Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae
Review by Chris Pratl on October 23, 2018.
If you could imagine Mercyful Fate’s early music with the vocals reminiscent of King Diamond on the lower register you’d have the perfect picture of Portrait (no puns intended). This is one of the more exciting bands to come around the metal movement in some time. Hailing from Sweden, Portrait exercises and extends its might and muscle accordingly in its second go-round titled Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae, which is quite the journey into a dark and empty chasm of evil.
While not as blatant or emphatic about the satanic side of life as the Danish counterparts, Portrait conveys a particular sense of reserved educating when it comes to the topical reverence with which they operate. As opposed to being too over-the-top or egregious, the band manages a typically early traditional feel that does wonders for the medium in this chosen fashion. While a million bands try, both successfully and unsuccessfully, to tap into the Venoms, Slayers and Bathorys of the world, very few even attempt Mercyful Fate and even less than that achieve any sort of validity in doing so. The only band rivaled as an equal and even worth mentioning in this vein is In Solitude, also from Sweden. Between these two bands the die is cast for a future in traditional evil metal music.
To the credit of Portrait they manage to channel the forces of early Fate but also keep true to their original ideas, and they have those in abundance. “Bloodbath” travels at a constricting light speed with some of the better guitar riffs I’ve heard from the traditional medium. What attracts me as well is the vocal melody that doesn’t stagnate into one pattern throughout each track and allows the music to let it carry the voice through the ears in direct opposition to over or under, which in this case would stultify it. The absolute perfection of the riffs and arrangements in these songs is amazing and lends credence to the assumption that this traditional style is still viable and wholly acceptable b the fickle masses. With a sharp production and massive attention to both the early 80’s sound and modernized ‘fullness’, Crimen… really drives home the new arrival of that wonderful traditionally evil metal that needs no pomp and circumstance to further its hallowed agenda.
The undeniable comparison to King Diamond is here throughout, and while Per Lengstedt doesn’t exactly pilfer Diamond’s legendary high-pitched falsetto he does enable a new generation to find total and subservient reverence in his delivery. In fact, and this might be sacrilege to say, I prefer this polished style that has a more lush tonal quality than the straight-shot one-dimensional effort King always gave. Hey, I go back with Mercyful Fate 28-years now and I love KD, so imagine how difficult it must be for me to say this. However, I’d rather pass the torch than see the style fade into eventual obscurity. Besides, Lengstedt has an almost Eric Adams feel to some of his higher registered vocalization, so the balance is certainly there, especially evident and honed to needle-point perfection in “The Nightcomers”, where the very core brilliance of Portrait shines through like a blacklight bulb.
This is a brilliant album from beginning to end, embracing and elevating all of the best elements of past glories and future accolades in one sitting. Metal Blade made a fine choice releasing this small piece of my past and a hungry current generation’s future.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10
(Originally written for www.metalpsalter.com)