Portrayal of Guilt - We Are Always Alone Music Album Reviews

Portrayal of Guilt - We Are Always Alone Music Album Reviews
With ceaseless, snarling brutality, the Texas post-hardcore trio’s second album finds a new level of confidence to express the pointlessness of existence.

Remember the cautious optimism of February 2020? Texas trio Portrayal of Guilt buried it under a flood of flesh-melting sludge called “The End of Man Will Bring Peace to This Earth.” Nine months later, they commemorated New Year’s Eve with a filmed live performance titled “2020 Will Burn in Hell Forever.” Their second LP arrives at a queasy time, when most resolutions are already abandoned and—months into a pandemic—arbitrary points on the calendar feel more arbitrary than ever. But it doesn’t matter if the glass is half full, half empty, or just something to smash against a wall: On We Are Always Alone, Portrayal of Guilt find a new level of confidence to express the pointlessness of existence. After all, what you consider to be “mood music” depends on whether you’re seeking counterprogramming or a chance to lean into the negative energy outside.
Portrayal of Guilt’s first album, 2018’s Let Pain Be Your Guide, was rooted in classic screamo and distinguished by crowd-pleasing jet-roar vocals and post-rock expanse. It earned them an opening slot on a Deafheaven/Touché Amoré co-headlining tour and suggested a similarly ambitious trajectory towards critical and commercial acclaim. They happened to be very good at this style of populist, blackened hardcore; the possibility of hearing something as anthemic as “Daymare” rendered with higher production values is still tantalizing. But in hindsight, Let Pain Be Your Guide now seems a bit conventional, even tentative compared to the new record’s ceaseless brutality. “Birth, awakening/A life spent suffering”—the first words of We Are Always Alone are virtually unintelligible through Matt King’s Gollum shriek, and so is just about every other lyric. Context makes the meaning clear enough: A life spent suffering is indeed nasty and brutish, but at least it’s short.

Similar to celebrated second LPs by Nuvolascura and Infant Island, We Are Always Alone manages to broaden an already excellent band’s scope without aspiring to accessibility. “The Second Coming” and “Anesthetized” undergo jarring spasms of blast beats, tempo shifts, and metalcore breakdowns, only to collapse under a sulfurous vapor cloud; the lyrics of “My Immolation” leave nothing to metaphor, nor does its coda, where the guitars pitch-shift to burnt husks. As “They Want Us All to Suffer” leads into the equally self-explanatory “Garden of Despair,” Alex Stanfield’s bass is distended to the maximum extent an instrument can be while still being identifiable as itself. Last year’s “The End of Man Will Bring Peace to This Earth” (a split single with Atlanta’s Slow Fire Pistol) reached towards the kind of populist post-hardcore and metal synonymous with the yoked-up sonics of Will Yip, who mastered We Are Always Alone; producer Phillip Odom has frequently worked alongside Yip, and it shows on an album that sounds like it’s constantly mid-deadlift. “Masochistic Oath” delivers its hook by stopping midway to impersonate a collapsing bridge: steel girders howling, cables snapping, windshields splintering.

Throughout the album’s 27 minutes, there are few, wisely employed moments of brightness—the citric guitar figures that begin “Anesthetized” and “It’s Already Over,” the clean vocals that occasionally glimmer low in the mix, an acknowledgement of the existence of something other than unrelenting darkness. But each is immediately followed by a quick cut to black: “I follow the light/There’s nothing at the end.” You can take King at his word: Every track on We Are Always Alone ends up someplace uglier and more forbidding than it started.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

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Portrayal of Guilt - We Are Always Alone Music Album Reviews Portrayal of Guilt - We Are Always Alone Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Tuesday, February 09, 2021 Rating: 5

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