In Memoriam: Edmonton’s PORTAL

Share:

There is a specific feeling which arises in a person when they learn something they love is gone, be it a person, an object, or in this case, a band. The Toilet’s own HessianHunter is well aware of the depths of such a crushing blow in his discovery of the late Humanfly. I am confident that we have all experienced learning a band recently discovered and loved will ne’er again play music — we can hope for a reunion, but we know by the time whatever problems caused the end of the group have been resolved life will have taken its toll on the members (and consequently, their music); the snippet of art we received will remain a snapshot in time, never again to be paralleled. Join me, friends, as I talk about Edmonton’s own that ended too soon: Portal.

In the summer of 2013 I was introduced to more extreme types of music than to which I was previously listening. Noise, avant-garde, artistic music of all spectrums — it was a time of discovery for me, and through that period in my life I learned to never stop challenging the self, that through my struggle to understand things which were beyond me I was growing as an artist and as a person. It was during this exploration that I was introduced to the extreme black metal band, Portal. Immediately I was intrigued, and that night after rehearsal decided to look them up.

Eventually I did find them, but not before coming across something very interesting: an Edmonton-based progressive rock band, also named Portal. Being actively engaged in the scene at that time in a progressive metal/rock band but not aware of this group, I listened to their album Blood Red Tape and was instantly hooked. Seldom do I hear local groups that I love enough to listen to them as much as musicians from other geographical locations (that may be due to “prophets without honour,” or because Edmonton simply has a poor music scene in general; regardless, it’s a question best left to a different article), but Portal grabbed me in the same way as had Porcupine Tree or Tool.

These comparisons are not idly chosen. Portal takes the progressive nature of Porcupine Tree and Tool, progression rooted in groove, mood, and organic composition, realizing the strength of phrasing that flows naturally through and across time signatures and complex rhythm. This is no Dream Theater, or Spock’s Beard, or even LeprousBlood Red Tape understands its own pace, bringing the listener in through the ebb and flow of energy between and within songs. It is a patient music, giving release and aggression the exact moment the subtle buildup of the ostinato could take no more.


Listen to “Your Kettle”:


 

Like any great album, there is variety on Portal’s Blood Red Tape; variety in structure and length and style, and yet the songs that shine the brightest are their longest. Each musician knows their place perfectly, providing stability and structure to a purposed music, stepping out of their placement in the song as a whole only for brief snippets — and even then only when the song has allowed for such a step. These rare moments are usually typified by a drum break, but never stray into the territory of musical masturbation. Even when an individual element of the greater whole takes a forefront, its spotlight is consistently checked by its firm awareness of situation. These breaks are musical, designed to complement the song rather than any individual performer. Though each individual performer’s musical prowess has been seldom paralleled in the professional music scene (let alone the local), their concept of and commitment to the song as a piece of art is never swayed.


Listen to “We Kuffar”:


 

When I discovered Portal were no more, I was genuinely saddened — both because I will never be able to experience them live and because I have nothing new to look forward to from them. And yet, in an odd way, I feel that such an end is fitting for Portal’s music. They have provided a snapshot into a specific time, place, and mood in their lives, and in doing so have also given me a snapshot of a reaction. Blood Red Tape is a regular listen for me, and in its finite nature has been raised above offerings from other artists who through repetitive stagnation drove their sound into the ground, album after album. Though Blood Red Tape‘s songs never change, my love of it never wanes, and in my desire for more, sated only by the same album over and over, I have learned to appreciate something not readily available, unyielding to my desires. Portal gave me a small piece of art, and in the same way we treasure the memories of loved things now lost, I hold onto the small glimpse of beauty afforded me in Blood Red Tape.


Listen to “Call to Arms II: Jebel Moon”:


 

(Image via. All songs property of Portal, 2008. Purchase Blood Red Tape on iTunes)

Did you dig this? Take a second to support Toilet ov Hell on Patreon!
  • Edward/Breegrodamus™

    I’ve discovered so much music so late in the game. This is good shit Guacy.

    • Dagon

      I only feel the “no more albums” part of discovering a band too late, as I have 0 expectations of seeing any of the bands I enjoy live.

      • Guacamole Jim

        Ah yeah, I can see that. It was just extra depressing since they were local, and I learned about shows they’d done in Edmonton well after the fact.

        • Dagon

          Like me finding out about La Pupuña long after the band was over. They will be featured (sort of) in a TovH post soon.

