Review: Portrait – Crossroads (Metal Blade 2014 CD)

 Been way too inactive for a while now, but the intention is to change that, and what could possibly be better than breaking the silence with some thoughts of the new album by Sweden's leading heavy metal purveyors Portrait? Crossroads is their third album, and just like its predecessor, it's a little bit coloured by line-up changes, the departure of guitarist and songwriter Richard Lagergren being the most significant one. Anyway, they sorted it out by David Olofsson wielding the second guitar, and to handle the bass, they brought in Cab, from the legendary Swedish thrashers Hypnosia.

 Claiming that this album is off to a good start is an understatement. After the short instrumental intro Liberation, very reminiscent of King Diamond's Black Horsemen, At The Ghost Gate takes over. Their previous albums have both had fast (and great) first tracks, but this is definitely on a whole new level. I'm not sure I've heard such a powerful opener since Bathory's A Fine Day To Die.

 A such intense start of course raises the bar for the rest of the album, but by now you simply know that Portrait is a band to be relied on. High quality heavy metal songs are lined up one by one. Faster ones such as In Time and Our Roads Must Never Cross, mid-tempo oriented ones like We Were Not Alone and Ageless Rites, and the heaviness of Black Easter, everything you could ask for is right there. The 9 minutes long finale entitled Lily is probably the absolute highlight though, along with the opener, an extremely dark, melancholic and phenomenal tune. Although the fact that it's title is a female name and that it's the last track sure brings to mind a certain Danish band, that seems almost impossible to not refer to when speaking of Portrait.

 Anyway, Crossroads definitely meets the high set expectations, and establishes Portrait even more as one of Sweden's leading heavy metal band, both at the moment and in the history. I can't name many bands that have released three albums of equal quality. 8.5/10 /H

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