Review: Malphas “Portal” [M-Theory Audio]

Review: Malphas “Portal” [M-Theory Audio]

- in Reviews

Here’s a symphonic black metal album that’s not necessarily perfect, but has all the darkness and ambition I want from that genre.

The album’s ambition is proven in the instrumental intro, “The Wizard’s Portal”, with its gloomy strings and great dark choirs. We get more development of the symphonic parts, along with heavy drumming and punchy vocal delivery on the next track, “Fiat Empire”. There’s also some nice interplay between the raspy growls and the lower growls, some ethereal choir, and a nice guitar solo in this long and ambitious track. But it quickly becomes a little too generic, both formulaic and forgettable, like most of the album.

Others track follow a similar model, with different levels of heaviness and symphonic elements. Compare the guitar and keyboards shredding, and unexpected raspy singing on the bridge of “Red Shield Syndicate” with the furious riffs but occasional choirs of “Novus Ordo Seclorum”. Then “Candle Hands” has a similar mix of guitars and keyboards as “Red Shield”, but even faster and heavier. It also gets kind of repetitive. “Pale Eyes to Snowy Skies” also gets repetitive, which is a shame because it has an interesting dark ballad with desperate screams feel. “Atonement” also starts as a ballad before turning into a really fast track, you get the idea.

“Shadow and Blood on Jekyll Isle” gets more interesting, starting as a creepy ballad before bringing the sinister riffs and choirs. Jekyll Island also gets referenced in those weird spoken word parts on “Fiat Empire”, so it feels like part of a larger story, but I’m not sure what it’s supposed to mean. The song is still one of the best, with surprisingly catchy riffs and a unique atmosphere. Similarly, “Leviathan’s Moonlit Sanctum” has some deliciously sinister keyboards and vocals, and a sort of doom metal feel. “Man, Raven and the Portal” is the album’s 12 minute-long centerpiece, with a mix of keyboards and heavy riffs, distorted spoken word, clean male and female vocals, a nice guitar solo, echo-y growls and a very nice violin part. It can feel very long, like a bunch of ideas thrown around rather than an actual song, but it has many parts that sound really good, and it’s the most ambitious song of the entire album.

That’s a good way to sum up the album as a whole: it’s often repetitive, a little too long, and not even particularly good enough to make up for it, but it has a few very good ideas. It’s worth a listen, simply for songs like “Shadow and Blood on Jekyll Isle”, “Leviathan’s Moonlit Sanctum” and “Pale Eyes to Snowy Skies”. I didn’t love it, and I don’t think I need to listen to more than the best songs I just listed, but I can see a lot of you enjoying it.

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