There’s an absolute ton going on from the word go with this record. There’re discordant rhythms and time signature changes galore but it’s not nearly chaotic enough to be considered out and out math rock. Similarly it’s at times stupendously heavy, but the intricate shoe-gazing bridges and breakdowns that litter each track balance the record to the point where referring to it as metal would be misguided. It’s definitely a rock record though that’s for sure!
Pelican, Torche, Baroness and the like are obvious reference points but none of those bands ever wig out into prog’ rock jams the same way Town Portal do. We’re not quite talking King Crimson style prog’ here but there’s a definite sense of concept on tracks such as ‘Yes Golem’ with guitar parts that dart in and out of the song and offer a story like quality. Opener ‘Bonus Triger’ has arguably the dirtiest riffs of the entire album as clunking bass gives way to some serious hooks amid a cacophony of percussion.
On first listen Town Portal might seem a little light on the ears in comparison to bands of a similar style, but that’s the most beautiful thing about them. Here lies proof that effective riffing can be borne every bit as much from musical ability as it can from sheer power. If it doesn’t grab you on record I’m sure the live experience will; it’s interesting to note that the band themselves always envisioned themselves as a live outfit rather than a studio band.
‘The Occident’ might not stick around in the collective conscience forever but for the time being Town Portal have provided a refreshing respite from the power-trio norm of simply having your ears pummelled by volume.
‘The Occident’ by Town Portal is out now on Small Pond Recordings/Suburban Records.
Words by Rob Fearnley.