I once made the mistake of listening to Portal with the lights off before bed. Other than the night following my near-victory at a fried-chicken-eating contest, I'd never had such messed-up dreams in my life. Portal's nightmarish death metal isn't for the faint of heart — nor is gorging on fried chicken, for that matter — though if you like to indulge in Lovecraftian horror that's bent on sonic masochism, you can't go wrong with "The Back Wards" from the mysterious Australian band's fourth album, Vexovoid.
Rather than think of "The Back Wards" as a swarming cluster of manic riffs and a surprisingly straightforward blast-beat and crash, it's just as well to imagine Portal as theater. After all, Portal's vocalist, The Curator, does fancy a new masked costume with every album cycle — he's had a clock for a face, sported an evil pope hat and draped a tentacled cloth around his head, and now he dons something like a keffiyeh. This is the stuff of Dario Argento's surrealist horror films, pounded into the clearest-sounding Portal album yet, as if stripping away the murk for something that much more terrifying.
Vexovoid comes out Feb. 19 on Profound Lore Records.