In a lot of ways, Portent is kitchen sink black metal. That is, the Minnesota-based group somehow throw in just about every subgenre of the style into these three wonderful long songs (there is a fourth, but no one counts a one-minute outro). There is (deep breath) atmospheric, dissonant, melodic, folk, symphonic, prog, and doom on display throughout False’s latest, but what’s particularly amazing is how Portent never feels like anything other than a wild ride. That’s in part because the most important part of their sound is the sheer mastery of pace and speed on display.
Portent – no matter what nuggets of niche microgenres you can pick out – is more than just how it sounds, and that’s why False are one of the most promising and impressive acts in modern black metal – US or not. This is an emotional and powerful listen, haunting and elegiac in one moment and visceral and violent soon thereafter. The occasional bursts of breakneck speed punctuate the power False can unleash at a moment’s notice. Of note, the crescendo in lead-off track “A Victal to Our Dead Selves” is melodic yet mesmerizing in a way that shouldn’t be possible at that velocity. There’s a sense that False have emptied their souls onto the record, and that sense of loss, of aching elevates the sonic torment the band unleash throughout Portent.
This is a contemplative record that perfectly captures the sense of hopelessness in the wake of turmoil, but False aren’t aiming for total despair. Instead, there’s an undercurrent of collective power and strength gained through shared empathy and courage. These base instincts get at how black metal can connect with folks in modern times without resulting to old-fashioned notions of “what scares people”. No white nationalist dalliances here, but what terrifies everyone more than the sense of impermanence in a world that reeks of death and tragedy? Portent features a white flag in its art, but this is not a record of surrender, but of a challenge to forge new paths. It’s not a pretty or utopian message False preach, but what’s more metal than baring your soul and recording it for the world to hear? This is an album for those who don’t mind contemplative black metal, but based on the pace of this sucker, you better be a quick thinker. This is mind-blowingly wonderful.