Portrayal of Guilt's Harrowing Soundscape Will Fill the Hi-Dive

The Austin, Texas, trio of Portrayal of Guilt is like listening to a horror movie.
The Austin, Texas, trio of Portrayal of Guilt is like listening to a horror movie. Courtesy Portrayal of Guilt
Matt King is a modern-day Dr. Frankenstein when it comes to his music. As the vocalist and guitarist of Austin, Texas, trio Portrayal of Guilt, King pulls apart and stitches together sounds and samples to create a pissed-off, metallic monster.

In 2021, the band dropped two albums — CHRISTFUCKER and We Were Always Alone — that take the repulsive musical mix to a new level. King says the records are akin to soundtracks to horror movies such as the Roman Polanski 1965 psychological thriller Repulsion.

“A lot of the times when you’re watching movies, specifically horror movies, there are things like jump scares. And they kind of mess with the viewer by doing things with the music, like turning the volume way up or different soundscapes. That’s what we’re trying to get involved with,” he explains. “We had a lot of hardware to deal with and work with to make that happen. I would like to think our music without or with the vocals can score a film or be in a movie.”

Listening to Portrayal of Guilt's discordant dichotomy makes your chest feel tight; clammy palms and a quickened heartbeat soon follow. It’s not that you don’t know what’s happening, but that you know exactly what’s happening: This band is toying with you, pawing you, seeing how far they can push it. What makes it so unsettling is that the band likes doing so.

“Oh, definitely. That’s for sure what we want it to do,” King says of making listeners feel uneasy, especially on CHRISTFUCKER's songs “Bed of Ash” and “…where the suffering ends.” “When you get to record an album and you have the tools, part of it is just having fun with it," he adds. "There were a lot of ideas put into it vocally, and the guitars and the sounds and the samples, too. We just wanted to make it sound ridiculous, which is kind of behind the name of the album anyway. It’s so ridiculous, so the music is as ridiculous as the title.”

Experience it for yourself at the hi-dive on Tuesday, September 20. Thieves Guild and Edith Pike are also on this Convulse Records bill.

While it may not be evident at first listen, King shares that Korn and Dystopia were two bands he was jamming to during the writing process over the past two years. He also admits that having borderline attention deficit disorder works its way into Portrayal of Guilt’s music as well.

“I’m into a lot of different things. I like heavy music, but I like music with a unique sound and that isn’t so straightforward. Also, my attention span is very short, so there has to be a lot of different things going on to keep my attention. The writing goes along with that,” he adds. “I definitely like weird sounds. When people are complimenting the music, I appreciate it, because I feel like I have a weird, specific way of playing guitar and writing music just because I’m self-taught. I guess I don’t know the right way or wrong way to do it. I’m not a guitar shredder. I’m more focused on the songwriting, so I would hope that the songwriting itself is what pulls people into it. I hope.”

Trying to dissect Portrayal of Guilt unravels scraps of 1990s screamo, crust punk, hardcore, black metal, noise and grindcore. King, mad scientist that he is, is also a gearhead, and is obsessed with finding the right tone to bring all those oddments together.

“[I'm] really into using a lot of reverb, chorus and clean tone. I guess I’m trying to figure out a new way to create heavy music that’s just different. I can’t even say everything that we do is heavy music,” he says, adding that the band plays with the same gear that it records with, which makes the live show as brooding as the albums.

King wants people “to be scared” when they come to a Portrayal of Guilt show.

“I feel like the big thing is getting those sounds live; you cannot mimic that. The live show is definitely what you want. If you like our songs, you've got to see it live,” he adds.

Possibly the scariest part about King and his bandmates, Alex Stanfield (bass) and James Beveridge (drums), is that they haven’t created a monster they’re totally satisfied with yet.

“I guess in the long run, yes, but it’s not fully realized,” King says of the trio’s insatiable appetite for experimentation and creating something that's nearly impossible to categorize. “This is all, in one way or another, just nonstop growth within the songwriting.”

Portrayal of Guilt, 8 p.m. Tuesday, September 20, hi-dive, 7 South Broadway. Tickets are $15-$18.
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