First of all, hails and congratulations on your new masterpiece, ‘Burn The World’. The album has been released for a month now and the reactions so far are quite positive. Are you satisfied with the reactions so far, and still satisfied with the result?
Yes, the reviews have been really great and it is of course nice to see, but the most important is that we are satisfied with it ourselves, which we still are to 100%. To me personally it is our best one so far, and in any case we have managed to do four fucking good albums, which is at least one more than most other bands end up doing.
Before we talk more about the album, let’s talk about the band itself a bit. 2015 embarked the band’s tenth anniversary. How do you look back on twelve years of Portrait?
All in all I am proud of what we have achieved even though there are of course things I wish would have turned out differently, especially when it comes to touring and so on, but we hope that part can be better (and more) in the future. When listening to our albums I see a strong development between every release, and where we might have started off as a band that took most of our influences from the outside world we have step by step been moving onward towards something of our own, which of course must be the goal if a band is gonna last.
Although your music was obvious Mercyful Fate and King Diamond, Portrait was an interesting band from the very beginning. What can you say about your visions and intentions when you started Portrait and in how far that has changed over the years?
Well, everything has to start somewhere and in the beginning the most natural thing is that you want to create something similar to the bands you like, or rather worship. But to become more than that you need to have something within you that can inspire you to create something that becomes more personal, so indeed the visions are different now than they were when we started out. Everything is of course different from a song writer’s perspective compared to that of the listener, but at least to me there is much more to the music and the lyrics nowadays than I felt it was in the very beginning. The essence is much more important to us than the surface is, which unfortunately is the opposite to not only society in general but also the metal scene in particular.
Something I admire about Portrait is the fact that so far you have proven not to be interested in changing your musical course, but you have simply perfected your art further on each record. ‘Burn The World’ fortunately is also another typical Portrait record, and another step closer to perfection. Your opinion please…
I agree, we haven’t made any drastic changes as far as the musical aspect goes, but instead we have tried to keep the core intact and cultivate it in the best possible way along with our own development. It is about inspiration and quality of the actual songs, and we fully believe that heavy metal proper can still grow and expand within itself, rather than having to mix it with elements from other genres to make it original. I think originality in itself is important, but I believe that it can be achieved through writing songs about matters that are of great importance to you personally and to let the thoughts and contemplations upon these matters shape the song writing in different ways so that the music in the end manifests something very personal. That is what I think is lacking in many new heavy metal bands, as most of them are concerned about the surface and wants to make simple “hits” like their childhood heroes. To me such bands aren’t needed, and if I want some music fitting to drink beer to it is always better to put on Accept, Manowar, AC/DC etc. There is no use in only trying to do something that others have already perfected, there must be some form of personal touch to a heavy metal band, otherwise you are not paying tribute to the old classic bands, but rather making the whole genre and their legacy into a fucking joke.
Was there anything that you wanted to do different on this album compared to your previous records?
Not really, except for making everything better than before. Music wise, lyrics wise and production wise.
A striking point about ‘Burn The World’ is that in general it is even more hard-hitting, more extreme and even darker than before. Was this something that came along naturally or something that was done intentionally?
Everything is done with concrete intention, but this intention in itself is something very natural. Or at least something very tangible and present. The more I learn about this world the more I want to see it burn, and of course those feelings also color the outcome in the song writing.
Compared to ‘Crossroads’ the playing time of the tracks are again a bit longer. The two longest tracks, ‘Martyrs’ and ‘Pure Of Heart’, however, are also two of the most diverse songs on the record, but being more melodic and also containing a darker and (to me) somewhat horror-like atmospheres. Can you explain a bit more about these tracks?
Yes, I guess one can say that those two songs are the most epic moments of the album. The lyrics for the two songs are also the most “positive” ones, written from a bit of different perspective than the rest on the album. They are more focused upon the release than the horrors of imprisonment, so to speak, and thus they needed many forms of expressions within them to make them fit the concept/s as a whole.
If I’m not mistaking this is the first time you have used a Swedish title, which is the song ‘Likfassna’. The lyrics however are not in your mother tongue. Can you explain a bit more about this song and the decision to have only the title in Swedish?
