A Testament-style intro kicks off Crossroads, the fourth album from Swedish heavy metal monsters Portrait and, for a moment, things look very rosy for the upcoming forty minutes. I say for a moment because, sadly, as "At The Ghost Gate" kicks in with its run of the mill Merceyful Fate screechings, the next forty minutes become something of a struggle.
In fact, you could run off a checklist to complete listening to Crossroads and, by the end of the first track, you'll have found yourself ticking off every single thing on it. Pompous power metal – check, over the top vocals – check, noodly guitar bits – check, messy thrashy bits - check. It's all here in full, unashamed '80's Euro-metal glory and as such will sell by the bucket load in mainland Europe. The rest of the world thankfully moved on from this sort of nonsense and, yes, sure, while we're all champing at the bit for new Judas Priest material, I'll happily pass that time on not listening to bands who churn out the sort of second-rate, messy Europe meets Mercyful Fate meets Metal Church speed/thrash/power metal that Portrait are peddling on Crossroads.
As Crossroads progresses the whole thing starts to become more and more unlistenable, to the point where these eight tracks of messy Euro-metal become a test of endurance rather than something to experience. Of course I might have misunderstood the whole thing and the likes of "Ageless Rites" and "We Were Not Alone" have to be experienced live to fully appreciate the magnificence of these Swedes but, honestly, I don't think I've got the stomach for that in 2014.
02. At The Ghost Gate
03. We Were Not Alone
04. In Time
05. Black Easter
06. Ageless Rites
07. Our Roads Must Never Cross