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Demo Review: Porunga – Porunga

Porunga’s self-titled demo is an odd little hodgepodge. The grindingly slow riffs on the appropriately titled “Invocation of Doom” and the slinking sludge that persists throughout make no bones about the Bloomington, Indiana group’s genre of choice. But just as you’re ready to dub them Iommi disciples and move on, all hell breaks loose. “Ice Breath” and “Duelist Kingdom” shift to black metal barrages, “Season of the Witch” packs some classic metal-inspired gallops into its twelve-minute runtime, and its “Reprise” is an extended acoustic/electronic outro.

The whole band sounds unhinged, particularly the grimy guitar and bass tones, but the vocals are the band’s true wild card. Liv Mershon’s performance is truly unconventional as she screams and howls without diving into extreme metal harshness while her clean voice has a flat, matter of fact delivery that reminds me of Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon in spots. The approach likely wouldn’t work in any other context and will certainly be an acquired taste for some anyway, but it is oddly effective.

But while the extreme style shifts and manic performances do create a degree of novelty, the compositions are often more memorable on that basis than for the actual writing. The band clearly understands that dynamics work, but there isn’t much thematic tension as individual segments often have a slapdash quality that keeps one from feeling a natural flow between them. I imagine further songwriting development will remedy this, and this being a demo does make it easy to forgive.

Overall, Porunga’s demo is a quirky first step that stands out for its demented approach to mixed metal. The dabbling in doom and black metal may make it worth seeking out for genre fans, but the unorthodox way it blends them in combination with the strange vocal performance are likely to make it an acquired taste. Hopefully the group can get some more substantial writing done on future studio efforts, but they’re likely to be a force of nature in the live environment.

Highlights:
“Duelist Kingdom”
“Season of the Witch”

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