Portal - Hagbulbia
Profound Lore Records
Dark Ambient, Noise
5 songs (38:08)
Release year: 2021
Portal, Profound Lore Records
Reviewed by Goat

For a band so built on aesthetics and atmosphere as Australia's Portal, it seems strange that only now have they released an album of pure ambience and noise. Yet Hagbulbia, a companion piece to the more usual (relatively speaking!) Portal release Avow, shows the strengths and weaknesses of this, and it's interesting to note that this is being marketed as the lesser of the two rather than a full album in its own right. Shorn of the death metal elements, however twisted, that make for Portal's metallic weight, this is a very spindly, fragile portrayal of their sound, all buzzing ambience, distorted vocals, and industrial beats layered with so many effects that the end result isn't far from sheer noise. Listening to this does make you appreciate Avow more, the lack of guitars an uncomfortable void in the aural experience, and the resulting focus on tormented noise (such as Of Straw and Cloth's high-pitched nails-on-a-chalkboard-esque blizzard) will limit the audience even moreso.

Avow was already a disorienting, horrific experience, Hagbulbia raises the stakes. The vocals are mostly changed from an insistent hiss to a berating roar, lecturing the listener as much as casting some otherworldly spell, and the echoing distortion makes it all the more unpleasant. And yet there are differences between tracks here, the slightly more spacious and crackly Grail having a more subtle effect than, say, the dramatic bursts of noise of Weptune, which feels like wandering through a blizzard whilst unseen horrors lurk beyond your vision. And the closing ten minutes of Hexodeus ups the synths just a little to add to the swirling effect, like some unimaginably colossal beast slowly breathing in and out whilst the hoarse vocals chant, a sudden beat acting as the ceremonial percussion as the eldritch ceremony concludes.

Concludes abruptly, that is, cutting out instead of fading out. For those who dislike this genre, this will be fuel to the fire; that these artists are pretty much cut-and-pasting effects and playing on a computer until the results sound unclear enough, and that any atmospheric impact is the willing suspended disbelief of the listener. Perhaps? Yet the atmospheric impact that Portal have, and any extreme metal, relies on this to some extent, and certain music is definitely more capable than others of inducing visions in your mind. And Hagbulbia succeeds in this sense, although those used to more metallic emanations from Portal will prefer them, and Avow, over this.

(apparently playing both albums simultaneously is not what the band intended with the dual release, but those who really wish to summon daemons / destroy the remnants of their sanity are welcome to try)

Killing Songs :
Stow, Weptune, Hexodeus
Goat quoted 70 / 100
Other albums by Portal that we have reviewed:
Portal - Avow reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Portal - ION reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
Portal - Vexovoid reviewed by Koeppe and quoted 75 / 100
Portal - Swarth reviewed by Charles and quoted 80 / 100
Portal - Outre' reviewed by Goat and quoted 87 / 100
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