Hails Illogium… of course you have doubtlessly recounted the path of PORTAL many times before, but for purposes of opening this interview can you once again describe your history? What is the meaning behind the selection of PORTAL as the name for the band?
"PORTAL was chosen due to unfathomable imaginings of horrible evil seeping into this dimension, that which we have opened, that which we are. Historically it had begun in 1994 when The Curator and I had realized the potential of combining our creativity as it was very obvious that we shared the same inclination, it was not until 1998 that we reluctantly recorded a demo on a four track, with what we thought were acceptable song structures, by that time no other members had befallen our path so we were forced to use a drum machine and there is actually no bass guitar either. In 1999 we had chosen to help out INVOCATION in recording and live rituals, I had forseen this as an opportunity to finally gain some experience in both fields. In 2001 work on PORTAL resumed, with a few mortals gathered for our procuring on "The EndMills" demo in 2002 and a first ever horror ritual, by the end of that same year we recorded "Seepia" and in 2003 was released on brown wax via Decius Productions, some shows were strewn to Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney by now we had found another maniac guitarist called Aphotic Mote. In 2004 we recorded "The Sweyy" and had it released as a split with Canada’s Rites of Thy Degringolade via Ancient Darkness Productions, not long after Profound Lore Records had sought us out for a North American edition of "Seepia" which was eventually re-released in 2005. A year later after much chaos, I had called upon the services of Monocular and Elsewhere who dwell in Adelaide to join in the creation of PORTAL although brief had eventuated the "Lurker At The Threshold" demo tape and our sophomore album "Outre", we were very happy with these outcomes, we had finally found the horror darkness we seek. After the release of "Outre" we had enlisted Ignis Fatuus and Phathom Conspicous on drums and bass to rehearse for months towards horror live rituals, as well as completing new broths with us. In this year of 2008 we have completed rituals in Melbourne and Brisbane, both of which have been satisfying in all ways, as for releases… "Outre" and "Seepia" have been made available for Europe and every other region via Ordo Decimus Peccatum, and "Seepia" was released as a monumental picture disc in gatefold via Crush Until Madness Records."
Many listeners have had a difficult time trying to categorize or classify PORTAL because you refuse to adhere to the strictures of any sub-genre. Is this an intentional decision or does PORTAL’s sound simply evolve naturally in such a fashion that makes it difficult to categorize? How would you describe the style and sound of PORTAL?
"Total Horror worshipping Death Metal, nightmare atmosphere from the inner depths. I would not suggest that it is intentional to avoid categorization, it is a different form of Death Metal that most people could never imagine."
PORTAL’s style has changed over its history from the earliest demo and the “Endmills” recordings to the present album, “Outre”. A noticeable change occurred between your first album, “Seepia” and your most recent album, “Outre”. The former was more a blur of technical Death Metal while “Outre” is a darker, slower, and more ominous album. What prompted this metamorphosis or do you see the two sounds as being less distinct than I am suggesting?
"After the completion of "Seepia" we were not wholly satisfied with how dark it sounded, at the time we were more concerned with making it sound as extreme as possible, we knew it was dark but we were left with a void inside ourselves that we could acheive a further depth, we knew the path to take as it was briefly touched upon with the music on "Seepia". After some years of exploration and many songs scrapped we had finally found what we were looking for, with a more simplisitc, minimal and ritualistic approach, letting the music breathe and utilizing more powerful simplistic drum patterns had opened up the door to make pure darkness with our sound, we used the speed and technicality when it was appropriate, something "Seepia" lacked with unintelligent choices in drum arrangements. It is easy for us to create blistering extreme PORTAL music but to plunge into utter darkness to capture a fulfillment with descriptive music is far more difficult, the bottom line is that we only create music to satisfy ourselves, as most likely we are the only subjects who will undertand the portrayal in it’s perfect completion."
Prior to the release of “Outre”, PORTAL released a demo entitled, “Lurker At The Threshold.” This recording features three tracks, all of which would later appear on the album; however, the production and recording and even the playing style sound different from the album versions. Was this tape meant to bridge the transition between “Seepia” and “Outre” or did you simply want to provide alternate versions for these particular songs? Do you feel that these tracks were improved upon when you recorded them for the album?
