Picture this: It’s late at night, and you’re lost. You’ve spent so many god-forsaken minutes and hours and days and months crammed into your shitty apartment, with nothing to do, while the world outside slowly melts down and the future seems like a distant, ever-receding horizon that will never come to be.
So, you go for a drive to clear your head. You left your phone behind because doom-scrolling is making your anxiety crash harder than the financial markets. Suddenly, you don’t where you are, what you’re doing, or where you’re going. The world around you is nothing but an all-consuming feeling of dread and darkness. You decide you need music to calm your nerves. So, you turn the radio on and begin to scan the ether…
Listening to We Are Always Alone is almost like patching into this bleak hypothetical situation—right down to the cold sweats. Across nine tracks and 29, screeching minutes, the latest full-length album from Austin extreme music collective Portrayal of Guilt feels like a car bomb going off between your ears.
Now, it may be a common tactic for music journalists to claim that such-and-such record is “a blend of disparate genres,” but in the case of We Are Always Alone—let me assure you—it’s merely stating a fact. Screamo, hardcore, doom, black metal, power-violence, sludge, death metal, noise—it’s all here: clashing and coalescing, deafeningly loud, viscerally present, genre-defying in scope and execution.
Much like life, We Are Always Alone is an emotional rollercoaster: a heady mix of pain and pleasure, filled with ecstatic highs and crushing lows. The short cuts feel like scorching flash burns, searing flesh in under two minutes.
Opener “The Second Coming” gives the record an incendiary introduction, right before vocalist/guitarist Mat King’s screeching vocals and drummer James Beveridge’s frigid blast beats make way for an ambient passage that sounds like Refused playing from the bottom of a deep well. Chris Taylor (of Pg. 99 and Pygmy Lush fame) also lends his trademark banshee shriek to the track here, bringing the band’s stylistic influences full circle once more (Taylor also provides the album’s art direction and cover).
“They Want Us All To Suffer” spills over into a caustic mix of wailing guitars, crashing percussion, and piercing drone. Single “A Tempting Pain” is the apex of black metal/screamo synthesis, bolstered by King’s timely reflection on death and permanence: “I’ve lost myself in solitude/ My time is now/ Into the grave/ My body molds.”
Elsewhere, more extended compositions like “My Immolation” burn white-hot with rage and indifference, soothed on the back end by the surprise inclusion of post-hardcore clean vocals. Other tracks often splinter and dovetail in wild directions, too. “Anesthetized” unfurls noise rock rhythms fit for an avant-garde Unsane fan, while the record’s closing title track pulses like a Daughters cover of Murder Ballads-era Nick Cave.
“Garden of Despair” limps along with Alex Stanfield’s dark and cavernous bassline before being ripped apart by a chorus of gang vocals, acerbic guitars, and a brief feature from Matt Michel (Majority Rule). The track’s final verse, accented by electronic noise masquerading as distorted strings, is a haunting and evocative reminder of life’s wasted potential: “Rotting away/ Decaying in beauty/ The pain never ends/ His face, motionless/ Eyes open, full of grace/ Staring into the void, searching for ecstasy.”
Produced, recorded, and mixed by Phillip Odom at Cacophony Recorders, with mastering by Will Yip, it’s clear that We Are Always Alone captures Portrayal of Guilt at their purest. The album is an uncompromising statement of intent, with dense layers of sound that endlessly shift and transform the listening experience. Indeed, we might always be alone, but that just makes it easier to get lost.
Pre-order and save We Are Always Alone here.