Seepia - Profound Lore and The Sweyy - Ancient Darkness Productions as a split with Canada's Rites of thy Degringolade. Profound Lore approached Portal as they had heard a CDr of Seepia, we knew they were right for releasing Seepia because they really understood the aesthetic and there was a special emphasis on packaging. There are completely different layouts between the two releases of Seepia, the Black Talon one being a jewel case. Never had any disagreements with our labels. Profound Lore have ensured horror aesthetic when promoing Outre', and have enabled Portal to appear in large print magazines. We adore The Angelic Process, WOLD but all of the bands are unique and great.
To wrap this up… what five albums are you enjoying lately?
Negative Plane - et in saecula saeculorum, Nocturnus - The Key, Mortem - Demon Tales, Siouxsie and the Banshees - JUJU, The Cure - Pornography.
Any final words for the readers?
The worst advancements are afoot!