"This was a transition period, as we decided to use the talents of Monocular (T.S.I.) and Elsewhere (T.G.R.D.) I travelled to Adelaide in January of 2006 as we had planned to write the drums and bass to those 3 songs which only took a day and on the next day we recorded the work (the room is always set up for recording) because we wouldn’t be able to rehearse due to the distance. The Curator’s vocals were recorded in Brisbane a few weeks later, I thought it would be a good idea to make a demo tape out of the recording. In hindsight it seems like a good bridge between albums, but the same could be said for "The Sweyy" EP. I definitely feel as though the album versions are superior due to Aphotic’s guitar lines, which are completely different to mine and add more insanity, as the guitar tracks on the "Lurker" versions of ’13 Globes’ and ‘Omnipotent Crawling Chaos’ are all Illogium, and are basically the same. The guitar sound on "Outre" is far heavier also."
Many people have criticized the production on the new album as being unnecessarily murky and obfuscating. Others have suggested that the sound enhances the individual effect of the songs and creates an atmosphere that unifies the tracks into an album that functions as a collective whole rather than a discrete set of songs. What prompted you to create this sound for “Outre”? What mechanism did you utilize for the dense fogginess of the album? Was it done in the studio or is it a function of how the actual instruments are being played?
"It was recorded in two different states, and the overall fogginess is due to the minimal approach to drum recording, only two tracks were used at all so there is not alot of bright crashing sounds going on like fireworks, it is very dim and heavy at the same time, the other responsible soundform is the guitar being very murky in the first place and dominating / encompassing the drums like thick fog, we are very happy with the way the sculptures turned out, we refuse to let anyone else mix or master our recordings, we want the expression to truly be ours."
PORTAL records often require repeated and concentrated listening in order to grasp exactly what is taking place; however, once one is able to discern the song structures, the effort one expended to get there is rewarded. Do you think PORTAL recordings require patience to fully appreciate? Do you think the resultant effect is enhanced by this process? Is this an intentional stylistic decision on your part?
"We do not intend to make the music a chore to understand, it is quite simplistic music, we would prefer that people get something out of it that others cannot see."
To many of those who admire it, “Outre” seems to open up a whole new dimension of Death and Black Metal. In fact, I would not be at all surprised to see a crop of new bands in coming years playing and recording in a “PORTAL-worship” style. Do you think “Outre” represents a stylistic movement that other bands or even PORTAL will continue to elaborate upon?
"Perhaps, everything gets repeated at some point unfortunately, it will never be deemed as anything traditional so bands that try to follow our footsteps will look very foolish."
“Outre” tends to rely upon dissonance and repetition far more than your previous works to achieve its effect. What value do you place on these characteristics in the music of PORTAL? Did you set out with the intention of exploring these realms in more depth with this release?
"We let our emotions seep via strings, beats and vocal chords, it is not common place for the like of us to discuss in any other language than as to the way it makes us feel nor is any of our music ever written with any other conscious goal than to describe the journey in which the story beholds, we feel that each song is different to each other and hold certain characterisitcs unique in themselves, with each structure never knowingly to be repeated again. The depths go as far as our imaginations plunge, they are depictions from the inner minds eye."
PORTAL is one of the few unique bands that is working outside the standard framework to generate a new sound, but one which also sounds good. PORTAL has been described as “experimental”. Does this description bother you? Often when one thinks of “experimental” Metal, one typically can think of very few so called bands that are actually worth listening to. Instead, it tends to connote outsiders who think they can play Metal and change the landscape of the scene. I doubt this is your intention, but how do you regard experimentation in Metal?
"We have no intention in changing the underground, we will only create what we feel is 100% PORTAL, there are plenty of great underground Death and Black Metal bands to uphold the tradition. The term experimental has never been chosen by us, we are not trying to make something fit where it does not, so I would suggest ‘yes’ it does bother us. PORTAL is using old influences in a unique way, instead of duplicating what has gone before us, I am not sure of a precise term that would be suited to our sound, but it is definitely Death Metal to us."
