To put it in the tackiest way possible, Portrait’s Crossroads was an album that truly lived up to its name. While the Swedish metal group began life as a seemingly deliberate King Diamond doppelganger, that 2014 album seemed to broaden their influences and hinted at leaving behind their emulating tendencies. 2017’s Burn the World sees the band blazing the trail toward a more unique sound though it also proves that they won’t be abandoning their roots anytime soon.
The winding song structures and intricate guitar playing and spooky falsettos that deliver occult lyrics are still set to conjure quick associations with Mercyful Fate. However, I actually find this effort to be just as comparable to the recent blackened power metal outings by Satan’s Host, if more so. The tempos are at a near constant blaze with more intense drumming to match while the vocals tend to sound more like Harry Conklin than they do the King. Thankfully this comfort results in consistently strong musicianship.
While a bunch of the songs tend to sound alike, especially during the first half, there are tracks that thankfully manage to stand out. “Martyrs” is the most memorable track on here as its upbeat tempo reminds me of a darker version of Defenders of the Faith-era Judas Priest before it goes off into more gothic theatrics. The closing “Pure of Heart” is also worth noting as its acoustic beginning and marching tempo bring a vibe similar to late-era Immortal into the mix.
Overall, Portrait could still be seen as a derivative mix of all things occult metal but it is sure to satisfy metal fans looking for exactly that. There are moments where Burn the World risks falling into forgettable territory but the second half’s more varied songwriting helps keep it enjoyable. Hopefully the band will be able to get their songwriting skills even tighter on future efforts but they’re clearly heading in the right direction.
“Pure of Heart”
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