Written by Carcassbomb
Portrayal Of Guilt – We Are Always Alone
Blackened Screamo from Austin, Texas
Released January 29th, 2021
A really good blackened hardcore release and no one specifically told me about it? I had to find it all on my own months after release? Christ, you guys are really letting it slip this year. The whole merging of black metal and hardcore variants like post-hardcore or screamo has had a huge come up in the last few years and it’s pretty much my porn. Finally, a scenario in which black metal can be good. In this review, I may use screamo and post-hardcore interchangeably but I promise I will not bring up skramz this time.
I wasn’t quite sure how to categorize the sound of We Are Always Alone at first, I heard it blindly going through this year’s releases so I didn’t have any of the information at hand. I was worried about jumping the gun because of how many times I’ve offended bands by calling them hardcore, apparently some of these mother fuckers are out here accidentally making blackened screamo. Well, Portrayal Of Guilt has in fact done it intentionally! It’s actually more metal than most of these kinds of releases I listen to, I could see a lot of people who are resistant to core and trend stuff really digging this without even knowing the name of the hardcore and emo subgenres, let alone relating them to this sound.
They’ve taken the most abrasive elements of their post-hardcore style and mixed it with the unsettling melody of black metal. Who knows where the fucking drums lie, they just smash out a frenzy left and right when the music picks up. The most identifiable hardcore part of the sound is the vocals, which really stood out in my blind listen. It sounded metal but these vocals… is this low key screamo? And it was, but on some tracks, it was black metal shrieking too. It’s a great vocalist that can perform two styles let alone smooth them over in a way that makes sense. Thanks largely to this vocal choice, no parts of the album stick out sorely – there are no whining clean vocals or Swancore chord progressions. The cleanest it really gets is on “The Second Coming” where it’s not really screaming, but more aggressive talking like Fugazi. It’s a ballsy post-hardcore record and I love it.
The weight of the music is accentuated by a lot of noise aspects that can so easily be terrible. I’ve heard similar ideas that were executed in a very obnoxious or disjointed way. Portrayal Of Guilt has done a good job of making it a fluid part of the music more than an edgy gimmick. It is a harrowing ride and the ending to a lot of the tracks seems to suck every bit of anger and resilience into a swirling drain of despair. There’s a lot of moments throughout the album in general where I could imagine how a worse band would fuck that part up or do something dumb but this trio have their head in the game. They’ve consciously constructed something here.
Blackened hardcore just makes so much sense, it really does. In an age where almost every genre invented prior to 2000 is becoming stagnant, it’s important to find these new ways to bastardize the genres in order to create something distinct from previous decades. It simultaneously moves hardcore towards a dark aesthetic while moving black metal towards a more emotive state of mind. Both of these genres present some similar themes in terms of dark states of mind and difficult emotions. Music that is this heavy while also being so vulnerable, is something I adore.
Anyway, cheers to Portrayal Of Guilt for prompting me to wax poetic about hardcore on here. Go give their album a go if you’re sad and dirty.