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Portrait – Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae: Review

On May 10, heavy metallers Portrait released their sophomore album through Metal Blade Records. It is entitled Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae and features the new vocalist, Per Karlsson. For fans of the more classic style of heavy metal, this is a release to watch out for. I mean, look at the album art: very old-school. Despite the lack of spotlight garnered by Portrait, they are most certainly able to put out material that warrants more publicity.

The Music (rating: B+)

  1. Beast of Fire
  2. Infinite Descension
  3. The Wilderness Beyond
  4. Bloodbath
  5. Darkness Forever
  6. The Nightcomers
  7. The Passion
  8. Der Todesking

Crimin Laesae Majestatis Divin is a heavy metal album which has been often compared to Mercyful Fate’s works. There are softer parts lingering throughout the record as well, such as “The Wilderness Beyond”. But for the most part, it is extremely high vocals with heavy, distorted guitar riffs and hard drumming. And on the production side, the sound is very vintage. It sounds as though it could have easily come out of the 80’s. The combination of the guitar tone and drums are the most contributing factors. It is a very good tribute and addition to good old heavy metal.

Some have had their complaints about the vocals on Crimin Laesae Majestatis Divin. Those who are have some legitimate grounds. At times, the vocals are slightly off pitch and not as steady as some I have heard (such as Hell’s release this year, Human Remains). But other times, the vocals are actually quite impressive in my opinion.  The range is fantastic and the power is present. But sometimes, they do sound too scratchy. The rasp is effectively aggressive for the most part, but there are moments when the sound grinds through your ears. Perhaps it is the production, or maybe it actually is the voice itself, but something is just slightly off-putting. But overall, the vocals are great at the very minimum.

The instrumentals are consistently awesome in Crimin Laesae Majestatis Divin. Despite staying true to the heavy metal sound, the guitar riffs are still able to impress. “The Passion” has some killer rhythmic guitar work that not many can match. The solos are not outstanding in this record (the one in “The Passion” is rather messy), but the riffs are consistently strong. Drums and bass are mostly supportive here, but they do come and go appropriately, like in the middle of “Der Todesking”. Also, I found it a pleasant surprise how the aforementioned track incorporated the drum intro to Iron Maiden’s “Where Eagles Dare”.

Crimin Laesae Majestatis Divin is a very solid album. There are some unique riffs that standout even given how much has been expanded upon in the genre. The drums and bass do not put themselves out to the spotlight too often. The best and worst parts of the record are the vocals. They are extremely impressive at times and somewhat detrimental at others. There is never a time when they are bad, per say, but the inconsistency is noticeable. There are times when they are awesome and others when they are adequate, and that difference keeps this album from achieving perfection. That being said, Crimin Laesae Majestatis Divin is definitely one worth checking out for fans of the classic heavy metal style.

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