PORTRAIT – Look Into The Mirror
The day the new Iron Maiden album came out, another very important album came out, but more in the shadows in the same category. Of course they won’t make the history of NWOBHM, but the Swedes Portrait are still enjoying a good success and not only in their country of origin. We unleashed our Ivan Gaudenzi, assisted by the always attentive Pol Porro in putting under pressure Christian Lindell, guitarist and mastermind of the Scandinavian combo. Here is our chat.
What do you mean by “Portrait”? What do you want to portray, or what do you want to represent? Is there a peculiar meaning behind your moniker?
Basically the band name is something that is unfinished, something about ventureing to the unknown. It feel yourself with inside experience of other world as an inspiration from within that manisfest in form of portrait of our souls. Deepest feelings withing ourselves are fitting in our music that is very core and essence as this inspiration to portrait ourselves musically.
Last year you celebrated 15 years of Portrait, certainly not the best year to party. You have make up for lost time with a new album this year, have you already managed to show it on stage, at least around Kristianstad?
No we haven’t. We book some Swedish shows in october. It’s been quite frustrating – Now we still have restrictions for 50 people and no more. The problem is that we can play only in small venues and it’s problematic situation to find places good for us, but now in autumn there should be no restrictions again and it should be better for lots of shows again. We are having a good feedback for this album and we need to promote it.
Also this new album seems to be a tribute to the heavy metal sounds (related to recordings) in vogue in the 80s: how important is dedication to “heavy metal cause”? And as regards the final mix of your music?
It is very important. Being an underground metal band means to have a total dedication to heavy metal. I feel that it has giving so much in life to me and I try to give something back with our music. It’s definitely very important also to have something real to say. Also trying to develop our sound and find our style more and more inspired by classic metal bands, even if we want to evolve and look forward.
You will certainly be tired of being compared to Mercyful Fate, and although the Danish metal gods are certainly a point of reference, we would like to understand which bands (especially underground) have inspired you from your birth to today.
I always listened to a lot of Iron Maiden, Metallica, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Judas Priest, Accept, Dio, Black Sabbath – then a lot of bands from the NWOBHM – Our Mercyful Fate sound came from Metallica covers when i was searching from other sounds more obscure. I like Hell very much and have huge passion for Stormwitch and Angel Witch. Bands like that i like very much and correspond to the style we wanted to do. After you realize demo and albums sure you realize that you want to scratch things as musician and perfection your sound. Lots of Genesis and King Crimson and Sodom or Assassin or Destruction are involved in our sound and I also like to listen to them. It reflect on our own music somehow even if not always.
What does playing heavy metal in 2021 mean for you?
I really care about heavy metal. Now we have lots of problems and we need to live in other way. It means everything for us. Heavy metal is not just on the past and of course we could see from 2000 that metal has been more mainstream – new metal and other modern music came out, but all old school has been always there in names as Anvil, Exciter and the great ones like Maiden or Judas. We just want to continue in that legacy. Some bands focus to adding something to the hole and it’s good to find your roots and expression even in this pandemic situation. Don’t know what will happen to the world but I look to the possibility to play live again. Similar things can happen in future also and then how can we survive in this case? It’s important to look what’s going on in society. Many years we have been able to do our things without any disturbance from the world.
Your last Italian gig seems to have been that one in Mantua in 2018, with Ram and Trial. Covid permitting, are you planning further steps here? We may not be Germany, but in our small way we are always quite fiery as spectators…
I remember that place and the bands – not exactly the show. We had lots of interviews for all bands involved and meeting with very nice fans there. The stage was very professional in quite strange enviroment and building. Absolutely we want to include Italy in next tour and we hope to plan it for the next year . Sure will depends on restrictions everywhere in the world.
The official release of your album coincided with the release of the new Iron Maiden album: luck or bad luck? We are sure to have read some comments from your fans who invited the metal population to give up the English sextet to focus on your new effort…
It is awsome to hear comments like that overall. It’s a good thing to release on the same day with Iron Maiden. It puts more attention on albums online for the pre order and for the phisical records people go more to the stores, so and maybe they see our album too – We had huge problems with distribution here in Sweden and the album has been available two weeks late in shops.
Your artworks’ “dark tone” has remained unchanged, and unlike many bands, you have changed several artists from an album to the other one: first Nikolov, then Tobias Forge (Ghost), again Juanjo Castellano and finally Adam Burke. Do you think you have found the definitive artist in Burke? What does the new cover represent?
I think we are very satisfied with Burke and we did a good job with him. I think that we have good chance to continue with him. You never knows about future and what we will do. Something like Running Wild maybe? You never know. He is definitely great and he is the person who walks away from the unknown into the dark unknown. We can look at new other albums and guides him on his way. This carachter on the cover is half skeleton and half flesh and it is dealing with forces of the dead. About the title, I would say it can be something within world and society and it has something as a double meaning.
Going back to 2005, how did Portrait was born and which was the main first idea of the band?
I remember we wanted to write songs in old fashion heavy metal style and we never believed to find a singer to sing properly. It could be more easy to play black metal at that point, but then we found him and we could realize what we wanted. I never had expectations doing tours or anything like that, but we learned quickly that we had interest around us and we’ve been called for the Keep It True Festival and later to support Anvil in tour. We also get other good gigs with Sacred Steel, and so people were really interested in our sound. Today we are ready to do more and bigger shows and to visit other new countries so we hope also for a quick restart.
You entered immediately in the roster of Metal Blade.. how this marriage happened?
We played in Germany in 2019 and singer from Primordial worked for Metal Blade as requiter. He heard the band and didn’t like our first singer. However he liked the gig and he introduced us to Metal Blade. That’s how we met and started our deal for 3 albums and now we have already a new contract for next 3.
You stated that no song written for this album and onwards should be similar to any song that we have already written and released. Can you explain about the difference between past and today and do you regret your past albums and old sound?
With our 5th album it’s started to be more important for me to do more original songs and not repeat ourselves. I am very proud of our earlier albums, nothing wrong with any, but I just want to continue to develop our sound and do what we have never done before. I keep just the same atmosphere in music. Not so many bands do it and you can hear when they are tired and try to do their sound. When they are not naturally themselves anymore. As Metallica for example. Albums like Load or Reload can be a good example. They were sure not my cup of tea, but at least they were honest. With later albums they started again playing fast and aggressive, but you can easily understand it is not anymore them, even if seems a coming back to their roots.
You also told that lyrics are sort of spirtualistic staff coming from your being gnostic.. is it? So can you tell me more what’s inside the message you write for people who listen to your music?
It’s a bit hard to talk too much about this. I would say in this world it’s not good in essence. A goodness lies beyond this world and we should be stronger in spirit. Transcendence happens within our spiritual level and it not happen in flesh – this is more or less the real essence of the lyrics express on different levels. It can deal with magic and society as a prespective from my eyes!
How much music business has been changed through the years and how you see your future as musicist?
Sure it changed quite a lot in last 20 years. My generation maybe can be the last one to go out and buy albums without go only to youtube or other platforms. We are the last to wait for a while, build our own expectation. I like to have fanaticism and get angry for metal. I need to be dedicated. Discover Motorhead today means having all album in the first day and it sure feels different from the past. It shapes your carachter. As band we reach out to lot of people digitally and it is good for finding band members or for fans to arrive easier to you. There are kinda positive and negative sides. Younger generations listen more to single songs than full albums.