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At the Ghost Gate
PORTRAIT belongs in my view to the best new Heavy Metal bands not only in Sweden, but worldwide. They play rather the harder kind of Heavy Metal without any ballads and unnecessary uselessness. Their music is dark, rough and fast with lyrics set in Satanism and the occult. No doubt their large idols are King Diamond, Mercyful Fate and similarly oriented bands with obscure atmosphere. The band has released three full-length albums, "Portrait" '08, "Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae" '11 and finally the last "Crossroads" '14 which is in my humble opinion one of the best albums of the year. The band replied fast and here you have the result. We are honored we can bring you an interview with this great band on our site. Questions were answered by guitarist Christian.

Hell-o, greetings to Sweden / Kristianstad! PORTRAIT was formed back in 2004 and the band has already changed many members. Do you believe the present line-up is stable enough to withstand some years? Your current and past members have played in different bands with different genres from Heavy, Death, Thrash, Doom to Grind Core which is unusual for typical Heavy Metal band, but I think it can bring a lot of experiences to your creation...
Yes, this line-up is the most stable we have ever had and we are definitely more “on the same page” than before. It is actually also already the line-up that has lasted for the longest time. I’m very satisfied with the situation and the effort and conviction put in to the band by the rest of the members.

Our musical inspirations are to be found in almost all of the sub-genres that you mention so the experiences from those earlier bands are definitely something we value a lot. It takes time to find your own unique style, but I believe we have developed a lot and that we are definitely on the right track, and the wide range of musical experiences from everyone involved is invaluable in this case.

When I read your song titles like Welcome To My Funeral, Prisoner Behind The Cosmic Wall, Into The Nothingness, A Thousand Nightmares, Infinite Descension, The Wilderness Beyond, At The Ghost Gate, Ageless Rites and the like, I feel pleasant shivers, like at reading Lovecraft stories. Where do you find inspiration for your lyrics? Do you think your lyrics are more dominated by darkness and evil than in other classic Heavy Metal bands?
The same source that inspires that music that I write also inspires the lyrics and they (the lyrics) have become much more important to me during the last three years than before, even though I have always had a serious intent with them. My inspiration is found through experiences with the occult and the insights granted by them. Yes, I do believe that many of our lyrics are more dominated of what many would refer to as “darkness and evil” than other heavy metal bands, and black metal bands as well for that matter.
You have released three great albums, "Portrait", "Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae" and the latest "Crossroads". Do you think they are still rising up in terms of quality? Was already the first "Portrait" well rated by fans and critics or which album do you take as your breakthrough? It is said the most essential album for the band is the third one...
I like all of the albums and as so many artists say they are all showing where the band stood at a certain point in time. We still play songs from all three albums live and even some older demo and 7” songs pop up in our set every now and then. I think we have developed a lot since the start but there is certainly a distinguishable essence that has been present since day one. I don’t think we have had any massive commercial breakthrough yet, but our fanbase has grown with each new album release. So the big breakthrough is yet to come and if it doesn’t come at all, then so be it as long as we can stand fully stand behind what we are doing.
How would you review and compare all your three albums? Can you feel some development or progression in your music? Does for example "Crossroads" have something what previous albums didn't have?
Sorry for being boring but it’s really hard to examine the albums in this way, having been involved in the song writing and everything else with all of them. I do see a progression through our career so far and yes, to me “Crossroads” has a whole new dimension to things than the two other albums, but that is my personal view and my personal relation with the songs and the lyrics, and such things are better left for the listener to decide.

Your creation is in my view a dark and obscure, harmonies contain both classic as well as morbid melodies full of mystery, haunting and anxiety, moreover they are combined with something monumental and spectacular, it is very difficult to describe. E.g. In Time song from "Crossroads" is a typical example, this track is very catchy at first listen, the melody is not unduly sticky or simple. Did you already meet with such an experience in Metal that you have quickly got to know the album and then you ceased to have a fun with it?
Thanks a lot for the compliments, great to hear.