After discussing experimentation, I would also like to get your thoughts on the role of tradition in Metal? How much reverence should contemporary bands maintain for the originators of the style and the other various trappings of the Metal underground? What is the most appropriate mechanism for expansion within the genre?
"The role of tradition in Metal is very important, there must allways be bands to uphold the pure underground, it is fine in my eyes to repeat what has come before but they must be able to inject the same spirit and be able to back it up, it does not take long to weed out those who are truly into it and those that are posing. Reverence should be maintained as to how much style was reaped. The most appropriate mechanism for expansion is ultimate darkness, with darkness there are no limits."
Related to this series of questions is whether or not you feel PORTAL’s music is respected by those whom you want it to impact. Because you are doing something different, do you feel that some of the more traditional devotees of Metal unfairly disregard PORTAL? If so, how does this affect you? I ask this because I have seemed to notice that references to PORTAL often evoke very strong responses of either adoration or animosity.
"If there is a line to be drawn then so be it, however we are in our own world, as exclusive as it sounds."
Your live shows are well known, in part, for the attire you wear when performing. Can you describe the impetus to cultivate this imagery and what its significance to PORTAL is? Could PORTAL exist without this image or is it integral to the total effect of the music?
"This has evolved over time as an expression to be emmanated into the physical, we feel that the attire is appropriate to complete our artform on stage, however it is not essential of course, we are fanatical people so the lengths we take are for our own compulsion with our own satifaction in regard."
Based on what I have seen in photos, it seems that the costumes worn by PORTAL have changed between the different phases of the band. Is this true? If so, how did this change come about? Can you describe the costumes and what they represent? Who developed the idea for them and who created them?
"The ideas were forged between The Curator and myself, as we would enthuse terrible run down suits from the 1920’s which exact our portrayal precisely… the vintage world we have created is a compulsion, an illness. Lovecraft’s era and prior has always captured our imaginations, Lon Chaney in a few of his roles from the silent film era for example was the ideal figure for what we wanted to portray to our sound, but we felt that the Gothic genre must be avoided, this is horror theatre to us."
When you perform live, what sound do you wish to achieve? Do you play the songs in accordance with the recorded versions or do you alter them for a different effect? Do you do any improvisation when playing live?
"Our sound is always evolving, I have gone through more amps and pre-amps than I could count, we aim to acheive the sound we rehearse prior to any show of course. Yes we play the songs as they are recorded if Ignis Fatuus doesn’t wish to punish us all holding a beat longer than he should haha. We have not ever been interested in improvisation, but in the live realm in that state of mind I can see how it could happen."
I have been corresponding with you for some time now and yet, I have only ever known you as Illogium. Of what significance is this moniker? How do you and the other members select your respective aliases? Is this (along with the use of costumes on stage and faceless photos) an intentional effort to maintain a sense of anonymity and mystery about the band?
"The title I chose is a play on the word Horologium Oscillitorium, in the invention of the Pendulum in the 17th Century, I turned it into Horror Illogium, we’ve been obsessed with Grandfather Clocks and Pendulums for years, the original name is heavily associated with the study of clocks, the monickers are expressions of our inner selves and what is delivered via instruments. Our real names would be boring to go along with the music we write, alot of people know us so we are no big mystery at all. We are inventing a band that we can worship ourselves, so imagery and character portrayals are for our ideal world, the real world bares no influence or importance."
Your lyrics are among the most obscure in Metal, and, yet, they are always evocative of an atmosphere consistent with the sound of the music. Can you elaborate on the subject matter of the lyrics? Who is responsible for writing PORTAL’s lyrics?
"Earlier we had both adapted lyrics mine mostly dealing with Lovecraftian dimension but in these late times, The Curator has created the bulk of the lyrics with myself enthusing on side, our imaginations know no bounds, we’re building a dimension of our own… there is no single subject matter but they all tie into exisiting either in the same Olde World or the Dimensions surrounding it, all with ill regard and chaos in mind, inter dimensional traversing and mental pollutants by vintage mechanism of Earthly guise from a bygone era."