          • Guacamole Jim

            Sweet, I’m excited to see that! Dagon recommendations >>>>>>>

          • Dagon

            As a drummer you’ll dig it more than other people, me thinks. Plenty of regional Amazon rhythms!

          • Guacamole Jim

            Very cool. I love that kind of stuff. Regional spins on metal bands add such a rocking element. It’s like that Chinese folk metal band W. posted the other day.

          • StudmanGetYourPull666_69

            Ever heard Rudra?

      • Edward/Breegrodamus™

        It’s been discussed a few times lately, and not to rub salt in your proverbial wounds Fish God, but I have a pretty ridiculous musical calendar coming up through June. I am pretty bonered up about it.

        • Dagon

          I live vicariously through my people.

    • Guacamole Jim

      I’m glad you dig it, dude! Like I said, this album is one of my favourite spins. Really really solid stuff. I actually tried to contact them about setting up a show when I first discovered them, and only realized after I’d sent an email that they had been done for years.

      • “guise, i know we threw in the towel years ago; but there are a bunch of jocks in a ‘toilet ov hell’ that want us to play a reunion show for them. i don’t see any harm in that!”
        -Portal

        • Guacamole Jim

          Dude, I’d be all over that. I actually tried reaching out to the guitar player/singer for Portal, but I don’t think he ever saw the message [edit: Sadface]

        • Guacamole Jim

          Dude, I just got a message from Joe today. A guy from Portal found the article, really liked it, and they’re talking about doing new music. Miracles do happen!!

      • StudmanGetYourPull666_69

        Who knows though? I sent Fektion Fekler an email years back, and they had been done for several years. Then BAM, I ended up managing and promoting them, they put out a new CD (2 CD set overseas), got them signed, etc. You never know, that email might get them up and going again.

  • Tyree

    I’ll let you know how the “extreme black metal band, Portal” is on Monday. Seeing them on Sunday if I can stay sober enough.

    • Edward/Breegrodamus™

      I’ve read that they are pretty stellar live.

      • Tyree

        Yeah, I’m very curious to know how they sound live.

  • I’ve never actually listened to Portal before. Sounds pretty cool.

    • Dagon

      Never listened to much PT but the Tool comparison is spot on.

      • Guacamole Jim

        I would say they lean much more heavily towards the Tool side of prog, but when I think of PT I really think about odd-time signatures grooving so they don’t sound like odd times, and Portal nailed that.

        • Dagon

          Is this what’s happening on “Call To Arms II: Jebel Moon”? Because the percussion in this song is amazing.

          • Guacamole Jim

            In the breakdown? They stick to 4/4 almost exclusively on Call to Arms II, but in the percussion section the drummer is totally screwing with polyrhythms on both the kit and the aux. percussion. Bill George is the dude’s name; he actually went to the same music college I did, and is primarily a jazz drummer. Fucking phenomenal.

          • Dagon

            I think it’s the aux. percussion that’s sticking out to me.

          • Guacamole Jim

            Yup, I just counted it out. He’s implying a 5/4 over the 4/4 and correcting it every four bars.

          • Dagon

            Four loko.

          • Guacamole Jim
          • StudmanGetYourPull666_69

            Gah, that shit is nasty, and for some reason I had a weird ache in my arms and legs when I drank it.

  • TheRedman(formerly God ov All)

    Oh not the portal I was thinking. Heart attack averted.

    • TheRedman(formerly God ov All)

      Also, just heard the new cattle decapitation song. I need to leave work now to change my pants.

    • Tyree

      Have you ever heard of Impetuous Ritual? Two of the members of Portal (Australia) are in the band. Really menacing sounding shit man.

      • YES m/
        also years ago, there was a rumor that members of Portal were also in StarGazer. just a rumor i suppose?!

        • Tyree

          I think I remember that rumor.

          Both Impetuous Ritual and Portal are playing MDF. Should be intense and grim!

        • The Beargod

          Members of StarGazer may not play in that Portal and I may not enjoy that Portal very much but Impetuous Ritual is good and members of StarGazer are in a Funeral Doom band which is a fd band about which I would say: Oh fharc!

      • TheRedman(formerly God ov All)

        Sounds right up my alley. I’ll have to check it out. Thanks buddy!

        • Tyree

          No problem.

    • Guacamole Jim

      Were you thinking the Australian band?

      • TheRedman(formerly God ov All)

        I was indeed

    • StudmanGetYourPull666_69

      Same here, though I liked that band quite a bit.

  • The Beargod

    At halfway of the first song and I really like this. The semk-relaxed vocal style comes off great. But that not-really-chugging-but-almost-na-waddamean is a little annoying.

