NeuFutur Magazine Introduces Portal

There’s an old adage that says that good things come in threes, and that number has certainly found significance for independent progressive rock band Portal. The band has just released their third collection of original material, Blood Red Tape, which was recorded in three separate recording studios, and is the culmination of three years of planning, patience and dedication; and the third time was definitely the charm for these self-produced independents. Portal’s music has been likened to the rhythmic complexity of Tool’s, dubbed a more hopeful version of Nine Inch Nails, and been compared to that of artists such as Porcupine Tree, A Perfect Circle, and VAST. But their more recent effort has all-but elevated them above comparison, giving them a stature of their own.

Blood Red Tape is a seventy-minute masterpiece, even by big label standards. From start to finish, the album undulates with unparalleled emotive force, its sobering lyrical themes delivered with a depth and clarity that would awaken excitement in the most apathetic among us. Anthemic progressions underpin a seemingly endless array of memorable melodic voyages, delighting the imagination, and weaving a brilliant cinematic listening experience. From the blistering in-your-face guitars of Jebel Moon and Splitzkrein, to the explosive percussive onslaught of Your Kettle and We Kuffar, to the haunting mantra of the sarangi in Six Degrees, Blood Red Tape is an epic exploratory journey that will please the ears and challenge the mind. Add, for good measure, the instant southern-rock classic Back in the Day and the modern-rock hit The Simple Things, and one is left with a truly enthralling eclectic opus.

This album is the latest effort from a project that has been building in both scope and success for several years, the key to which seems to be a healthy combination of do-it-yourself and never-say-die attitudes. Portal’s members have honed their skills through the lessons of previous efforts, now boasting a collective résumé of a recording engineer, mix engineer, web developer, photographer, video editor, and legal consultant. Self-production can be a career killer for many independent musicians, but Blood Red Tape unequivocally proves that Portal is not among them. “We knew from the time the album’s concept was conceived that we wanted to achieve a certain level of quality and professionalism,” says front man and creative force, Kenton Thomas. “From melodies to lyrical hooks, guitar tones to snare drums, and branding to artwork, the goal on this album was to evaluate our product organically at each stage of the process and ask ourselves, could this have been done better?” Under the watchful eye of L.A. mainstay and Edmonton native Bill Kennedy (Nine Inch Nails, Ministry), the band found that more often than not the answer was an unapologetic ‘no’. One listen through Blood Red Tape is enough to understand why.

But success is not new for Portal. Their 2001 debut, A Taste of Things to Come…, netted the band a nod in the National Songwriting Competition, and a hometown ‘band wars’ win of more than ten thousand dollars in prizes. The Paradigm from 2005’s Element was nominated for a Just Plain Folks award, Alone and Remnants topped separate commercial music charts in Poland, and Insurgent Few – a live track recorded in the famous West Edmonton Mall – has held solid at the top of Garageband’s progressive rock charts for almost two years. If that wasn’t enough, on the strength of their success on Warsaw’s ActiveRock chart in 2005, Portal was selected as Independent Band of the Year.

So, what does a band with a brilliant recording, a burgeoning fan base, and an intense desire to succeed do now? “Take things one step at a time,” says bassist and recording engineer Kevin Hoskin. “We’re developing a new multi-language website for our fans around the world, and launching a Canada-wide radio campaign and some grass-roots promotional initiatives. Once we’ve made back some money we’ll start looking towards some indie labels and touring possibilities.” A modest outlook, perhaps, for a band whose latest effort is already climbing indie charts in Europe and North America, has sold hundreds of pre-sales, and was even licensed for a video game on the Wii console, a full two months before its release.

Slow and steady – a novel idea in an industry dominated by quick money, quick fixes, and increasingly little staying power. With such a practical outlook in mind, such a brilliant album in hand, and history on their side, Blood Red Tape is sure to give Portal the success they seek.

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