Yes, it is an old Swedish word describing a condition of a suffering man/woman deriving from some form of influence from the dead, either through aggressive magic or by the living having offended the dead in different ways for example. I found it inspiring to write about as the concept can be stretched into several directions and levels, not only from the perspective of a person tormented by the dead, but also the whole cycle of life and death and the fact that the dead in their restless state still are drawn towards the realm of the living in a state of in-betweenness rather than reaching liberation, so the whole concept within the lyrics deals with that word on a variety of different levels, all pointing towards the failures of this world and the blindness and tyranny of its creator.
Is there a chance that you will have lyrics in the Swedish language in the future, or is it – for the sake of internationality – a better idea keep to the English language?
I don’t feel that it would fit very well to our form of music. I relate Swedish vocals/lyrics mostly to punk and prog music myself, so I am not very inspired about trying that out. It is not completely out of the question, but as of now there are not concrete plans about it at least.
Can you tell us a bit about the lyrical content on this album and their connection with the more aggressive and the darker vibe of the music?
I don’t want to go too much into detail, but all lyrics are inspired by my own studies and practices of the occult and the insights that these workings have led towards. For people with interest in such matters I think it will be quite easy to see more specifically what they point towards.
I must also say that I love the cover artwork! Unfortunately my digital promo didn’t say anything about the artist. Please tell us a bit about the artwork, its connection to the album title and the lyrics, and what you wanted to express with it.
The cover depicts the creator of this world in his fallen, blind and blinding state, having six angels chained to his arms to symbolize his tyranny and will to imprison spirit within the realms of matter. Below him rises a man in rebellion, breaking his shackles as he has seen through the illusions of creation, bent on walking another path than the one originally meant for him and thus also breaking the decrees of the creator god. The artist is Adam Burke, and we are much pleased with his work!
As mentioned, your music was and is heavily influenced by Mercyful Fate and King Diamond. Those influences are still audible, but during the years you have definitely developed your own sound and your own approach to the style. Anyway, in the past years we’ve see a few more bands took the same approach and with yourselves, In Solitude but also RAM Sweden is one of the leading countries in the “New Wave Of Dark Heavy Metal”. What is in your opinion the reason for this?
This country is full of trends and there have always been those “waves” coming and going, ever since the 80’s when all bands began doing glam/synth hard rock after Europe had released ‘The Final Countdown’, then the whole death metal boom, the melodic death metal from Gothenburg, then some glam/sleaze shit and now “old school” heavy metal lately. There are always a few good bands coming with each such trend and many impotent ones, so personally I don’t care very much for it. The ones you mention are two of the few good “newer” Swedish bands to me.
You know, speaking of change of musical course as mentioned earlier on, something that bothers me and pisses me off a lot is that nowadays it happens often that a newer band that has gained popularity and made its name with old-school, or traditional if you will, metal, takes a progressive and modern turn. What is your opinion on the matter?
It all depends of the quality of the new “style”. If they don’t have enough inspiration to act within the realm they started in, then better that they try something else probably. I would respect their choice as long as it is done with honesty and I would prefer it in most cases instead of them making some forced attempt at creating something they no longer feel connected to.
As far as I could see you don’t have any shows coming up for the time being. Are there any plans to do more gigs this year in order to promote the album and put the band back in the picture?
Yes, the gig situation is not so good as of now and we have actually had plans on four different tours that were gonna happen this autumn/winter but all ideas have been either cancelled or postponed, so there will most likely not be any touring until next year. We have one show in Greece in December and some festivals confirmed for next summer. We are working on much more, but unfortunately nothing is confirmed at this moment.
Speaking of gigs, it is however no secret that it’s not so easy to get a decent gig nowadays for underground band. How is the situation regarding shows for a band like Portrait? Both nationally and internationally.
Yeah, it is hard. The promoters don’t have any money and neither do we. Bigger bands might need support acts but they always want money and refuse to pay to play, so indeed the situation isn’t perfect. It is a bit easier in Sweden because here we won’t have huge travel costs and so on, so it is a bit easier to make it work, but we prefer playing in other countries actually.
To make it fast with one last question, what can we expect from Portrait in the near future?
We hope to solve the tour/gig situation soon and to see you all on the road. Apart from that we will hopefully record and release some form of EP or mini-LP already next year.