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Town Portal’s Invigorating Post-Metal Blossoms on “Archright”

of violence

It doesn’t seem so long ago that entities flush with cash encouraged ambitious musicians to positively define culture. We know these names from dorm walls and niche record stores, and they appeal to an individual looking to transport their consciousness above the mundane. While no one can say for certain that enlightenment once topped the music industries list of concerns, the present system lays out sponsored choices advertising free will that only serve to reinforce personal brands. Rather than pulling back the curtain to jolt you from your trivial concerns, this approach fortifies what you already know and breeds an echo chamber. While great for capitalists milking our endless anxieties, it steps on artists unwilling to chase the bumper of every passing vehicle on the road to attention.

Town Portal will never headline a festival, nor end up at the top of anyone’s year-end list. The Danish trio don’t inhabit a sphere of music where ego sits atop their creation, and therefore don’t produce an extreme sound that one can latch onto for a sense of identity. Instead, they write reflective music that encourages the listener to stop and ponder their course, a message now actively avoided by those who don’t know how to ingest media not strictly tied to a brand. It makes prog’s previous flirtation with the mainstream, and a public craving such a release, just that more odd when juxtaposed against this lifeless modern audience.

Those familiar with Town Portal’s last two albums will find more of the pleasing same throughout their latest effort Of Violence (out on April 5). They excel in efficiency, knowing not to add more than what the moment needs, and move on from savory grooves when appropriate; they are in no hurry to finish and you have no right to rush them. Drummer Malik Breuer Bistrup sits in the pocket for days, jovially keeping a steady tempo throughout meter and riff diversity. Guitarist Christian Henrik Ankerstjerne looks for beautiful note sequences rather than complex note choices, and chooses not to shred your face off in the journey. Bassist Morten Ogstrup Nielsen straddles the free spirit of the guitars and the machine like accuracy of the drums. He searches for the untouched sounds between them without neglecting rhythm. All three players combined form a much more tame and harmonic Dysrhythmia.

“Archright,” the album’s second single (streaming above), comes out punching with twists that waste no time declaring who they will support in the next election. Signs litter their front lawn backing thoughtful tones garnished with flair and interpretation, even down to the hi-hat hits. No riff can be phoned in and they regularly balance just enough aggression with a swagger that says, “hey, you can relax and enjoy this.” Like most of their material, the track reads more like prose than a cathartic expression of rage and emotion, choosing instead to drift in poetry and wisp in melody. I often credit this style back to The Cancer Conspiracy, who serve as the Radiohead of instrumental and delicate post-hardcore.

Can we rightfully say that cerebral music has gone out to pasture for the masses and that seeking larger meaning from the medium will survive only for a niche audience, or have the guards shifted and mindfulness now means something entirely different? Town Portal know their music history and seek to remain connected to and expand upon those scenes in which they find inspiration. Of Violence carries the torch for the next batch of conduits looking to create deeper experiences for their audience.

Of Violence releases April 5 via Small Pond and Art As Catharsis. Pre-order the album via Bandcamp.

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