Solitary Refinement: PORTRAYAL OF GUILT - We Are Always Alone Review

The sophomore full length from prolific this Austin trio pushes the boundaries of what hardcore can be.

Photograph by Addrian Jafaritabar

Words by Ryan McCarthy:

I am what you might call a reformed hardcore fan. Beyond a few somewhat niche sub-genres (where my beatdown fans at?), hardcore and metalcore as collectives have largely lost their appeal for me. Enter PORTRAYAL OF GUILT. It isn’t enough to say that PORTRAYAL OF GUILT has a fresh sound, because that wouldn’t even begin to do it justice. This band has more or less singlehandedly reignited my interest in the genre through both their incorporation of screamo, black metal, noise, powerviolence and other extreme genres, and their bleak outlook and aesthetic. So, I desperately want to do this record justice, because it’s so much more than just metalcore, and people should be paying attention to this band.


Opening track The Second Coming wastes absolutely no time tossing you into the maelstrom. It’s notable that right off the bat the vocals have more in common with black metal than metalcore. However, not even one minute into the song, the band changes tack and melts into a bizarre BLOOD BROTHERS-esque passage complete with unhinged vocals and an almost dance-like drum beat. Following shortly after is an unsettling ambient/noise passage. This sort of surreal musical chimerism is part and parcel to PORTRAYAL OF GUILT’s sound. They don’t just combine different genres - they smash them together in an effort to disorient and demoralize the listener. And it works. Listening to a full PORTRAYAL OF GUILT record distorts time and leaves you wondering why the clock on the wall is starting to melt.


A Tempting Pain doesn’t sound too far off from being a FULL OF HELL track, another band who notably incorporates extreme metal into the metalcore framework. The reverb-laden vocals coupled with the blast beats and droning, irregular riffs would almost sound at home on a FUNERAL MIST record. Masochistic Oath is one of the more unsettling tracks I’ve heard this year, and I’m someone who intentionally seeks out unsettling music. The black metal passage around the 45 second mark literally put a grin on my face; it’s just so fucking good. The section around 1:45 with the repeated snare hits carrying the rhythm but denying you any sort of resolution is truly uncomfortable to listen to. We Are Always Alone genuinely seems like a harrowing product of the bizarre - and often terrible - world that 2020 has presented us.


With a guest appearance by Mack Chami of TERROR CELL UNIT fame, it’s obvious that PORTRAYAL OF GUILT are no strangers to extreme music. Their incorporation of metal and noise elements isn’t some tryhard appeal to metal fans; they clearly have a serious appreciation for metalcore’s close and distant metallic relations. And, as if the music wasn’t good enough on its own, the lead singles It’s Already Over and Masochistic Oath were released in conjunction with a SHORT HORROR FILM - one of the coolest and most ambitious promotional ideas I’ve heard of in the past few years. It doesn’t hurt that the music video / horror film has a solid grindhouse vibe that complements the music wonderfully.

We Are Always Alone is out January 29, 2021 via Closed Casket Activities. Get it HERE.

Cover art by Chris Taylor