ALBUM REVIEW: Portrayal Of Guilt – We Are Always Alone

Release Date: January 29th 2021
Label: Closed Casket Activities


The ever expanding, transmutational scene of black metal-cum-screamo has few decrepit poster children as prolific and enigmatic as Portrayal Of Guilt.

In the four short years since their inception, the Texas trio has dropped a slew of singles and splits, while their 2018 full-length debut, ‘Let Pain Be Your Guide’, marked the true arrival of a vicious, unhinged force within the genre. Going on to support modern peers Deafheaven and Touché Amoré, as well as accompanying 90s genre stalwarts pg. 99 and Majority Rule on their reunion tour, speaks volumes to the regard and credence the relatively new band have been paid thus far.

After the release of the grindcore leaning ‘Suffering Is A Gift’ EP towards the end of 2019, it’s been a curious wait to see where primary songwriter Matt King‘s grim intentions lay. Well, if ‘We Are Always Alone’ doesn’t seem like a defeatist, nihilistic acceptance of human despair, then you surely have yourself quite a sunny disposition.

Clocking in at over 26 minutes, this is the group’s longest project to date, with a prevalent willingness to explore their cold, abysmal soundscapes for more than just a mere minute at a time. While those hyper-aggressive, audible assaults do arise, like the cascading, crush of opener ‘The Second Coming’, or the blackened hollow of ‘A Tempting Pain’, it’s the longer cuts, reminiscent of fan favourite ‘Daymare’, that elicit their most profound efforts to date.

The double single, twisted two-act display of ‘It’s Already Over’ and ‘Masochistic Oath’ unveils a dissonant blend of pummelling, frosted black metal and nuanced post-punk, coalescing with one another in nauseating cacophony.

King‘s often unintelligible lyrics make for some utterly disturbing reading. Suicide, the absence of an afterlife, and an untethered venom towards the human condition are all consistent topics, delivered with a conflicted, tortured shriek that at times feels malevolent and other-worldy, and, at others, fragile and terrified.

Like on ‘My Immolation’, a brooding dirge exploring a man’s final moments before dousing his home in petrol and setting himself alight; featuring eerily detached clean vocals, the horrific ordeal is detailed in an alarmingly despondent manner.

Embracing atmosphere and pacing, while pushing their bleak agenda further than ever before, ‘We Are Always Alone’ is a genuinely unsettling work, serving to alienate as much as it pleads for guidance and a rope out of the misanthropic pit we can all find ourselves.