With more insatiable grooves and curves than Megan Fox, Portrait the debut album from Brooklyn metalers Family, is a rich and expansive onslaught of intense energies and climactic melodic pinnacles. As mesmeric as it is vindictive and as oppressively heavy as it is finely crafted, the album is a towering slab of impressive invention and unique adventure. It is at times brutal and in others hypnotically seductive but always a bruising and incendiary compulsion. Sucking the best essences of anything from heavy to progressive metal and doom/sludge to classic rock, Family twist it into their own crushing vehemence, an original corruption which corrupts the senses as deeply as it ignites their passion. It is a release which is felt as well as heard, thoughts and emotions dragged eagerly into the mix.
Portrait finds guitarist and primary songwriter Steven Gordon and bassist/vocalist Kurtis Lee Applegate alongside drummer Phil Sangiacomo and guitarist Owen Burley, though the last pair have since left to be replaced by Jody Smith and Josh Lozano respectively. It is an album themed by the story of a dysfunctional family that develops supernatural powers, a tale as intriguing as the ever caustic grooves and barbed hooks which litter the songs. Engineered and mixed by Justin Mantooth and mastered by Alan Douches, the release also sees a guest appearance from guitarist John Lamacchia (Candiria, JulieChristmas, Spylacopa, Crooked Man) on the track Daddy Wronglegs. It is an album which once it has its abrasive and sultry progressive claws in will not go away, either whilst in its company or after the engagement, with certainly the hypnotic melodic grooves and sharp irresistible hooks making numerous returns in thought and imagination.
The opening distant drum brews and guitar scrapes which announce the opener Bridge & Tunnel, fires up interest but it is when the track lets loose an undulating groove and accompanying bass growl directly in the ear that the capture is fully made. With slight stoner whispers and an increasing squeeze of sonically carved manipulations the track writhes and fingers the passions like a horny teenager, no sense of delicacy or restraint. The coarse scathing vocals only add to the senses stripping riffs and harmonic disruptions whilst leading to even deeper approval.
Daddy Wronglegs and Bopsky next leave their individual scarring, the first an ever shifting doom darkened hardcore rub which seeps through every pore with tar like intensity speared by crunching bites incendiary melodic rages, and the second a dramatic series of climatic builds and challenging sonic scenarios. Both songs intrigue and incite the imagination musically and lyrically, the developing heart of the story and its emotion as engrossing as the sumptuous weaves which the band intersperse within the flattening energy. It has to be said the likes of TV show Heroes and Misfits as well as numerous other superhero exploits were never this intrusively infectious, then they never had the shadows and startling corrosive breath which Portrait envelops with.
Arguably the album gets better as it progresses, the likes of the perpetually shifting Illegal Women, the alternately ferocious and deliciously captivating Delphonika, and the magnetic guitar lure that is The Wonder Years, just triggering further realms of invention and its lustful acceptance. Portrait is an album which words do not quite do justice to. The masterful structure of sound and composition as well as the balance between primal violence and the revolving unpredictable flow of multi faceted imagination and sounds just immense. At times the songs have a feel of improvisation, or rather the track just evolves instinctively making moments where classic guitar solos merge into harsh noise conjurations or stoner/southern aural croons stand side by side with erosive and rabid malevolence, so exhilarating.
Completed by the again excellent tracks Othermother and Exploding Baby, the album is a colossal confrontation which only rewards in deep pleasure and satisfaction. If the likes of Led Zeppelin, Unsane, Mastodon, Down, Black Tusk, and even Converge do it for you, then Family has plenty for you in Portrait.
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