Portrait – “Crossroads” (Metal Blade Records)
Aptly titled following the departure of long time guitarist and contributor Richard Lagergren during Christmas past, the speculation has been hot as to the future of this Swedish heavy metal band. But no – they are still around, now with modified line up following David Olofsson moving up into the guitar ranks and Hypnosia’s Cab Castervall joining on the bass. The bottom line is, they still sound hugely like an amped up Mercyful Fate from Per Lengstedt’s falsetto vocals a la King Diamond right down the evil riffs n melodies that could be courtesy of messrs Denner and Sherman! Where it does vary are in some of the more up tempo passages and melodies that owe more to Bruce era Maiden – certainly very metal plagiarism a plenty but the good news is that Portrait (who are not apparently named after the King’s “Fatal Portrait” debut) don’t actually sound Swedish lol ! On a more serious note, the material is surprisingly good in both its composition and technical delivery, almost being a credible conventional extension of early Mercyful Fate which I am a beloved fan of, so it wasn’t long before songs like ‘At The Ghost Gate’, ‘Ageless Rites’ and ‘Black Easter’ warmed my dark heart. The new Portrait will be an undoubted hit for anyone into 80s heavy metal or its more modern successor – true metal – but going beyond a retro novelty to mainstream audiences remains questionable until I’ve seen how this new line-up fairs live.