In case you were inclined to wonder about the roots of Austin, TX quartet Portrayal of Guilt’s music, one probably need look no further than the credits for their debut LP Let Pain Be Your Guide. Contained therein, you would find Matt Michel, formerly of Majority Rule listed as producer, and you would also find that Chris Taylor of Pg. 99 and Pygmy Lush is responsible for the album’s art. Through that window, you could safely make some assumptions regarding what Portrayal of Guilt sounds like – in all likelihood conjuring for yourself a cacophony of grinding guitars punctuated with angularity, dissonance, and the occasional mid tempo groove. In that assumption you would not be too far off base, but I am here to tell you that Portrayal of Guilt is one of those special bands that does not simply eat its influences and then summarily excrete a slightly faded version of them. Instead, they digest them, learn, and create a synthesis.
Let Pain Be Your Guide expertly translates the collision of grind, emo, punk, and metal that defined the nascent screamo subgenre as it emerged into full flower during the late 90’s and early aughts. Portrayal of Guilt has their own ideas about how to mix all of these volatile ingredients together to produce something that dials up all of the emotive elements of their style about as far as they can go. The record pulses with with a particularly ugly kind of disgust that feels like an infected wound filling with pus and ready to burst. This disgust seems to color everything – corruption, injustice, decaying friendships, the infection seeps through the veins of reality itself and bursts forth as waves of rage and heartache.
Daymare is the track that pull-starts this angry engine, and it saws its way through almost two minutes of the angriest hardcore I’ve heard in about a decade before giving way to a quieter and cleaner melodic passage that serves to build an air of ominous expectation for the monster of a breakdown that comes sliding in directly afterward and finishes out the song by pounding its fist through the listener’s sternum. Daymare is a dose of that real shit that bands like Code Orange attempted early on but failed to execute on subsequent outings. Portrayal of Guilt has that sound chained to a radiator in their rehearsal space and it seems unlikely that they will let it go free anytime soon.
Tracks like A Burden and Your War tear through their truncated existences like Converge riding a horse made of the chopped up limbs of the members of Infest, spurring it as fast as it will go, until it disintegrates after two minutes of abuse. Portrayal of Guilt does not bother wasting our time with unnecessary frills or flourishes here, the songs just build inertia as they progress to the point of “Until We’re Dust”, the album’s intense closing track that finally shoves us off the cliff and into the void.
With Let Pain Be Your Guide, Portrayal of Guilt offer an exhilarating update to whatever your chosen name is for this subgenre – whether it be emotive hardcore, emoviolence, or the highly charged labels of screamo/skramz. The point is that they make it worth your while to re-engage with this kind of music and provide a template for how it can be done in a way that is both relevant and innovative going forward. Don’t let this pass you by without a second look.
Release Date: November 16, 2018
Label: Gilead Media
Favorite Tracks: “Daymare”, “A Burden”
For Fans Of: Saetia, Orchid, Pg.99, Majority Rule, Jerome’s Dream, Spazz, Converge