From what sources does PORTAL draw its inspiration for its lyrical content and visual aesthetic? Literary sources? Visual art? Film?
"For the visual aesthetic…Vintage era’s and their antique mechanisms have always made a reaction in us, silent era film, many such literature, but perhaps not in this day and age, as we prefer to invent our own ideas, instead of simply having something planted in our minds."
What musical influences figure most prominently into the style of music you play? I have noticed that the intros and interludes often seem inspired by noise and ambient music. This is especially apparent on the song ‘Outre’ which is just an apocalyptic harsh noise landscape. Are you interested in these styles of music independently of their influence on Metal? Do you draw influence from any other non-Metal genres of music?
"Our strongest musical influences from the formative years were Morbid Angel, Beherit and Immolation, the three that we can all agree on. We are not influenced by noise at all, infact we hardly know anything about that genre and do not assume to. The closest thing I can imagine are that a few horror sound effects have grabbed my attention and I sought to duplicate it in some way, we have dabbled with creating harsh sounds into total insanity in the song ‘Outre’, with taking samples and transforming them into our own."
Can you describe the songwriting process utilized by PORTAL? What roles do each of the members play and what is the role of the collective group?
"This is a multitude in processes, we have never actually repeated the same formula in writing our songs, most typical is that Aphotic or I would write complete sections on guitar so The Curator can make suggestions for what has been created, placements to be made etc, other ways have been to create whole songs as a band in the rehearsal room, this way is preferred because we are getting results quicker and using the drums almost as central to the structure. "
The instrumentation on the new album is more repetitious, darker, and slower. Also, the guitars revel in discordance and long drawn out and bent notes. Describe how your guitar style has evolved over the span of time beginning with the earliest recordings to the present.
"This is very difficult for me to explain from my point of view, I guess my influences were more noticable on the earlier recordings such as Morbid Angel, it has slowly evolved into ugliness attempting to voice the most horrible visions possible on the guitar."
The almost minimalist drum performance on “Outre” is among the most unique elements. A friend with whom I was discussing this album described his impression of the drumming as an inversion of the usual patterns of snare and kick drum with the snare playing more like a kick and vice versa. Also, there is a heavy reliance on the use of the tom drums while the cymbals are employed sparingly. Furthermore, the bass guitar is not always present. There are frequent lapses where the bass drops out and reappears for accentuation. Can you elaborate on these elements and how you made the decision to incorporate them into PORTAL’s sound for this album?
"Monocular is a very expressive drummer, he made the most minimal ideas work and embellished the art with the untypical unique ritualistic rhythms. Regarding the bass guitar, the lapses were the idea of Elsewhere, if I recall correctly it was for the purpose of desolation, something I think he brought with him from Mournful Congregation."
The Australian Metal scene has been very active for a long time, but in recent years has been one of the most prolific producers of good Metal. Moreover, the sounds emanating from your continent have been among the most consistently good and diverse in the world. For which Australian bands do you feel a particular loyalty and affinity?
"I agree there is a certain attitude to the worthy bands from Australia, we have an affinity with Stargazer, Cauldron Black Ram, Mournful Congregation, Nocturnal Graves, Vomitor, Gospel of the Horns, Martire, Ignivomous, Destruktor, Profaner and of course the ancients Bestial Warlust, Sadistik Exekution and Slaughter Lord."
Although the Australian scene covers a broad array of Metal styles, Australia is often associated with more bestial sounding Death or Thrash Metal. PORTAL deviates strongly from this Australian archetype. Do you still find PORTAL to be a distinctly Australian band or would you say that you transcend any specific regional sound? Do the members of PORTAL play in any other bands?
"PORTAL is unique anywhere, but we definitely carry the same bestial attitudes as our countrymen."
Feel free to close this interview with any final words you may have.
"PORTAL proposes that only total darkness in states of mind will show the way into absolute completion."