Portrait - Official Website

The Host

Sweden Country of Origin: Sweden

1. Hoc Est Corpus Meum (Intro)
3. The Sacrament
4. Oneiric Visions
5. One Last Kiss
6. Treachery
7. Sound The Horn
8. Dweller Of The Threshold
9. Die In My Heart
10. Voice Of The Outsider
11. From The Urn
12. The Men Of Renown
13. Sword Of Reason (The Steel Of Revenge)
14. The Passions Of Sophia

Review by Vladimir on June 3, 2024.

As someone who worships Mercyful Fate and King Diamond, it's no wonder that the bands like Attic and Portrait, which were heavily influenced by them, are going to be just as interesting for someone like me. After the release of Attic's incredible "Return Of The Witchfinder", I was patiently waiting for the next release in this series, and the turn finally came for Portrait's sixth album The Host, which is due to be released on June 21st, 2024 via Metal Blade Records. Without any further ado, it's time to dive in to the bloodbath and explore the dark realm of Portrait's The Host.

Starting off slow and steady with the ominous intro track 'Hoc Est Corpus Meum', and proceeding immediately into 'The Blood Covenant', the journey to the blood-soaked world of Portrait is instantly turning into a turbulent thrill-ride full of delights. It's essentially what you would expect to get, some evil and wicked heavy metal with dark atmosphere and eerie storytelling, where each song consists of solid rocking riffs, double-bass drumming, occasional synths and epic singing vocals with high-pitched falsettos, all of which come from their Mercyful Fate & King Diamond influenced background since the band's early beginnings. Overall, there is plenty of heaviness and catchiness to be heard all throughout the album, ranging from galloping riffs to slow melodies, but along the way you will notice that there is also a lot of progression, with this strong sense of dynamic curve that fluently transitions from one song to another. However, you would be unwise to think that this album is all about fast heavy metal with evil and dark subjects, because you also get one nice ballad 'One Last Kiss', a nice change of pace that sets up a different mood than the rest, but still keeps the flow of The Host very strong and consistent. From the very get-go, this album has been full of surprises from every angle, in terms of the riffing or the general song execution, but something that really stands out among the rest are the borderline black metal influences in the instrumentation, expressed through tremolo picking riffs with faster drumming and even blast beats. This may not come as much of a surprise to you if you are generally familiar with Portrait's discography, especially because it was done beforehand on some of their earlier works, but the biggest highlight about this is that every song on the album is filled with so much tension and suspense that contribute to the effective use of these sudden changes, that in the end come off as unexpected yet incredibly welcome. Whichever way you manage to experience the magic and the course of this album, you can't deny that it really takes you in so many places with every song that you just can't afford to feel unamused or unimpressed, even during the second half that gradually builds up to the grand climax of the album with 'The Passions Of Sophia'.

For a long time now, Portrait's songwriting has been incredibly dynamic and interesting with its variety of ideas that offer a bit of everything, with such strengths and qualities that keep you on edge full time. The Host is definitely no exception in that regard, because it is very rich and powerful with the overall songwriting execution, and even the stylistic consistency that is carried over from one song to another keeps things on a even level of enjoyable and engaging. Besides the simple but effective riffing, this album also wins a lot of points with its amazing vocal performance by Per Lengstedt, as well as the fun dynamic moving bass lines by Fredrik Petersson, giving an extra touch to the already brilliant musicianship that was established from the start. One thing that really surprised me about this album is the incredibly gruesome and gory album cover by Niklas Webjörn, which is still very fitting alongside the previous album covers that also had this canvas painting style to them, however this one is really exceptional because it's more explicit and unsettling to look at unlike the others, but nevertheless, I won't deny the fact that he did a great job at capturing the essence of The Host by expressing its macabre nature. As for the production, The Host was produced and mixed by the band's vocalist Per Lengstedt, and he did a fantastic job at providing a top-notch sound that perfectly carries out every bit of Portrait's performance, all the way down to every instrumentation and every superb vocal line.

In the end, The Host has shown itself as another fine result of Portrait's capability to craft something that is equally fantastic and imaginative. Their songwriting has always been very interesting and from album to to album it never let me down, it just became more interesting and was further expanded into different territories worth exploring. Overall, I think that The Host is a great album that checks all the marks for me.

Rating: 8.9 out of 10