PORTRAIT Fatal Portrait

Some huge things are happening in the world of occult Swedish Heavy Meatl force Portrait – they have recently signed with Metal Blade and the first fruit of their collaboration is their second full length „Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae“ which is without a doubt their best offering to date and already one of the finest HM albums of this year. Guitarist Richard Lagergren is here to answer our questions.

Greetings, Portrait! How are you these days, is everything OK there?
Hi. Everything fine over here, though for the moment I’m pretty fucked up after an intense weekend, which among other things included the release party for our new album. Need some sleep.

73691_photoThe main reason for this interview is, of course, your new album „Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae“! I have claimed in my review that you have bettered your art in every aspect and that this is the best Portrait release ever, your comment…
Thank you. I do agree. I think that the new album is at the same time more varied and a lot more consequent, where the debut had a couple of songs sprawling in different styles and directions. To me, the new album carries more of a genuine, cohesive identity.

I think that with „Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae“ the comparisons with Mercyful Fate will cease once and for all, how would you describe the music on display here? I think that it’s quite original.
Possibly, though it does not seem like that this far. I’d even say if we ever sounded like Mercyful Fate it’s probably on this new record… How would I describe the music? Dark. Heavy. Intense. I guess the easiest way to go for both me and your readers would be if they simply listened to it and found out for themselves.

Necromorbus gave totally 80’s sound to the new album, was that the main intention? Tell us something about the recording process there.
Our main intention was not necessarily to make it sound like an 80s album per se, but simply to achieve a dynamic and atmospheric production suitable for the songs. I’d say we left the Necromorbus Studio with the first worthy production in the history of this band. The recording of the album took somewhere between two and three weeks. The whole process ran pretty smoothly.

Also you have the new singer in your ranks, so can you present mr Per Karlsson to our readers and tell us how are you satisfied with the work with him so far?
Per has been among us since the end of 2008, and is not necessarily that new a member anymore. Anyway he is a great singer, with one hell of a voice, and that was what we were looking for.

Please give us the info about the album title, cover and lyrical content of „Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae“ as I can feel that there are some really strong messages there. Are you personally the follower of Left hand path?
Sure there are. We are dead serious about the things we write about I can tell you, it’s all straight from the heart. „Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae“ could be roughly translated into „crimes against the heavenly majesty“, or if you will, „blasphemy“ or „sacrilege“. The term derives from early modern Sweden (like around 17th century), where blasphemy was regarded one of the most serious crimes one could commit. At least some of us within Portrait consider ourselves Satanists; others may not, but know very well what the band stands for and what they are supporting by being in it. The lyrics on the new album all deal with different aspects of Satanism and the left hand path, and death.

While we’re at it, i must notice one thing: I have received new albums of Portrait and In solitude at almost same time so it feels like a nice statement of true Heavy metal. Do you feel that the bands of your brand can reclaim the scene back from childish troops? We saw that Ghost’s debut was one of the biggest albums of last year, for example…
I don’t know; I mean trends are trends, and in the end I think that is all I see here. You never know for how long it will last, but at least it’s good if it can lead people to support quality music instead of, well something else. Or maybe I’m dead wrong, and this whole „retro“ hausse of the last decade is simply part of a desperate craving for something genuine again, in the music world. A real, visible core to it all… But it’s been a long time since we saw any relevant renewals of the music itself, so I guess everything just has to go retro now.

One more bind to darker side of Metal is the fact that Tyrant of Nifelheim drew your logo, if I’m right… What is your connection to more extreme metal? Let’s remember that back in the 80’s bands such as Mercyful Fate and Celtic Frost were labeled as Black Metal due to overtly Satanic concepts. Would you stretch so far and put Portrait in that category?
I have always been listening a lot to black/death metal as well, like most of us in the band. I have nothing against seeing Portrait beeing put in the same category; in many ways, a black metal band is what we are.

One huge thing about this new album is the contract with Metal Blade, so tell me how did that came about? If I am correct, Alan from Primordial played a large role there…
Mr. Nemtheanga, who had just started to work as an A&R for Metal Blade, saw us play a German festival called Hell’s Pleasure. A few weeks later they got in touch with an offer.

I would like to go to the very beginning of Portrait’s history now… Portrait was founded back in 2004., can you tell us something about the inception of the band, what are the main reasons behind this, were you active in any other bands prior to Portrait?
Though the name and idea was brought forth a few years earlier, just like some of the songs on our demo, Portrait didn’t really became an active band until the spring of 2006. That was when the first full line-up was incepted and we started to rehearse. Before that, Christian (Lindell, guitar) and Anders (Persson, drums) was in a band called Bloodlust, playing some kind of thrash/black metal; I (Richard Lagergren, guitar) was in a group called Eidomantum (black metal) in which also the current bassist of Portrait, Joel Pälvärinne, was actually involved. Per still sings with Overdrive, the rest of us have no other projects anymore. I only feel like doing Portrait now.

First demo “Welcome to my funeral” established your name strongly on the scene. Are you satisfied with the buzz you got from there? Also, you had the single “Into the nothingness” released around the time of cult Keep it true fest, I remember reading a lot of positive responses about Portrait from that event… How do you look upon those early times and recordings of the band?
Well, it felt pretty cool that we got some recognition of course. Back when we recorded that demo we had no idea what people would think. Knew nothing about this 80s heavy metal thing to come… Today those first recordings of ours already feel very old and rather immature to me. I won’t listen to them. Back then we also had a few less competent/motivated members with us, who should never have been in the band in the first place.

Your debut „Portrait“ from 2008 represented fine release of darkening old school Metal, indeed! So how are you satisfied with your debut? Certainly there’s nothing to be ashamed of there, if you ask me… But were you bored with those constant Mercyful Fate comparisons?
To me that album feels more like a demo. It is a home recording done with zero budget, and the material on there is not made any justice. A lot of details never made it in, and so on. My main reason for dissatisfaction with this release however lies in the poor performance of our former singer, which leaves a lot to be desired. He simply wasn’t capable of singing these songs, and that is very audible. We should have had someone else doing it. About the constant MF comparisons, I guess we heard enough of them pretty early on. On the other hand, there are way worse bands you could be compared to. I mean I’m cool with it, as long as noone thinks we’re some fucking tribute band or are trying to copy them or something.

Since I never saw Portrait gig, tell me something about your live presentations, do you use some theatrics on stage perhaps? Do you choose the bands with whom you will share the bill or are you opened to play with anyone?
We naturally prefer to play with bands that we like and respect in some way. That is satisfying. But in the end I think we’re open to play with just about anyone; it all depends, from case to case.

What lies in the future for Portrait, some tours perhaps?
Firstly we’ll play a few festivals this summer, then we are heading for a European tour with Canadian rockers Cauldron.

That would be all for now, all the best to your great band with your new album! Your last words…
Thanks for the interview! Buy our new album! Hail Satan!

  • Answers by Richard Lagergren
    Interview was done by Slobodan Trifunovic