I guess I have some experiences like that, with albums that have sounded good at a first listen but then gets boring at the third one, but I can’t really come up with any good examples now. The same goes for technical stuff, some albums might sound good to start with because the musicians are talented and show off their skills and you kinda get captured by that in the beginning, but then it just never lifts off.

What all must work in your music the song will became the official version of PORTRAIT? Has it happened to you already you have written a song you've fired out or you have set yourselves so that you prove to write track directly on a album? Who is the main composer for the band and what word have the rest of the band in composing?
Yes, we have scratched many ideas over the years. Some riffs are saved and made to fit in at a later point in another song etc. I have written the most stuff so far, but songs are never complete until everyone has been involved. There are always good ideas coming from the others too and I’m no singer and neither a drummer, for example, and those aspects of course color the final outcome. It doesn’t always come out the way I had wanted from the beginning, but if anything is changed (from the original ideas) it is always deemed for the better of course.

If you compare 80s and 90s, when do you think Heavy Metal thrived more only by that there were released most fundamental albums of the genre? Do you think it is more difficult to create a good Heavy Metal album today? Do you think new albums for example from Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Accept, King Diamond are still as good as in their beginnings?
I guess the absolutely best albums were released in the 80’s but there are indeed many good ones from the 90’s as well. I don’t like to compare new releases with old ones of the same band. I mean, maybe “Redeemer of Souls” is not as good as “Defenders of the Faith”, but I still like “Redeemer…” a lot and it is one of the best albums released lately. The same goes for the latest Accept album from last year, “Blind Rage”, it is totally killer and I am happy as long as those bands keep on playing. They have gone beyond duty a long time ago and still keep spoiling us with great albums. I stick to those releases instead of all those new “occult rock” albums and trendy shit with different faces coming out all the time.

Currently more Heavy Metal bands thrive in Sweden, from Ghost through In Solitude, Black Magic, Black Trip, Trial till to you, of course. Do you think it's a given by that you have interesting melodic gift in your blood as the Swedes?
No, not really. Swedish people are so trendy and hip and eager to be “part of THE SCENE” (this goes for both musicians and general “metal people”) so as soon as some new trend pops up one million bands are started and out of those I guess two or three are bound to be decent at least. It’s been the same thing here ever since the first Swedish death metal bands started out (not that I was there back then, but...) or when thinking of it… maybe even since “The Final Countdown” came out.

You have currently released interesting "Under Command" split with RAM. How did you get the idea to release this split with common and other cover versions?
I think it was mine and Oscars (RAM) idea to do it. First we had the idea to do a 7” but decided to go for a mini album instead. I think it turned out great, I like our stuff as well as theirs a lot. They are one of the few bands here that we get along with really.

Your last two albums came out under Metal Blade Records what is the dream of many Metal bands and most of them will never get under such a label. Is it honor to you to be under this label? Is cooperation with them the best you have ever experienced?
Yes, we have had a very good co-operation with them so far and they are good people to deal with. Although we may be among their lesser known bands we get a good support with everything. Nothing to complain about so far.

How can you see the situation in Europe today? I mean all these threats of war, terrorism, immigration, policy of European Union plus climate changes of the Earth. Do you think we will sail through it all as humanity? Don't you have fear of coming last days of our race?
Well, life’s a ticking timebomb in any case and I don’t fear the last days. For the wealth of the very few many illusions are upheld, making great parts of humanity suffer in confusion in believing that their opinions and votes actually matter. They don’t, as long as “the ones on high” are the puppet masters. Everything is happening according to plan. And one of the greatest things heavy metal has given me during the last 20 years or so is a resort from all this, something else to care about and a road leading away from such shit.

Ok, that would be all from me, if I forgot something significant, you have the space to express. I know you have fans also here in Slovakia! Thank you for this interesting interview and wish PORTRAIT great times, a lot of inspiration and success in the band, thanks again.
Allright, I hope we will get to Slovakia to play some day. I went there in 2009 (I think), watching Judas Priest with Kreyson as support act. Good memories! Thanks for the interview.


                                                 8. 8. 2015 Mortuary