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Portrayal of Guilt eschew predictability. While the Austin, Texan outfit have released material at a rapid clip since their formation only six years ago, it has been near-impossible to predict what each ensuing release might sound like. The only window into what to expect has been those releases’ titles, wallowing in themes of affliction, isolation, and just plain underworld allusion. Naturally, this leads to…Devil Music.

After shifting their sound over several immediate releases (most recent, 2021’s widely acclaimed CHRISTFUCKER), Portrayal of Guilt has transformed from masters of the traditional ‘90s screamo template, to fit a more blackened and sludgy metal intensity.

Citing a wide spectrum of influences, Devil Music, tracked in two different sessions in early 2022, is an experimental approach to writing heavy music. It offers five new original songs on Side A; and then a reimagining of those same five songs on Side B, replacing much of the traditional guitars and bass setup with an orchestral string section, acoustic bass, and brass.

The sludgy, thudding riffs of the album’s opening salvo, “One Last Taste of Heaven,” is transformed on the other side into harrowing violin waxing, while King’s unholy screech remains, nurturing the sound into a sort of chamber metal. It’s a paean to death and decomposition, with the original perhaps a violent aural display of the former and the unnerving rearrangement meant to convey the languid rot of the latter.

It leads into “Untitled,” an absolutely distressing depiction of purgatory with a nonetheless catchy rhythm, which the band manages to transform into a hellish near-waltz of sorts on its alternate version. Beyond that painting of torture, “Burning Hand” provides a brief foray into gory horror. The album’s pounding closer and title track sounds as though a Mephistophilean angel casts a scourge upon the narrator. Musically, “Burning Hand” even showcases some industrial drums, plus a rare spate of clean, semi-gothic singing to close it out. This uncharacteristic vocal detour helps build its counterpart to a demonic climax.

“Where Angels Come to Die” hints at the darkest of circumstances, possibly alluding to addiction and suicidal ideation, and is musically among the album’s most cacophonous; one hears it remodeled on Side B into a methodically paced number with lurching stop-starts on its bridge before a triumphant buildup to finish it.

Devil Music cements Portrayal of Guilt as a band of their own ilk, playing by no one’s rules but their own, which even here they bend to their will. The album sees its digital release April 20 and will be available on physical formats April 21 via Run For Cover. There will also be an accompanying Devil Music short film DVD, sold separately, which includes the short film and additional video content.

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