Death Clock: Portal, Sanguis Imperem @ Thee Parkside, 5/15/10

The walk from Slim’s to Thee Parkside was cold and windy, yet eerily quiet. To your average concert-goer, this would be seen as going from one metal show to another. But really, they were very, very different. From the speed at Slim’s, to the death/doom that awaited me at Thee Parkside, it seemed as if time slowed down on my whirlwind day with every step I took.

I think I caught the last song of Dispirit while I grabbed a drink and took my usual spot (as one of the security guys pointed out) by the exit. I watched Sanguis Imperem leaning up against the wall….it was a blur. Not good or bad, just a blur.

Around this time I heard that Dio passed away- which would be the second time in about a month that I would be at a metal show when an important metal figure passed. It turned out to be somewhat of a hoax, but the clock really was ticking on the death of Dio, as he did indeed pass early this morning. I just stood a few feet from him at the Revolver Golden Gods Awards last month….it a sad day for all of us metalheads.

The first time I heard about Portal was a month or so ago, when local concert photographer WhenWeDie mentioned it at another show. Then they came up again in my interview with The Amenta’s Cain Cressall. I had been booked to review Black Breath for a long time, but I decided that I just had to squeeze in this show.

I was watching the men in black set up the stage, assuming these were the Australians. I’d listened to them a bit, but what I really knew about them was their stage presence. So when they came on stage, black bags over their heads, I got excited….but I was really waiting for the vocalist, who wears a clock on his head. The door opened in front of me, and he was escorted in by someone guiding him to the stage. The last time I saw someone do this was Lady Gaga….weird, no? However, the clock headpiece didn’t make the journey from Oz, and he was dressed as a Satanic pope instead. No complaints here.

It’s interesting to see a band with costumes play in such a dive bar, but this wasn’t my first experience with that here

Once he got onstage, Portal unleashed their relentless fury on us. They were completely shrouded in darkness, but the flashes of the few photographers in the room gave a weird strobelight effect at times. At first, I was really inside this set. It reminded me of seeing Sunn O))); really dark, demonic, and evil. There was an intense excitement in the room- where evil is all around you but you know there is no real threat, like watching a good horror film.

Black Breath / Portal

However, about half way in a few things happened which broke the flow of the show for me. First, the vocals all but disappeared…not sure what happened there. Then, watching them drink water through the mesh of their headgear was…interesting. Then, the guitarist broke a string, so he had to remove his headpiece and put a new string on right in front of me. And then, when he was ready to go again, he had to pick the setlist off the floor, hold it up really close to his face, and search for what song was next. After that, I got swooped back up into the speeding guitars and pounding drums.

It was so dark in there, and I really wanted some light to be able to see them. I was wedged against the wall right by the light switches…and had several moments, namely because I’d had a few drinks, where I really had to fight the urge to flip a switch. I felt like Stimpy in my favorite Ren & Stimpy episode:

What would have happened? We’ll never know…

Back into the blackness, Portal finished strong, and the vocalist went to leave the stage. He had to climb over the barrier, and then reached his hands towards me as he felt his way out. However, since I was standing in front of the door, he walked passed it to the back of the room, where I, once again, resisted the urge to tap him on the shoulder to say, “PSST! I think you want to go THAT way…” But someone else turned him around and got him out the door.

It will be interesting to see the buzz they create from their set at Maryland Death Fest. I wonder if they will have to play outside during the day, like Behemoth did at Mayhem.

Into the black of the night in the wee hours of the morning I stumbled home up the hill. While some would awake to attend their Sunday church, we had just had black mass at midnight.

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