    • Guacamole Jim

      The ostinato drone type stuff? Your Kettle is really based around that style in particular – the other songs move around a bit more. I’m glad you like it though! The vocals are pretty unique in that I don’t know how many other situations they’d work as well in.

      • The Beargod

        Depends on what the crap is ostinato, but probably yes.

        • Guacamole Jim

          hahahahaha here you go:

          “In music, an ostinato (derived from Italian: stubborn, compare English: ‘obstinate’) is a motif or phrase that persistently repeats in the same musical voice, usually at the same pitch. The repeating idea may be a rhythmic pattern, part of a tune, or a complete melody in itself.”

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ostinato

          • The Beargod

            Yes I just realized I knew with a very slightly different term and was confused.

      • The Beargod

        I got it. Yes that’s what I mean Ostinato obvs is Obstinatus.

  • i’m currently on the first song and can already declare it “rocket / 10”!
    @disqus_77PBSiK8Ug:disqus, please tell me you are a fan of Karnivool…

    • Guacamole Jim

      You fucking know it, dude! I actually submitted Karnivool once for Riff ov the Week!

      • just bought the album on amazon MP3 (>>>> itunes)
        loving it!

      • StudmanGetYourPull666_69

        Karnivool definitely gets me all crispy and tender!

  • BIBLEFIST

    This is good, I grew up a few hours north of Edmonton so I’m really enjoying this.

    • welcome to the Toilet!!! m/

      • BIBLEFIST

        Haha thanks, I’ve been lurking for a few months and decided it’s time to start posting.

        • Guacamole Jim

          Right on! Glad to have you in the madness that is the comments section. Also cool to see a fellow Albertan in the mix!

    • ¡Bienvenido! 🙂

    • StudmanGetYourPull666_69

      Welcome to the Toilet, where the men are men and the women beat us up with their purses and throw us in lockers!

    • Óðhinn

      I’ve heard of Edmonton. Mostly from movies though.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69swG6kxYJ4

  • zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    strange times on the internet–
    a choice of “portals”—
    a question of human devotion—for every person-
    as each —takes their own portal—to song
    —-
    all 3 at once—-full vol on 1st and 3rd vid—2nd vid muted
    https://youtu.be/9FCYg4v9lBE
    https://youtu.be/FBTLThA0wOw
    https://youtu.be/SN1gi8oq74g

      • zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

        ha ha—yes indeed–

      • StudmanGetYourPull666_69
        • more beer

          I saw them in New York that year. With Skinny Puppy and the Mentors. Probably the strangest show I’ve ever been to.

          • StudmanGetYourPull666_69

            Their new band, Cocksure, is equally as weird.

          • more beer

            Wasn’t the bands. It was the crowd. Haven’t heard that . Will check it out. Not surprised it’s weird though.

          • StudmanGetYourPull666_69

            Pretty much anything Chris Connelly is weird. Nice guy though, met him when he was working at Reckless Records in Chicago. Not sure if he’s still there, but anywho.

  • Guaqui, this sounds awesome. It’s more song-centric than mathematical nerdy prog. All the descriptions are well spot on.

    Loved that you resurrected and shared their music, I’ve never listened them. The vocalist have a very melodious voice.

    Thanks <3

  • StudmanGetYourPull666_69

    Not bad at all, actually better than PT! Another great Guacamole special.

    • Guacamole Jim

      Thanks amigo!

    • at first i upvoted because of “not bad at all”, then i took it back because of “better than PT”. it’s better than SOME PT. *shakes fist*

      • StudmanGetYourPull666_69

        I’m just not a fan of PT, even though they put on a good live show when I saw them. I love prog, but never could quite get into them.

      • Sir Tapir the Based

        I feel like I’m the only one that likes Steven Wilson’s solo stuff over PT.

        • Guacamole Jim

          You might be. Though his most recent album was fucking stellar.

          • Sir Tapir the Based

            I love it, but The Raven That Refused to Sing is still my favourite of his.

  • J.R.

    I learned today that Means End broke up. Oh well. I will enjoy their one and only album until I die. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHxgXfRCLeQ

    New Slice the Cake on friday though, So that should be exciting.

    Too bad I’ll be too busy Taylor Swifting to get into it. Keep your eyes peeled for a concert review or something. We all made silly tshirts that spell her name to appease my sister’s fanatical desires. woo.

    • new Slice the Cake is a good!

      • J.R.

        You know it is!
        I miss the cleans from Mountains of Man though